Coffee and Walnut Cake

My recipe for a classic Coffee & Walnut Cake. Three layers of delicious coffee sponge packed full of chopped walnuts and topped with smooth coffee buttercream.

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My recipe for a classic Coffee & Walnut Cake. Three layers of delicious coffee sponge packed full of chopped walnuts and topped with smooth coffee buttercream.This Friday is the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning and I thought I’d share with you what I’m going to be making to take along to the one at my boys’ school. It’s my version of a classic coffee & walnut cake.

As you may have realised, I’m a bit of a fan of cake. However, there’s one cake I love above all others and that is coffee & walnut. If I spot it in a café then I really struggle to resist buying a slice to have with a pot of tea (as a side note shouldn’t all tea in cafés come in a pot? It’s just not the same having just one cup). For me a good coffee and walnut cake should have a really good coffee flavour and lots of walnuts running all the way through and that’s what I’ve made here.

I’ve bowed to Pinterest peer pressure and made my cake with three layers (you can never find simple 2-layer cakes on there). I think this particular cake works well with three layers as it means you can have extra buttercream, but if you’ve only got two tins I’ve added some extra notes below the recipe to adapt it. I also got a bit carried away with my piping bag to make it look pretty. If you’re not a fan of piping then just slather it on with a knife, it’ll still taste amazing 🙂

My recipe for a classic Coffee & Walnut Cake. Three layers of delicious coffee sponge packed full of chopped walnuts and topped with smooth coffee buttercream.

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My recipe for a classic Coffee & Walnut Cake. Three layers of delicious coffee sponge packed full of chopped walnuts and topped with smooth coffee buttercream.

5 from 7 votes

Coffee & Walnut Cake

My recipe for a classic Coffee & Walnut Cake. Three layers of delicious coffee sponge packed full of chopped walnuts and topped with smooth coffee buttercream.
Active Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8 people


For the coffee & walnut sponge

  • 10 g 2 tbsp coffee powder (or instant coffee granules ground in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar)
  • 150 g self-raising flour
  • 165 g soft light brown sugar
  • 165 g soft margarine or butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • tsp milk
  • tsp salt
  • 75 g chopped walnuts

For the coffee buttercream

  • 250 g softened butter
  • 500 g icing sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • tbsp boiling water

To decorate

  • 25 g chopped walnuts
  • A handful of walnut halves


Make the coffee & walnut sponge

  • Pre-heat your oven to 160ºC/140ºC fan.
  • Line 3x18cm round sandwich tins (I use these liners).
  • Sift the self-raising flour (150g), coffee powder (10g) into a large bowl and salt (⅛ tsp). Add the remaining ingredients (3 medium eggs, 165g soft margarine, 165g soft light brown sugar and 1½ tsp milk) and mix until fully combined (either by hand or using an electric mixer on a low speed). Fold in the chopped walnuts (75g).
  • Divide the mixture equally between the three tins.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for about 10 minutes, then remove them from their tins and move them to a wire rack to cool fully before decorating.

Make the coffee buttercream

  • Mix the instant coffee granules (3 tbsp) with the boiling water (1½ tbsp) and then set aside to cool.
  • Cut the butter (250g) into cubes and then beat on a low-medium speed until soft. Gradually add the icing sugar (you add it gradually to stop it flying everywhere) and beat until fully combined.
  • Add the vanilla extract (¼tsp) and add the coffee a teaspoon at a time, beating in each addition before adding more.
  • Check the consistency of your buttercream. It should be soft and perfect for piping at this point. If it’s still a little stiff then beat in a little milk.


  • Place the bottom layer of your cake onto your chosen dish. Cover with ⅓ of your buttercream. Sprinkle over half of the chopped walnuts.
  • Place another layer on top and repeat the last step.
  • Place the final layer on top. Decorate with the remaining buttercream and then finish with the walnut halves.


