Coffee and Walnut Cake


A homely Coffee and Walnut Cake with a luscious coffee frosting that is delicious and easy to make. Recipe with step-by-step photos.

coffee and walnut cake on white cake stand

I ought to be more organised. In the final months of my pregnancy last year, I had busied myself photographing for many future blog posts in anticipation of the little one keeping me away from the camera.

In truth, the camera hardly leaves my side these days as there seems to always be some cute baby moment to capture. And, in fact, he seems quite content to share the limelight with my kitchen gadgets that I have actually photographed enough recipes to keep the blog updated for the rest of the year.

But if only I had time to sit down in front of the computer to process everything! And it is not even the baby who is keeping me from my “me time”. But more on that in another post (perhaps … if I manage to get around to it!).

One thing that we were totally unprepared for with a new baby has been the newfound social life, and this is especially surprising since so many well-meaning parents had attempted to forewarn us last year that the arrival of a newborn would mark a significant decrease in social activity and adult interaction of any kind.

But we have instead discovered that friends and family who were previously not so interested in hanging out with our boring selves have now come out of the woodwork to meet and greet our more interesting and entertaining offspring.

And so it has been, almost since the day we brought him home, that nearly every weekend has been booked with a social engagement of some sort, peppered with playdates throughout the week and short-term visits from friends and family travelling from afar.

So even if my post-partum body was not mentally prepared to cook dinner for a party of eight, there’s nothing like having a hoard of people coming over to motivate one to get back into the kitchen. And the truth is, in those first few weeks home from the hospital, cooking and baking gave me a brief and welcome relief from the feeding-changing-sleeping routine that risks turning one’s life into a constant monotony. This newfound bustle of social activity has not been a bad thing, just unexpected and keeping us busy in a different way.

So with guests frequently popping by to have a peek and cuddle with our baby, mostly during afternoon tea, I have often resorted to recipes which have required minimal effort but looked and tasted (I hope) a bit fancy.

coffee and walnut cake on white cake stand with small coffee pot and coffee cups

In some countries, there exists what is called a coffee cake which actually does not contain any coffee but it is called such because it is intended to be eaten with a cup of coffee. This Coffee and Walnut Cake is actually a coffee cake, in that it is heady with coffee flavour in both the sponge and frosting.

Coffee and Walnut Cake is a familiar sight from my childhood, it being a regular feature in my parents’ bakery. Despite it’s familiarity and, hence, nostalgic memory, I must confess that coffee-flavoured cakes were not my favourite as a child. In fact, I’m not sure I even liked drinking coffee until well into my late twenties. Up until then, it was more a case of having coffee with my milk and sugar than it being the other way around. These days, I will happily knock back a strong espresso after a meal without even a flinch.

For me, what is unusual about this recipe is that the walnut component is not simply for decoration; a good quantity is ground into a fine powder for use in the sponge, thereby lending the cake a tender and moist texture.

Unlike most coffee cake recipes, I suppose, this recipe uses instant espresso powder instead of the more subtle and plain instant coffee. Fearing that the cake would be too strong, and bearing in mind the caffeine considerations of breastfeeding mothers and young children, I used instant coffee for just that hint of coffee taste.

This is a really lovely cake, both to look at and to eat. Next time around, I think I will up the coffee flavour and use instant espresso powder as per the original recipe. You may as well go all the way.

For a printable recipe, please scroll down.

step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake

step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake step by step photos for making coffee and walnut cake

Coffee and Walnut Cake

5 from 2 reviews

A homely Coffee and Walnut Cake with a luscious coffee frosting that is delicious and easy to make. Recipe with step-by-step photos. Recipe adapted from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson.

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 8-12 slices


For the cake

  • 2-4 teaspoons instant coffee or instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 50 g (2 oz) walnuts
  • 225 g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 225 g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 200 g (1 1/3 cup) plain flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

For the frosting

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 350 g (2 1/2 cups) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 175 g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • walnut halves for decorating


For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Grease and line the base of two 20 cm (8 inch) cake tins.
  3. Dissolve the instant coffee powder in the boiling water. If you want a strongly coffee-flavoured cake, I suggest using 4 teaspoons.
  4. Place the walnuts and caster sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until you have a fine powder.
  5. Add the butter, flour, coffee mixture, baking powder, baking soda, and eggs.
  6. Blitz again until you have a smooth batter.
  7. With the motor still running, pour a little bit of milk down the funnel until the batter is a soft, spreadable consistency.
  8. Divide the batter between both cake tins.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cakes are lightly golden and a cake skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  10. Cool the cakes in their tin on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack. Remove the cake tins and baking paper from the cake.
  11. Leave the cakes to cool completely.

