My ultimate coffee and walnut drip cake

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A coffee and walnut cake is a classic for a reason: the flavours work so well together, it is always a crowd-pleaser (even in socially-distanced “crowds”!) and it tastes great.

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This is the coffee and walnut cake I keep coming back to every time: not to sweet, with a light sponge and each mouthful giving a real coffee kick and that delightful crunch of walnuts.

I have been using this recipe for so many decades, tweaking it from time to time – as I so often do with my recipes – but keeping the very essence of what makes it a wonderful cake.

It’s like greeting an old friend whenever I make this cake.

That said, it is pretty much a standard all-in-one coffee and walnut sponge with a bit of my spin on things.

I sometimes add cocoa powder to the sponge for more of a mocha cake but on this occasion I allowed the chocolate to sneak into the filling: not too much, just enough to give little more than a hint.

This was a 6-egg cake as I had eggs that needed using up urgently so the classic dilemma: “omlette or cake?” surfaced, with cake winning out!

I made this in two deep 9″ cake tins – the sort of tins I use for Christmas cakes. This always works like a dream as there is no danger of over-filling shallower tins and risking having the cake mixture spill over the top: something that has happened to me on several occasions when I have not been more on the ball!

Icings!

I made two icings here: the filling is a buttercream with the addition of coffee and dark chocolate. On this occasion I used some of my roasted coffee bean butter (recipe here) which gives a different layer of coffee flavour, but normal unsalted butter with some coffee works very well.

The icing on top was made with fondant icing sugar and fresh espresso coffee: just enough coffee to give a thick and just-spreadable icing with a proper coffee flavour. I love the way the fondant sets to have a good, sticky body to it – more so than using standard icing sugar.

I wanted the fondant so that I could spread it over the top and then nudge some of it over the edge so gravity can take over and give a simple drip effect.

Recipe: my ultimate coffee and walnut drip cake – serves about 16

Sponge:
  • 6 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • *self-raising flour
  • *caster sugar
  • *soft unsalted butter or margarine
  • 4 teaspoons coffee granules dissolved in about a tablespoon or so of hot water
  • 100g walnuts, coarsely chopped. (I recommend Whitworths’ Californian walnuts)

*weigh the eggs in their shell and the amount for each of the flour, sugar and butter will be the same weight as the total of the eggs. So with the cake in the photos, my eggs weighed a total of 253g, so I used 253g flour, 253g sugar and 253g butter

Filling:
  • 100g soft unsalted butter
  • 100g soft roast coffee bean butter (or use just 200g unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon coffee granules dissolved in a little hot water)
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons cold milk
  • 50g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • a generous pinch of fine sea salt
Drip icing:
  • 100g fondant icing sugar
  • cooled espresso coffee to mix
To finish:
  • walnut halves

(1) Preheat the oven to 160C (fan) and grease and base-line two 9″ cake tins with greaseproof. I used the deep cake tins here that I use for Christmas cakes (far deeper than needed but this always works like a dream)

(2) Mix the sponge ingredients with a wooden spoon until it all comes together to a smooth batter (with the pieces of walnuts interspersed evenly!). Divide between the two tins and level the tops. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until well-risen and bouncy to the touch. The cakes should have shrunk a little away from the tin.

(3) Leave to cool for about 5 minutes in the tin and turn out to a wire rack to cool fully.

(4) For the buttercream filling, mix the butter(s), icing sugar and salt together – slowly at first to stop the icing sugar flying all around the kitchen. Add some of the milk to help it on its way – you might not need it all. Once you have a smooth buttercream, beat in the chocolate to incorporate fully.

(5) Sandwich the two sponges together with the buttercream, leaving about a tablespoon of buttercream.

(6) Spread the remaining buttercream thinly all over the top: this gives a simple “crumb-coat” so that when the drip icing is applied, it will spread smoothly without ripping out crumbs from the sponge. Ideally, chill it for 15 minutes or so to firm up the crumb-coat or just go for the drip icing straightaway.

(7) For the drip icing, put the fondant icing sugar in a medium bowl and add enough coffee to give a thick but spreadable consistency. Pour about 3-4 tablesooons or so onto the top of the cake and using a knife, gently ease it towards the edge. If you stop a centimetre of so from the edge tyhe icing might make its way to the edge – which is lovely. Or you can spread closer to the edge and nudge a little over the edge so it gives a simple drip effect.

(8) Once the icing has stopped dripping, decorate with walnut halves and leave until the drip icing has set before cutting.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking & eating.

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