This Coffee and Walnut Loaf Cake recipe is an easy, everyday coffee and walnut cake. It’s a cake to make when you have an hour and want a slice of cake with your cup of coffee or when neighbors show up on your doorstep.
Read on to follow step-by-step and learn the secret to making the nuttiest walnut cakes. Or just grab your loaf pan, hit that Jump to Recipe button, and let’s make a coffee walnut loaf cake!
Why you’ll love this recipe
Here’s why a reader loved this coffee and walnut loaf cake:
I have piles of cookbooks and food magazines, but I couldn’t find a walnut coffee cake recipe I liked until I found this blog and this cake. It’s very easy — it’s fun to make — and it’s delicious. Good that it calls for toasting the walnuts. Makes all the difference.
This coffee and walnut loaf cake is made with ingredients you likely already have in your refrigerator and pantry. Check out a few helpful tips below.
The base of this coffee and walnut cake recipe is a pound cake. Pound cakes are one of the classic baking ratios. Like my chocolate chip loaf cake, its formula uses equal amounts of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour.
Lots of other baking recipes are adapted from standard ratios and classic methods. You can see examples in these orange poppy seed muffins or these lemon and lavender cookies or the classic 1 2 3 4 yellow cake.
How to use coffee in baking
Coffee is of course the key flavor this coffee and walnut loaf recipe. There’s little difference between using instant espresso powder vs. instant coffee in baking. You just can’t use regular ground coffee, because it won’t dissolve like instant coffee. You can find espresso powder in most grocery stores.
You also don’t want brewed coffee. Recipes typically made without liquid ingredients use espresso powder or instant coffee for coffee flavor, like in this coffee and walnut loaf cake recipe, my coffee bean cookies, or my coffee truffles.
Some cakes made with milk or buttermilk may substitute brewed coffee or espresso for some of the liquid. You can see examples in the moist cake layers in my triple layer chocolate cake and peanut butter drip cake. Brewed coffee is also used in the coffee syrup that soaks into the layers of this tiramisu cake or Biscoff speculoos tiramisu. And of course you need brewed espresso or coffee if you’re making an gin espresso martini or creamy espresso martini.
This recipe uses just a smidge of chemical leavening agent to make this loaf cake a little less dense. But feel free to omit the baking powder if you prefer a tighter crumb in your pound cakes.
Toasting the walnuts before adding them to the cake batter deepens the nut flavor and keeps them crunchier. That makes them perfect for baking or for adding to salads like this rocket salad with pear and walnuts. Once you start toasting your nuts, I promise you will never go back!
Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
Variations and substitutions
- Use a different nut like toasted pecans or hazelnuts.
- Substitute chocolate chips for the walnuts and make a coffee and chocolate loaf cake.
- Use mini loaf pans to make mini coffee and walnut loaves! Bake for only 40 to 50 minutes.
- Make a swirl with chocolate ganache or Nutella like in my Nutella banana bread.
- Make a coffee glaze with icing sugar and some brewed coffee. Drizzle it atop the cake.
Recipe tips and tricks
This coffee and walnut cake uses the classic creaming method for making cakes. I will readily admit it took me nearly 40 years to learn I wasn’t creaming butter long enough.
Start with room temperature butter in cubes (Panel #1, below). Mix on low at first, just so the sugar doesn’t spray out of your bowl.
Don’t stop when the butter and sugar are first mixed together. You will still see sugar granules at this point (Panel #2).
Beat on medium-high for a couple of minutes, and scrape down the bowl as needed with a silicone or rubber spatula. The butter will start to feel softer and softer (Panel #3 above).
But don’t stop yet. You really are going for “light and fluffy” (Panel #4). And it really does take several more minutes to get there, depending on your whether you’re mixing by hand, with a hand mixer, or a stand mixer.
Tip from the wisequacker: creaming butter long enough is really important when you make cake. Pound cakes like this coffee and walnut cake are traditionally made without any chemical leavening agents. So you need mechanical leavening, i.e. the creaming butter, to create air pockets that expand in the heat of the oven.
Step by step
Step 1: Cream the room temperature butter and sugar well.
Step 2: Add room temperature eggs and vanilla extract to avoid curdling the batter.
Step 3: Add the dry ingredients and toasted walnuts. Mix these in on low speed or stir by hand to avoid over-mixing the cake batter.
Step 4: Spread the coffee walnut cake batter into the prepared pan, but don’t stress about making it perfect. It will even out as it bakes.
Bake your coffee and walnut cake until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center of the cake mixture comes out clean, with just a crumb or two. You’ll start to see the cake edges pulling away from the side of the loaf pan. If the top looks like it is browning too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil.
Be warned that pound cakes like this coffee and walnut cake crack. If you really hate the cracked top, you can hide it with a coffee buttercream. But, honestly, the cake doesn’t need it.
Let the coffee and walnut cake cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes and then turn it out to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.
No, you don’t have to do anything. But it’s so much easier to make this “half pound” cake recipe when you know you need a half pound of everything!
The loaf cake can be stored at room temperature, either wrapped in foil or in an airtight container, for up to one week.
Absolutely. Most unfrosted cakes, and even some frosted ones, freeze really well. Just double wrap the loaf cake tightly in plastic wrap, put it in a freezer bag, and squeeze out all of the air. To defrost the cake, let it come to room temperature.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
Coffee and Walnut Loaf Cake
- Stand mixer or hand mixer
- 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan
- 1⅞ cup (8 ounces or 227 grams) all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso or coffee powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 16 tablespoons (8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, softened plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces or 227 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup walnut halves or pieces, toasted and chopped
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the paper.
- Sift or whisk the flour, coffee powder, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.1⅞ cup (8 ounces or 227 grams) all purpose flour, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon instant espresso or coffee powder
- Cream the butter and sugar together until it is light in color and fluffy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.16 tablespoons (8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, softened, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces or 227 grams) granulated sugar
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat on medium for one minute between each addition, scraping down the bowl as necessary.4 large eggs, room temperature
- Add the vanilla and beat in.1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Add the dry ingredients and mix in on low or stir in by hand just until mixed.
- Mix in the chopped walnuts by hand.1 cup walnut halves or pieces, toasted and chopped
- Transfer the cake batter to the prepared loaf pan and give it a few thwacks on the countertop to even it out.
- Bake for 65 to 70 minutes in the middle of the oven until the top is a light brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan onto a rack. Let the cake cool for at least one hour before cutting.
- Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for up to one week.
- Toasting the walnuts before adding them to the cake batter deepens the nut flavor and keeps them crunchier.
- Be sure to cream the butter and sugar until it becomes light and fluffy – this stage provides the mechanical leavening for this cake. It will take several minutes to reach this stage.
- Mix the dry ingredients and walnuts in on low speed or stir by hand to avoid over-mixing the cake batter.
Are you an adventurous home cook looking for inspiration in your weeknight meals and weekend baking?