  • I've decorated my cakes by piping buttercream roses and then filling any gaps around the edge with a little extra squirt of buttercream. I used a JEM 1B nozzle.
  • If you'd prefer to make this as a 2-layer cake then the only change you'll need is to increase the cooking time to 30-35 minutes. You'll also need ⅔ of the buttercream (or you could use the extra buttercream to make a thin coating around the outside of the cake.
  • If you'd like to bake the cake in one deep tin and then slice it up into layers, you'll need to increase the cooking time to 45-50 minutes.
  • The undecorated cakes are suitable for freezing. Simply wrap them tightly in clingfilm and pop them into the freezer. Defrost them thoroughly before decorating.
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a comment and rating at the bottom of the page to let others know what you thought.

Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Have you tried this recipe?Please leave a comment and rating at the bottom of the page to let others know what you thought.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 899kcal | Carbohydrates: 101g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 54g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Cholesterol: 128mg | Sodium: 486mg | Potassium: 264mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 81g | Vitamin A: 32.2% | Vitamin C: 0.1% | Calcium: 6.3% | Iron: 6.9%
Any nutritional information shown is the estimated nutritional information per serving. Please refer to my guide to Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen nutritional information if you want to learn more about how this is calculated.


My recipe for a classic Coffee & Walnut Cake. Three layers of delicious coffee sponge packed full of chopped walnuts and topped with smooth coffee buttercream.

Free From/Suitable For…

  • Suitable for Vegetarians
  • Soy-Free

The ingredients for this recipe are easily available free from all these allergens. However, please ensure you double-check allergen information for all ingredients.

My recipe for a classic Coffee & Walnut Cake. Three layers of delicious coffee sponge packed full of chopped walnuts and topped with smooth coffee buttercream.


  1. Hi Charlotte. The cake looks amazing. I want to make a 3 layer 9′ inch cake.. what would the measurments be.. thanks

    • Do you want the thin layers like in the cake pictured or bigger (more standard-sized) layers?

    • One in the picture its perfect.. thank you
      Also what would be the best thing for me to do if i only have 1 tin but want 3 layers. should i make 3 batches separately or i can make it all in one go and just bake them one by one.

      • To increase the cake from 18cm to 23cm you need an additional 2/3 of the ingredients:

        3 tbsp + 1 tsp coffee powder
        250g self-raising flour
        275g soft light brown sugar
        275g margarine or butter
        5 medium eggs
        2.5 tsp milk
        0.25 salt (just under)
        125g chopped walnut

        For the buttercream

        415g butter
        830g icing sugar
        0.5 tsp vanilla extract
        5 tbsp instant coffee
        2.5 tbsp boiling water

        40g chopped walnuts to decorate and some walnut halves

        Personally, I’d bake them as separate batches as I find deep cakes don’t tend to rise quite as much as three baked individually so you’ll probably find that you end up with very thin layers and that it’s tricky to split the cake.

  2. I followed the recipe to the letter and it turned out beautifully… I did however increase the size to a 22cm tin and could only manage a 2 layer cake.
    The cooking time was nowhere near 45 minutes as you advised to another baker! It was more like an hour, which was fine! I piped the icing the same as the photo and it looked amazing! Easy to do yet so effective! Thank you for a wonderful recipe

  3. Hello, Charlotte! Terrified of baking but I really like to try and bake this cake… I just wanna ask if I have to adjust the amount of ingredients, the baking time and temperature of the oven if I will bake the cake using 2 8″ square pans or a 9×13 pan?
    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    • I’ve not tried the cake in those sizes but I thing the ingredients would be as follows:

      For both the 2×8″ square and 9″x13″ rectange (I assume this is one layer, if not, double it).

      3 tbsp + 1 tsp cofee granules
      250g SR flour
      275g brown sugar
      275g margarine
      5 eggs
      2.5 tsp milk
      0.25 tsp salt
      125g chopped walnuts

      The over temperature is the same as in the orignal recipe and the cakes would been cooking for 30-35 minutes.

      For the large one layer cake the amount of buttercream in the orignal recipe should be fine.

      For the 2-layer square cake you’d need:

      320g butter
      640g icing sugar
      0.25 tsp vanilla
      4 tbsp instant coffee
      2 tbsp hot water.

      I hope this helps. Let me know how it goes.

  4. Great recipe – a baking philistine but this worked perfectly and a deffo 5 stars. The only comment I would make is for the time allocation to have in brackets – ‘plus cooling time’. I did a time plan but didn’t allow for the ‘allow to cool fully before decorating’ which came back to bite. Very clear and concise instructions otherwise.

