An Irish Coffee Cake

24 Feb 2011

I had my first encounter with an Irish coffee cake while we were living in Adare, County Limerick in 2005. We had been renting a sweet little bolthole in the village during the construction of our new home on the farm. There used to be a charming little café + deli called Lloyd’s just up the lane from our place, which was run by a lovely woman named Anne Lloyd.  I believe Lloyd’s even made the esteemed Georgina Campbell’s Blue Book of Ireland’s Best Places, and if not, it should have because it was a very special place and everything that came out of her kitchen nearly melted my heart.

Lloyd’s was literally where I first sunk my teeth into many gorgeous Irish dishes and baked goods. Almost everything on Anne’s menu was exciting to me, not because the ingredients seemed foreign, but because the ingredients were put to different uses than I had ever previously experienced. Chocolate biscuit cake (digestive cookies stirred into chocolate), flapjacks (big square honey oatmeal bars), painstakingly stirred scrambled eggs with a sprinkle of curry, a certain carrot and coriander (cilantro) soup, the perfect Irish stew topped with a splash of white wine and freshly chopped parsley and that oh….so…..wonderful warm brown bread that is essentially an Irish “brand”.  Still, more than anything, I was in very much intrigued by her sensational coffee cake and went on to have an endearing love affair with this cake that still lingers on to this day.

In America, coffee cake takes on a whole different meaning. “American” coffee cake is not an iced cake-y cake at all. Coffee cake in the USA is often more of a cinnamon streusel, bundt-like pastry that is traditionally meant to be eaten while sipping a hot cup of coffee {hence the name “coffee cake”.} While the American version is different than the Irish coffee cake, it is absolutely delicious and also one of my favorite treats. I grew up with a mother who liked to bake coffee cake in the morning and have the neighbour ladies over for coffee and gossip. And I will never forget the incredible poppyseed coffee cake that my grandmother sourced from her local Eastern European bakery and always, always had on hand whenever we visited.

So, at first, I didn’t know what to make of this new idea of coffee cake which is basically a coffee-flavoured sponge layer cake slathered in coffee-caramel-y flavoured icing. But, over time, this cake has become one of my all-time favorites….

First, you must find coffee/chicory essence.  Strong coffee or espresso would work, but would likely produce a flavour that is not the same as the sweet caramel coffee taste of the chicory/coffee essence used in this recipe. In Ireland, look for IREL (In England it is called CAMP and in the USA you can use Coffeol)

After you’ve mixed all the ingredients together, split the batter evenly into two lined, buttered and dusted sandwich tins (layer cake pans)

When the cakes are done and cooled, frost the first layer.  Because I love a caramel-coffee-nut combo, I decided to top the frosting with a handful of toasted pecans.

Sandwich the cakes together, pour over the icing, and tuck into a slice!

I truly hope you enjoy this cake as much as we do on the farm!

Slan Abhaile,


Photos by Imen McDonnell. Recipe adapted from Darina Allen’s “Forgotten Skills of Cooking”

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33 Responses to “An Irish Coffee Cake”

  1. Agnes says:

    It looks that a little mistake sneaked into ingredients list. You’re listing 4 egg whites but then in the recipe you say to whisk the eggs. I compared the list with ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’ and it calls for 4 eggs.
    I’m going to give it a try and hope it will be as delicious as good it looks on the pictures :)))

  2. Theresa Davidson says:

    I made this cake for my sister whos a huge coffe cake fan and she was mighty impressed, icing made with ‘camp’ was to die for!!! Thanks for sharing!!!!

  3. […] my newly adopted culture…..either that, or a damn good excuse to enjoy sinful delights like this or this on a regular […]

  4. […] If you’re not interested in my American summer musings, have a peek at this post or this or even this to see what I am usually getting up to in my little Irish farmhouse kitchen + […]

  5. Julie says:

    I looked everywhere for CAMP or Coffeol here in WI, and couldn’t find it. Finally found CAMP on – in case anyone is searching. I can’t wait to make this – thank you so very much for sharing! Oh, and my farmer is now addicted to your Irish shepherd’s pie. I’ve made it 3 times now!

