Found in teashops across the land, the flavors of this not-too-sweet cake are quite sophisticated. Even if you don’t make cakes, this one is a cinch. Don’t be alarmed if the two sponge layers look thin when you unmold them. They are meant to be because the cake gains a lot of height with its frosting.

This cake is all about old-fashioned, homespun charm, so don’t worry about how messy it looks: however, the frosting goes on is fine. If you want to fully cover the sides of the cake, make a double batch of the frosting. The delicate sponge and silky buttercream are both threaded through with toasty, caramel flavors until it is impossible to tell where the walnuts end and the coffee begins.

Bake until the cakes are golden, firm and springy, and starting to pull away from the sides, 30 to 35 minutes. A fingertip pressed gently on the top of the cake should leave no imprint. Let the cakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Run a small metal spatula or thin knife around the edges of the cakes, then flip them out onto the rack to cool completely.


  • ½ cup (60 grams) walnut pieces
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (245 grams) sugar
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 ⅔ cups (230 grams) flour
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk at room temperature, more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon (3 grams) instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

For the frosting;

  • 2 ½ cups (300 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ stick (6 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (3 grams) instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • ¼ cup walnut halves, for decoration


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch cake pans, and line base of each with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine 1/2 cup walnut pieces and sugar.
  2. The process to a fine powder. Add butter, flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs. The process to a smooth batter.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons milk to coffee mixture and pour this down feed tube with motor running. The mixture should be just soft enough to drop from a spoon; if not, add more milk.
  4. Divide cake batter between two pans. Bake until risen and springy to touch, about 25 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then removes from pan and place on rack.
  5. Remove parchment paper. Cool completely. You may want to level them if they domed in the oven.

For frosting:

  1. Place confectioners’ sugar and salt in food processor and pulse until lump-free. Add butter and process until smooth.
  2. Add coffee mixture down feed tube and pulse until well blended.
  3. Place one cake upside down on a plate or cake stand. Spread with about half the frosting. Place second cake right side up on frosting, and cover top and sides in a swirly pattern.
  4. Place a walnut half in center of the cake, and gently press remaining halves into the top of the cake, around the edge.