Gluten free coffee and walnut cake

Gluten free coffee and walnut cake

Delighted to share this lovely simple recipe, for a rather delicious gluten free coffee and walnut cake with you. A good old classic, that’s a favourite treat for many.

The original recipe I used for this coffee and walnut cake came from Nigella Lawson’s website and it works splendidly as a gluten free version.

This soft aromatic sponge is peppered throughout with flecks of finely ground walnuts and is sandwiched together with delicious coffee buttercream. And of course, no coffee and walnut cake would be complete without a satisfying circle of walnut halves to top things off.

For this cake, I divided a shot of Ristretto (we have the luxury of a Nespresso coffee machine) between the sponge and the buttercream, which resulted in a subtle coffee flavour. However, Nigella’s original recipe suggests instant espresso powder. So I’ve included this (along with instant coffee granules as an option too) as this would give you a more powerful coffee flavour.  


For the sponge
75g (3oz) *walnuts 
225g (8oz) caster sugar
225g (8oz) softened butter (for ease I use Lurpak full fat spreadable butter)
200g (7½) gluten free self-raising flour (if using gf mix or plain flour add 1 teaspoon of gluten free baking powder and ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum if the flour doesn’t already contain it) 
1 tablespoon freshly brewed Ristretto or 4 teaspoons of instant espresso powder (you could instead use 2 teaspoons of good instant coffee granules dissolved in a tablespoon of boiling water) 
½ teaspoon *bicarbonate of soda 
4 large eggs 
1 tablespoon milk

For the buttercream
350g icing sugar, sieved
175g softened unsalted butter (cubing it before you need it will help it to soften quicker)
The remainder of the Ristretto shot (or 2 teaspoons instant expresso coffee powder or good instant coffee dissolved in a tablespoon of boiling water) 
1-2 tablespoons milk
12-14 walnut halves to decorate

Ingredients laid out for gluten free coffee and walnut cake


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4/160C Fan.

Lightly butter and line 2 x 20cm/8inch sandwich tins with greaseproof paper

To make the sponge: Add the sugar and walnuts to a mini chopper or food processor and blend until you have a fine nutty powder.

Finely blended walnuts and sugar

Transfer the blended sugar and walnuts into a large mixing bowl and add the butter, flour, eggs, coffee, bicarb and milk.

Ingredients in a bowl for gluten free coffee and walnut cak

Mix everything together with an electric hand whisk (or in a stand mixer) until the mixture turns pale and creamy.

Gluten free coffee and walnut cake mixture

Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins. Give the tins a little shake to level the mixture out and then tap them firmly on the worktop a couple of times to knock out any of the larger air pockets.

Coffee and walnut cake mixture in baking tins

Pop the tins into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until the sponge is golden brown, nicely risen and is firm but springy to touch. 

Gluten free coffee and walnut cake sponges

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the tin.

To make the buttercream: Put the softened butter into a large mixing bowl and give it a quick whisk, before gradually add the icing sugar. I like to stir all the icing sugar in with a metal spoon before turning the mixer on again to prevent the sugar dust billowing all around your kitchen. Once all the sugar has been added pour in the coffee and whisk until light and creamy. Add a tablespoon of milk and whisk again on a high speed to soften the texture of the buttercream even more. Add a drop more milk if you feel it needs it. 

Coffee buttercream

Remove the sponge from the tins, peel of the greaseproof and lay one upside down onto a serving plate.

Coffee and walnut cake

Spread over half the buttercream and then place the other sponge layer, (again upside down) on top. I suggest it this way as it gives you a flatter surface to spread the buttercream over. If you prefer, pop it on the other way.

Gluten free coffee and walnut cake spread with coffee buttercream
Gluten free coffee and walnut cake

Spread the remaining buttercream over the top of the cake (a palette knife is great for this job) and then arrange the walnut halves around the edge of the cake.

Gluten free coffee and walnut cake

Recipe notes and suggestions:

The cake is at it’s very best on the day that it’s made and should be kept in a cool spot once assembled. It will keep fine for 2-3 days when wrapped well and stored in the fridge. If you need to store the cake in the fridge it’s best to cut a slice and leave out for an hour or so before tucking in.

The uniced cake can be frozen but would need to be wrapped well to protect it in the freezer. 

Should you wish to make a simple coffee cake, just skip adding walnuts and increase the amount of flour to 225g (8oz) to match the weight of sugar and butter.

You can also reduce the weight of walnuts to 50g (2oz). This is the suggested amount in the original recipe. I just fancied adding a few more.

Thanks for checking out this recipe. Do hope you have a shot at making it and thoroughly enjoy it! Any questions or requests just drop me an email. 

For more cakes, puds and sweet treats click here.

For now,
Liz x

*Double check this ingredient to ensure it has no gluten containing ingredients, ‘may contain’ or ‘not suitable warnings’. If in doubt leave it out.

Thanks, and credit to Nigella Lawson for the original coffee and walnut layer cake recipe I adapted to make it gluten free.  

2 thoughts on “Gluten free coffee and walnut cake

  1. Jen Robinson says:

    Hi Liz I’ve just made your coffee and walnut sponge cake, not put it together yet, but I’m really pleased witb it.

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