  6. Kay Reinhart says:

    this really made me smile, Imem-I worked for a pastry chef here (in Ireland) briefly last year and she asked me to get her some recipes for ‘coffee cakes’ from the internet. I diligently found and printed several delicious versions (all American, as that’s what I know and thought she wanted) and I couldn’t understand her annoyance when none of my recipes contained any coffee… now I know-and yours is gorgeous! kay (another American in Ireland)

  7. Amanda says:

    I remember something very similar we used to bake in Scotland with coffee essence. Suddenly I have such a yen. I think we’ll have this the next time it’s my turn to host playgroup (aka: weekly excuse to bake and eat whatever I darn well want).

    • imen says:

      This cake is perfect for a play group! Give it a try. Thanks for your comment x

      • Rajendra says:

        thanks for the quick responce,i dont have a frnech press handy so i always use two jars.i use a tea(round ball)filter when transfering the cofee but once i seperate the coffee concentrate from the first jar there is always still a bit of mudd at the bottom as if it were turkish coffee.

  8. I love the website and the cake reminds me of Ireland (even though I don’t like coffee / coffee flavoured things at all). When friends came to Ireland for my wedding and asked about typical Irish food, we had lots of ideas and suggestions for them to try but the one thing that we (as in the family) agreed upon was that “tea and cake” was about as Irish as it gets

    • imen says:

      Yes, tea and cake is a special part of Irish history and is wonderful to enjoy on a cool, rainy day! Thank you for your comment xx

  9. MaryMoh says:

    Wow…I’m drooling over your coffee. My whole family loves coffee. Thanks very much for sharing the recipe and also tips.

    • imen says:

      If you love coffee, give this a’s more of a caramel-coffee flavour which is lovely! Thanks for your comment.

  10. barbara says:

    I remember this cake from my childhood here in Australia. Many Irish immigrated to Australia so I guess it’s not surprising. Plan to make this as soon as I’m back in the kitchen.

  11. Oh this brought back memories! Particularly the smell, there was something comforting yet slightly exotic about the smell of the chicory essence.

  12. That looks wonderful. I am addicted to (the American version) sour cream coffee cake. I had to come take a look at the Irish version! I’ll be giving this a try. Thanks for giving the amounts in ounces as well as grams 🙂

  13. Móna Wise says:

    Hi Imen,

    Did you see that you got a nomination for ‘Best Personal Blog’ for the upcoming Irish Blogger Awards in March?
    Best of luck!

  14. SoniaBegonia says:

    It’s magically delicious, especially the BUTTERCREAM FROSTING & TOASTED PECANS !! With coffee and good company an especially wonderful experience 🙂

  15. Kristin says:

    I’m a sucker for any baked goods with coffee in them. I’ve never tried baking with that coffee chicory essence, I must give it a try next time I make something coffee flavoured!

    • imen says:

      Kristin, it’s so different…have you not seen this up in your neck of the woods? It’s delish. Give it a go! Thanks for your comment =) xx

  16. That looks gorgeous…kind of like the English walnut/coffee cake but I like the idea of the Camp coffee syrup added…very clever!! and sprinkling the nuts in the middle of the cake is genius…I must try this very soon. Thanks so much!

  17. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Elaine O'Hora, Bord Bia and Eithne Egan, modernfarmette. modernfarmette said: Farm Fresh Post: My Love Affair With Irish Coffee Cake. […]

  18. SoniaBegonia says:

    Magically delicious! Especially the BUTTERCREAM FROSTING!!! And the toasted pecans.

  19. nessa robins says:

    I was only thinking of looking up a nice coffee cake recipe earlier today. It sounds delicious – I too love coffee/nut combos! Beautifully photographed – as always!

  20. Cathy St.Clair Stephens says:

    The coffee cake was delicious! The pecan flavor reminded me alot of New Orleans pastry. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Joyce says:

    Had a chuckle as I read this. I’m Irish and living in US. I will never forget the first time I was presented with ‘Coffee Cake’ over here. I kept tasting for that coffee flavor and finally as politely as I could, asked my friend why this was called Coffee Cake when it tasted of sugar/cinnamon/pecans etc. We had such a laugh once she explained the US tradition. To this day we laugh about Coffee Cake! Thanks! I will be sending her your recipe.

  22. This cake looks DELICIOUS. Furthermore, reading your adventures in Ireland reminds me that I want to up’n move there faster than anything. One visit there two years ago and a slew of charming Irish in-laws and I’m hooked.

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