For the frosting

  1. Dissolve the instant espresso powder in the boiling water
  2. Using a stand mixer with the flat paddle attachment, beat together the icing sugar, butter and coffee mixture until you have a thick and spreadable frosting.

To assemble the cake

  1. Place one sponge upside down on a plate or cake platter.
  2. Spread half of the frosting onto the sponge and spread it evenly.
  3. Place the second sponge on top.
  4. Cover the top sponge with the remaining frosting.
  5. Decorate the cake with walnut halves.

Kitchen Notes

This cake keeps well on a covered cake stand for several days at room temperature.


  • Serving Size: Per slice
  • Calories: 515
  • Sugar: 43g
  • Sodium: 139.3mg
  • Fat: 28.8g
  • Carbohydrates: 61.8g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 4.5g
  • Cholesterol: 100.5mg

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment below and share your photos by tagging @eatlittlebird on Instagram and using #eatlittlebird


  1. Nkem 21 June 2013

    This cake looks so scrummy yummy! Congrats on your baby! I also had a baby a few months ago and my blog has literally gone to seed. And like you I have tonnes of material and pictures but I just can’t seem to eek out time to assemble a post. I am captivated by this cake though!

    • eat, little bird 21 June 2013

      Congratulations also to you!! I guess it is an understatement to say that life gets busier with a baby, but I suppose our priorities also change. Processing photos and writing blog posts requires more time than most people think but it’s still a nice hobby to have 🙂 I hope you and your baby are doing well.

  2. Rosa 22 June 2013

    Beautiful pictures and the cake looks delicious!!! I discovered your blog recently and love it! I couldn’t help but notice your espresso caffettiera in the background, just like the one Nigella Lawson has as seen on her new show Nigellissima. I have been looking for one just like it for ages. Can you please tell me where I can purchase one? Is it available online?

    Thank you very much!

    • eat, little bird 23 June 2013

      Hi Rosa,
      I bought my caffettiera in a specialty kitchenware store in Zurich many years ago which, sadly, no longer exists. I recognised it from one of Nigella’s earlier shows and always kept an eye out for it. It seems to not be widely available (unlike the Bialetti brand), but I would recommend checking out Italian delis and specialty stores. It is called la “Signora” caffettiera and it is made in Italy. I hope you will have some luck finding one!

  3. thelittleloaf 22 June 2013

    Coffee and walnut is such a classic tea room cake. I love the crunch of nuts and that thick swirl of icing – yours looks just wonderful.

    • eat, little bird 23 June 2013

      Thank you! It is indeed a classic tea cake and I can’t wait to make it again soon.

  4. Sue b do 22 June 2013

    Congratulations on the birth of your baby! Life will be enriched for evermore.. Walnut cake looks delicious.

  5. Laura@bakinginpyjamas 22 June 2013

    Congratulations. I love coffee and walnut cake, your looks lovely.

    • eat, little bird 23 June 2013

      Thanks, Laura! Good to hear of another coffee and walnut cake fan 🙂

  6. Anita Menon 23 June 2013

    it is wonderful that your social life is thriving because of the baby. Well, in my experience,it was quite the opposite for me. I taught myself to bake after the birth of my baby. I took the time out to learn the science and the art of it by trying little baking experiments during her nap time.
    Beautiful walnut coffee cake and the pictures ever so gorgeous.

    • eat, little bird 23 June 2013

      Hi Anita,
      That’s really lovely that you started baking after the birth of your child. In the early weeks, whenever my baby took a nap, so did I! Only after a few weeks did I muster up the energy to get back into the kitchen, and I’m thankful that I did. I know that having a baby for some can be a bit isolating but, at the end of the day, mother and baby just needs to be happy and healthy, whether it means having a constant stream of visitors or just quiet time for your immediate family.

  7. Jennifer (Delicieux) 24 June 2013

    So wonderful to see you posting again Thanh. This gorgeous cake does indeed look fancy. I bet it tastes divine too! Nigella’s recipes are always so deliciously reliable!

