coffee cake

When I was a young child, I was lucky enough to have two very tolerant grandmothers, Maggie and Teresa, who let me help whenever they baked. They made things like ginger cake, treacle bread, apple and rhubarb tarts, current loaves and various kinds of buns.
By the time I was in Third or Fourth Class in Newport National School, I was dipping into my mother Mary-Jo’s beautifully illustrated Marguerite Patten cookbook and spending the weekends making cakes. Black Forest gateaux, lemon meringue pies, golden honey cakes.
I wasn’t alone in my passion for baking. My classmate, John Kearns, was an accomplished baker. In Fifth Class, when asked by our teacher, Sr Consilio, what we wanted to be when we grew up, John and I both said, “A cook!”
We were slightly in competition. “What did you make this weekend, Moira?” John would ask of a Monday morning. (My aunt Moira had been a past pupil of my teacher’s and Sr Consilio always accidentally called me Moira too.) The answer would depend. Perhaps chocolate éclairs, maybe trifle.
“How about yourself, Rosie?” I would ask John. (The “Rosie” was of no familial relevance, it was just to annoy him back). His answer might be Pavlova. Or jam roly poly. Or perhaps even coffee cake.

What goes around…
That was all back in the ’80s. Then came the pandemic and baking is back on many people’s agendas. Banana bread and sourdough loaves were the hit recipes of the first lockdown. This time round it’s coffee cake! Well, doesn’t every cloud have a silver lining?
When I was younger, I liked to make the coffee cake with butter icing in the middle and on top of the cake. These days I prefer a slightly different version – butter icing to sandwich the two sponges together, with a slightly crunchy coffee glacé-icing top. You can decorate the cake with a circle of slightly roasted walnuts or chocolate-covered coffee beans if you have them to hand.
I normally like cake with coffee. However, when it comes to coffee cake, I think it’s nicest served with a steaming mug of strong tea.

Bake in the Day


  • 2 20cm loose-bottomed cake tins
  • 170 g butter plus extra for tins
  • 170 g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170 g self raising flour
  • 1.5 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water


  • 1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
  • 100 g softened butter
  • 170 tbsp icing sugar

Glacé Icing

  • 75 g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
  • 20 ml boiling water


  • Grease the tins and line with baking parchment. Heat your oven to 160ºC. Pop the sugar and butter in a bowl and whisk until light, fluffy and pale.Lightly whisk the eggs then gradually add to the butter mix, adding a tablespoon of flour each time to prevent curdling.
  • Don’t use all the flour yet – when the eggs have been fully incorporated into the mix, gently fold in the rest of the flour and the baking powder. Add the dissolved coffee and keep folding.Divide the batter between the cake tins, and bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked.
  • Check by inserting a skewer into the middle of each – if it comes out clean, they’re done.For the coffee butter icing, beat the sieved icing sugar with the softened butter until light and fluffy. Whisk in the dissolved coffee. When your cakes have completely cooled, removed from the tins and sandwich together with the butter icing in the middle.
  • For the glacé icing, mix your sieved icing sugar with the dissolved coffee then slowly stir in the boiling water until the icing has reached a pouring consistency. When ready, gently spill over the top of the cake, starting in the middle then using a flat knife to spread till it drips over the sides.
  • Decorate with the walnuts or chocolate coffee beans (optional). Scoff!
Keyword baking, cake