This easy coffee cake is every coffee lover’s dream come true – with a wonderfully soft and moist coffee and walnut sponge, and the most amazing cappuccino whipped cream frosting (that’s so delicious, you’ll be tempted to eat it by the spoonful). It’s incredibly easy to make and gluten free… not that you could possibly guess it.
After last week’s coffee cake recipe that doesn’t contain any coffee – I felt it only right to follow that up with a coffee cake that does contain coffee… and lots of it.
This coffee cake is pretty much every coffee lover’s dream come true, with a soft and moist coffee and walnut sponge, and an incredibly fluffy, velvety-smooth cappuccino whipped cream frosting (that’s so delicious, you’ll be tempted to eat it by the spoonful). And it’s gluten free!!!
Like most of my recent bakes, I wanted to keep this one nice and simple, yet packed with flavour – my definition of comfort food. It’s a single-layer cake (and it would make a wonderful sheet cake, as well), so you don’t need to worry about stacking and decorating a whole layer cake. Just dollop the incredibly delicious cappuccino frosting on top, swirl it around, decorate with some chocolate shavings, and you’re done.
That also means that this is a relatively small-batch recipe. It still serves 6-8 people (depending, of course, on whether you’ll be wanting seconds… and thirds), but with the current social distancing in place that’s still more manageable than a large layer cake.
To take the simplicity and the no-fuss nature of this coffee cake recipe a step further, you don’t actually need a stand or a hand mixer to make it – just a large bowl, a balloon whisk and a bit of elbow grease.
And that includes the cappuccino whipped cream frosting as well! In fact, I prefer to whip double/heavy cream by hand, as it gives you better control over the consistency of the frosting. With a hand or a stand mixer, it’s so very easy to over-whip your cream. But when doing it by hand, the probability of that happening is much lower.
(Of course, if you’d prefer to use a stand or a hand mixer, you can absolutely do that! Just use whatever makes your life easiest.)
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this wonderful cake – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
The coffee and walnut sponge
We all know that coffee and walnut are a match made in heaven – and in this cake, the ground walnuts in the sponge work to really emphasise the wonderful coffee flavour. (If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to use walnuts, you can replace them with an equal weight of almond flour, but note that the flavour won’t be as intense.)
The sponge itself is wonderfully soft, moist and buttery. It’s incredibly easy to prepare, using the “standard” creaming method, where you cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, and then add the eggs, followed by alternating additions of dry and the remaining wet ingredients.
Because of the presence of coffee, you might notice your cake batter “curdle” or split slightly after you add the milk with the dissolved instant coffee granules – but don’t worry, the finished batter should be wonderfully silky smooth after you’ve added the last portion of the dry ingredients.
The cappuccino whipped cream frosting
The cappuccino whipped cream frosting is a total revelation. There are hardly words to describe just how incredibly delicious it is – fluffy, velvety smooth, rich and absolutely PACKED with the wonderful cappuccino (and coffee) flavour.
I’ve added both cappuccino powder and instant coffee into the frosting. This is easiest done by heating together a portion of the double/heavy cream, the cappuccino powder and instant coffee granules until the latter two are completely dissolved, and then cooling the mixture until it’s at room temperature.
Here’s the important bit: you mustn’t add this coffee-cream mixture to the rest of the cream and icing/powdered sugar at the very beginning. If you do, it would be pretty much impossible to whip the mixture to the soft peak stage – it would stay relatively runny and possibly even split or curdle.
Instead, whip the rest of the cream together with icing/powdered sugar to soft peaks, and then add the coffee-cream mixture a tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition. This will create a stable, fluffy frosting that keeps its shape beautifully (you can even use it to pipe on top of cupcakes).
Finally, to make things even more fun, you can even play around with different cappuccino powder flavours. I’ve tried a “toffee” cappuccino powder as well as a “classic” one, and they both made truly delicious frostings. Note that when using flavoured cappuccino powders, they’re often much sweeter than the “classic” unflavoured ones, so you might need to reduce the amount of icing/powdered sugar in the frosting.
I like to finish the coffee cake with a sprinkling of chocolate shavings, but you could easily use chocolate sprinkles, a dusting of cocoa powder or chopped walnuts instead.
And that’s all there is to it, friends!
For all its simplicity, this really is the most beautiful and delicious cake. I love it because it’s at once the perfect easy mid-week bake but it would also make a stunning addition to any special occasion.