    • eat, little bird 24 June 2013

      Lovely to see you here, Jennifer 🙂 You are right – Nigella’s recipes are always reliable and it’s probably why I always turn to her books when I don’t have time to experiment. I also haven’t cooked from Kitchen too much so I was happy to give this particular recipe a go.

  8. Noelle 24 June 2013

    This cake looks so sophisticated and delicious!!! I can’t wait to have some friends over for afternoon tea just so i can make this cake 🙂
    Congratulations on your baby, what a precious gift!

    thanks for inspiring me

    • eat, little bird 24 June 2013

      Thank you! Our little baby is just the most wonderful thing that has happened to us 🙂 Hopefully you will have a chance to make this cake soon.

  9. Rushi 24 June 2013

    Thanh the first coffee cake which I made using walnuts was Delia’s recipe and I haven’t looked back since. I bought a copy of Kitchen some time back but haven’t got around to giving it a good workout 🙂 Delia drizzles a sugar syrup over it which I think gives the cake that extra edge. I think I need to try Nigella’s to compare, well I’d come up with any excuse to bake plus I need to bake something for a potluck on Thursday.

    PS: I’m so happy to hear that your little one is thriving. Enjoy every precious minute with him.

    • eat, little bird 26 June 2013

      Delia’s recipe sounds really lovely. Which book is it from? I haven’t cooked too much from Kitchen either but, slowly, I’ve come to realise that it has some pretty nice recipes. Hope you are doing well too 🙂

  10. Amelia 25 June 2013

    Yum, Coffee and Walnut is an definite favourite of mine, yet to find my perfect recipe though.. This looks delicious, will definitely try it. Pleased to find your blog, it looks lovely, excited to explore more.

  11. Josie 29 June 2013

    This looks amazing! Definitely trying out this recipe this weekend. Also, LOVE your photography!

  12. Li @ Words and Cake 9 July 2013

    Coffee and walnut cake is one of my favorites. I love that the walnuts are ground with the sugar and actually in the cake itself; may just have to try this recipe! Would it also be possible to use instant coffee for the icing instead of espresso powder? (I live in Sydney, and instant espresso powder has eluded me no matter where I’ve looked.)

    • eat, little bird 10 July 2013

      Yes, of course, you could use instant coffee for the icing. I would suggest diluting a few teaspoons in a bit of boiling water and then adding this mixture to taste to the icing sugar. The instant espresso powder available where I live is a Nescafe brand which is sold next to their usual instant coffee. I’m surprised that it is not available in Sydney, although I must admit that I haven’t used it to make espresso to drink – I’ve bought it solely for Nigella’s baking recipes! I hope you will enjoy this recipe.

  13. It looks so good! I must admit that coffee cake has never been one of my favourites, but the older I get, the more I think I’d enjoy it – a lot!

    • eat, little bird 15 July 2013

      That’s very true, Anna! I wasn’t a fan of coffee-flavoured anything as a child, but now I find I quite like the bitterness. And I particularly surprise myself now when I take coffee without milk!

  14. Emma 16 July 2013

    This looks amazing!! I was going to bake this eve but have spent my time looking through your recent posts. Yummy xx

  15. Amy 16 August 2013

    I found this on recipe on Pinterest and just had to give it a go.
    It is by far the best cake I’ve ever made.
    Truly scrumptious 🙂
    My husband has already asked for me to make it again.
    Definitely one for the girlies on a coffee morning.
    Thank you 🙂 x

    • eat, little bird 16 August 2013

      I’m so happy to hear that this recipe was a huge success for you! My husband was also a big fan of this cake but, conversely, has asked me to refrain from making it too often … because he ends up eating too much of it 😉

  16. Sue Overton 2 May 2017

    My hubby makes this coffee cake for me every year. He’s not a cook but does this beautifully due to a lovely recipe explained perfectly. Such a wonderful treat. Thank you for sharing, our family thanks you with big, big, big hugs x

    • Eat, Little Bird 3 May 2017

      Hi Sue,
      Oh that’s so wonderful to hear!! You have such a lovely husband 🙂 I’m glad you and your family enjoy this recipe – it’s one that I also love and ought to make more often. In fact, I might ask my husband to make it for me 😉 Thanks for popping by and I hope you will find more recipes here to enjoy xx

  17. Madeleine 11 April 2018

    What an excellent recipe! I always love Nigella’s recipe and this cake is no exception. My daughter has even asked me to make this as her birthday cake!

  18. Julia 12 April 2018

    This looks amazing! I cannot wait to give it a try!


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