The Musette: Coffee and walnut cake

I’m a sucker for anything coffee-flavoured, so this is one of my favourite cake combinations. I wouldn’t necessarily cover it with frosting if I were serving it at a cycling club event, but it’s a staple at my afternoon tea parties.

The French are not overly enamoured of what they perceive to be British cooking but they do agree that we make a cracking breakfast, fantastic desserts and delicious afternoon teas. Of course, without the frosting, a slice sits neatly in one’s back pocket for a spot of mid-ride refuelling with a coffee. French cafes don’t so much as blink an eyelid if you eat something you’ve brought with you after buying a drink from them.

More ingredients than usual - but worth it (image: Sheree)

More ingredients than usual – but worth it (Image: Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 16 thick slices)

For the cake

  • 200ml (¾ cup) freshly made espresso coffee
  • 150g (1 cup) soft light brown sugar
  • 225g (2 sticks) butter
  • 225g (1 cup) golden syrup or honey
  • 2 tsp coffee essence
  • 1 tbsp dark rum or coffee liqueur
  • 3 large eggs, approximately 45g (1⅔oz) each without their shells, lightly beaten
  • 360g (3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate (baking) soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 75g (¾ cup) toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

For the frosting

  • 1 tbsp instant espresso coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water or rum
  • 100g mascarpone or 100g butter, softened
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  • Chopped walnuts or coffee-flavoured chocolate to decorate


1. Preheat oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3½ (325°F/300°F fan).

2. Grease a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil loaf tin 13cm x 23cm x 7cm (5” x 9” x 3”). They’re easier for storing the cakes in the freezer, which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. This amount fills two cake tins.

3. Put the coffee in a pan and add the sugar, butter and syrup or honey. Heat gently, without boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour into a jug and leave to cool. Whisk in the coffee essence, eggs and rum.

4. Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) into a large mixing bowl and add the chopped walnuts. Make a well in the centre and slowly pour in the wet mixture, fold the flour in gradually with a wooden spoon or spatula. Pour the mix into the prepared tins and bake in the oven for about 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

5. Leave to cool in the tins for ten minutes then turn out onto a wire rack, peel off the paper and turn the right way up. Leave to cool completely.

6. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 tbsp hot water or rum and leave to cool. Put the mascarpone and icing sugar into a mixing bowl and beat together. Gradually add the cooled coffee. You should end up with a smooth, soft mixture.

7. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake and then leave it to firm up a bit. I topped the cake with coffee-flavoured chocolate beans but a scattering of toasted chopped walnuts would also be good.

So good, half disappeared before I cold photo it! (image: Sheree)

So good, half disappeared before I could even photo it! (Image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cakes in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cakes are browning too much at the edges, cover them with an aluminium foil tent.

4.  Each cake provides eight fat slices.

5. The cake will keep for a couple of days in a cake tin or, unfrosted, in the freezer for a month.

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