  5. Hi Charlotte,

    Was wondering if I can make this coffee walnut cake recipe into cupcakes. If yes, then what would the baking time be and how many cupcakes would I get from this? And do I need to change anything else with regards to the ingredients? I would frost the cupcakes with the frosting you’ve given. I simply love coffee and walnuts, such an amazing combination for cakes.

    Many thanks in advance and sorry if I’m a bother.


    • You can. The recipe should make enough mixture for 12 cupcakes. Cook them at the same temperature as in the recipe for c. 20 minutes.

  6. This is the most amazing coffee and walnut cake ever. No other compares now! A friend and I made it as a birthday surprise for a friend. Everyone said it was the best they had had. I’m making it again for our Macmillan coffee morning this week. Can’t wait to have it again. We won’t buy any we see now as we find them very disappointing. Thank you Charlotte from a lot of very happy mums

  7. Hi Charlotte. Your cake looks amazing. I have the onerous task of making one for my daughter’s wedding (plus a Victoria Sandwich). I’m making the coffee and walnut in one 10″ tin. She’d definitely like three layers so I’ll cut it once cooked and cooled.
    The other complication is that she is getting married in Italy so I also have to consider it might be hot and buttercream doesn’t always behave well in hot climes.
    I’ve done some research and found some advice that half white vegetable fat/half butter would make the buttercream more stable.
    I’d welcome any advice and if you could confirm the ingredients for the 10″ I’d be very grateful. Thanks – a stressed Mother of the Bride:).

    • Charlotte Oates

      To make a 10″ cake you’ll need to simply double the ingredients. As it’s cooking in one deep tin it’ll take a lot longer in the oven so don’t check it until it’s been in for 45 minutes.

      Unfortunately I’m not too sure about there best way to improve the stability of the buttercream in hot weather. Aside from the glorious summer we’ve been having this year I’ve never had enough opportunity to experiment in the UK as usually our weather is fine for all-butter buttercream. The recipe would definitely work with half vegetable fat and half butter in terms of flavour though.

  8. The cake – more like glorified pancake topped with sugar – was quite disappointing. The cake barely rose and was extremely greasy and the icing was incredibly sweet. I followed the recipe to the T and it did not turn out how I had expected.

    • Charlotte Oates

      Hi Sam,

      I’m sorry to hear that the cake didn’t work out for you. The layers are designed to be thinner than normal (two layers split into three) but it sounds as though yours didn’t rise at all. How old was your flour? It can be that the raising agents in older flour lose their power over time which may explain this. Can I also check whether you used grams or cups measurements? I originally made the cake in grams and then used a converter for the cups so it may be that they’re a little off. If it was cups then I’ll review the conversions to ensure they’re accurate.

      I think sweetness of icing is definitely down to person preference. If in future you find it a little too sweet then you can beat in more butter which will help to offset the sweetness. This buttercream is made using a ratio of 2:1 sugar to butter which is quite standard for buttercream, but it would work with 1:1.

  9. So….I made this cake yesterday and from the snount of ingredients listed, I was just about to make 1 layer of 9 in cake! I had to bake another one very quickly to make a second layer. You do need to double it up if you want 2 layers of 9 in. I also don’t see these proportions making 3 layers of an 8 in cake. No way! But otherwise very flavoursome and nice cake. Just double or triple everything for the cake mix and it will be fine.

    • Charlotte Oates

      Hi Maria, the recipe is for a 18cm/7″ cake so I’m not too surprised that the ingredients would only make one layer of the 9″ as it’s a lot bigger. I’m glad to hear that you had time to whip up another layer to go on top 🙂 If you ever need to know the ingredients for a different size of tin from the one listed in the recipe then drop me an email or comment and I’d be happy to work them all out for you. The layer are designed to be quite thin as you can see in the pictures. The amount of mixture is what I’d usually use to make two layers for most cakes but I wanted three for this as I liked the look of it but I didn’t want the cake to be taller than a two layer so made them all that bit thinner and reduced the cooking time. Some people would probably prefer their cake a bit thicker in which cake they’d need to up the ingredients a bit. Again, I’d be more than happy to work out how much for anyone that wanted that.

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