So darned good. I took one look at this cake, in Retro Cakes and Cookies by Wendy Sweetser, and I had to make it. Coffee flavor and nuts. Oh, this is an English recipe and they want walnuts. Suzen is not anti-English – she’d live in London – but she’s not a walnut fan. So I made this with pecans.

Compared to American recipes, there is a lot of coffee here. In the cake and Lord knows in that frosting. I used Italian espresso powder and just the amounts specified. I got the coffee tang, but it was not over the top. The cake is moist, filled with flavor and quite sweet.

Now, in the book, there is a picture of this cake and it is well frosted. So is my cake in my picture. And that is because I doubled the amount of frosting in the recipe below. So, you have an option. Go with frosting that is more of an icing, or go for the gold. Or the brown. Or whatever.

Jeez, just go for it.

And to serve with it? Well, what else. Espresso.

Personally, I would not eat this after 9 PM at night unless you have an exam in the morning.

That picture of the cake above is one I made by combing three exposures with the HDR software from NIK, plus their special vignette effect to tone the entire picture. I think that the picture style here matches the idea of a retro recipe.

Retro Cakes and Cookies is filled with recipes from the home kitchens of Great Britain in the 50’s and 60’s. There are things here you’ve never seen or heard of before. There are things here you need to taste.

I may have made a mistake in that last paragraph. This cake may be much older than just 50’s. Older than me, even. You’ll see in the section describing how to make the cake. You don’t cream the butter, add this, then that. Oh, no. You just put everything all at once in the bowl and mix. Everything. All at once. My grandmother would have made this cake.

I wish she had.

Coffee-Walnut Layer Cake

Yield: 1 3-layer cake


For the cake:

  • Oil or butter to grease 3 cake pans
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 ⅛ cups superfine sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1 ¾ cups self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoon hot water, and cooled
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts [or pecans!]

For the frosting [remember, you may want to double this]:

  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water, and cooled
  • Walnut [or pecan] halves to decorate


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease 3 8-inch layer cake pans and line the bottom with parchment.

Put the butter, sugar, eggs, self-rising flour, baking powder, and dissolved coffee in a large mixing bowl, and beat together with an electric hand mixer on low speed, or a wooden spoon, until smooth. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Divide the mixture between the pans, spreading it in even layers and leveling the tops. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and springy to the touch. Leave the cakes to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

Beat the butter until soft and creamy. Gradually sift in the confectioners’ sugar, beating well after each addition. Add the dissolved coffee after three quarters of the sugar has been added.

Sandwich the cake layers with some of the buttercream, and spread the remainder on top. Decorate with a ring of walnut [or pecan] halves.


Source: Retro Cakes and Cookies by Wendy Sweetser [published by CICO Books]