I really hope you’ll love it as much as I do.
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Easy Coffee Cake with Cappuccino Frosting (Gluten Free)
For coffee cake:
- 120 g (½ cup) whole milk
- 15 g (3 ½ tbsp) instant coffee granules
- 140 g (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 100 g (½ cup) light brown soft sugar
- 75 g (¼ cup + 2 tbsp) caster/superfine or granulated sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 3 UK medium/US large eggs, room temperature
- 180 g (1 ½ cups) plain gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour, which doesn't contain xanthan gum. You can also mix your own blend from 50% white rice flour, 30% potato starch and 20% maize flour by weight.)
- 60 g (½ cup + 1 ½ tbsp) ground walnuts (You can substitute them with an equal weight of the GF flour blend if you're allergic to nuts, but note that the cake will dry out a bit faster. You can also use almond flour instead but the flavour will be less intense.)
- 2 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp xanthan gum (Omit if your GF flour blend already contains xanthan gum.)
- ¼ tsp salt
For cappuccino whipped cream frosting:
- 300 g (1 ⅓ cups) double/heavy cream
- 18 g (2 ½ tbsp) cappuccino powder (If you're using a flavoured cappuccino powder, like toffee or caramel, you might need to decrease the amount of icing/powdered sugar slightly.)
- 2 g (1 ½ tsp) instant coffee granules
- 120 g (1 cup) icing/powdered sugar (If you like your frosting less sweet, you can decrease this to 90g/¾ cup. If you like a sweeter frosting, you can increase it to 160g/1 ⅓ cups.)
- chocolate shavings to decorate
For coffee cake:
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and line an 8 inch (20cm) round cake tin with baking/greaseproof paper.
- In a small saucepan (if cooking it on the stove) or in a microwave-safe bowl (if using the microwave) heat together the milk and instant coffee, with occasional stirring, until the coffee is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool until warm or at room temperature.
- In a large bowl, using a large balloon whisk, cream together the butter, light brown soft sugar, caster/superfine (or granulated) sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition, until well combined.Tip: It's very important that your eggs are at room temperature and that you add them one at a time. This way, you'll maintain the emulsion of the butter and guarantee a silky smooth, fluffy cake batter – which will ultimately result in a melt-in-the-mouth cake crumb. If you forgot to take your eggs out of the fridge, place them in warm water for 10-15 minutes before using them.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the gluten free flour blend, ground walnuts, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.
- Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, alternately add the dry ingredients (in three batches) and coffee milk (in two batches) to the butter-sugar mixture, whisking well after each addition, until you get a smooth, fluffy cake batter with no flour clumps.Tip: This alternating way of adding dry and wet ingredients helps maintain the emulsion of the butter in the cake batter, ensuring that your batter remains smooth and that the final baked cake has the perfect crumb. When alternating dry and wet ingredients, make sure to always end with the dry.Your batter might look a bit "curdled" or "split" after the addition of the coffee milk (that's mostly due to the presence of the coffee), but don’t worry, the finished batter should be wonderfully silky smooth after you’ve added the last portion of the dry ingredients.
- Transfer the cake batter into the lined cake tin and smooth out the top.
- Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 38-40 minutes or until well risen, deep golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If the top of the cake starts browning too quickly, cover with aluminium foil (shiny side up) and continue baking until done.
- Allow to cool in the cake tin for about 10 minutes, then remove from the tin onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
For cappuccino whipped cream frosting:
- In a small saucepan (if cooking it on the stove) or in a microwave-safe bowl (if using the microwave) heat together 70g (about ⅓ cup) of the double/heavy cream, cappuccino powder and instant coffee, with occasional stirring, until the coffee and cappuccino powder are completely dissolved. Set aside to cool completely.
- In a large bowl, using a large balloon whisk, whisk together the remaining double/heavy cream and powdered/icing sugar until soft peaks form. You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters.
- Add the coffee-cream mixture to the whipped cream, about one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition, until well combined. The final frosting should be fluffy, smooth and hold a soft peak (if necessary, you can whisk it for a further 30 seconds or so, to thicken it a bit more).
Assembling the coffee cake:
- Spoon the cappuccino frosting on top of the cooled cake and, using a small offset spatula or the back of the spoon, spread it out into an approximately even layer, creating decorative swirls.
- Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, slice and serve.
- The coffee cake keeps well in a closed container in a cool dry place or in the fridge for 3-4 days.