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What’s the best coffee flavouring for cakes?

A Coffee Layer Cake with soft, coffee flavored cake layers, and light and fluffy coffee buttercream! A traditional coffee-flavored cake that is suitable for any occasion and is simple to create!

Soft coffee cake layers filled and frosted with a creamy, fluffy coffee buttercream! Perfectly sweet, with a delicious coffee flavor!

Coffee layer cake with coffee buttercream on a cake stand

I used to despise coffee cake as a child. And I don’t mean cinnamon-flavored “coffee cake” or any other form of sweet cake consumed with coffee. I’m referring about true coffee cake, not coffee-flavored cake. This style of coffee cake was popular in Sri Lankan bakeries and was often offered to visitors. I didn’t realize how much I like coffee-flavored pastries until I was older. I now create my own coffee-flavored layer cake, which is very delicious!

Coffee layer cake components

This cake has just two components, with a third optional component.

  1. Coffee flavored cake layers
  2. Coffee buttercream
  3. Chocolate fudge sauce (optional)
A slice of the coffee layer cake on a white plate with the whole cake in the background

Coffee flavored cake layers

These cake layers are SIMPLE. The base of the cake recipe is my vanilla cake, with the addition of instant coffee.

I use instant coffee in this coffee cake because it’s easier to find, and the flavor of coffee can be easily adjusted without impacting the final cake and buttercream texture. Just make sure that you use an instant coffee brand that you enjoy! Personally, I like Nescafe since that’s what I grew up with, and it also makes great iced coffee.

How to make the cake layers

My vanilla cake serves as the foundation for this cake. The method is the same, so if you like, you can read my classic vanilla cake post for a more detailed step by step description of the process. The inclusion of coffee makes this recipe unique (dissolved in milk).

  • Mix together the butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs and mix.
  • Sift the dry ingredients and dissolve the coffee in the liquid components.
  • Mix together the dry ingredients and the milk mixture, alternating between the two.
  • Divide the batter into the cake pans.
  • Bake the cake layers.
  • Let the cakes to cool until ready to use.
  • Creamy and fluffy butter in the mixer bowl
  • Adding sugar to the butter in the mixing bowl
  • The butter and sugar creamed together in the mixing bowl to make the coffee cake
  • Adding eggs one at a time to the cake batter
  • Cake batter with the eggs added in the mixing bowl
  • Folding the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients
  • Alternating the coffee milk with the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl
  • The coffee cake batter in the bowl

Here are some pointers for getting Excellent cake layers for your coffee layer cake (espresso cake).

  • Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
  • Before adding the remaining ingredients, thoroughly mix the butter and oil together. The combination of butter and oil gives the cake a buttery taste and a light crumb!
  • Avoid overbeating the eggs in the cake batter. Beat them only until the eggs are mixed in.
  • Without overmixing, fold in the dry ingredients. Overmixing can lead to a tough and/or gluey cake.
  • For flatter cake surfaces, you can use a bake even strip to insulate the cake pans. But, this is optional.
  • Close up of the coffee flavored cake batter
  • Dividing the cake batter using a scoop
  • The cake batter spread evenly in the cake pans
  • Freshly baked cake layers

How to make the coffee flavored buttercream

There are two methods to prepare coffee buttercream. Either make Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream OR American Coffee Buttercream.

Since the coffee layer cake I grew up with utilized American style buttercream, I’m using it here as well. (But you can also check out my classic Swiss meringue buttercream, and the easier cheat’s Swiss meringue buttercream for those options.)

  • Use room temperature butter.
  • With a mixer, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. This can take as long as 10 minutes, so be patient.
  • ONLY when the butter has become light and frothy, whisk in the confectioner’s sugar.
  • Add the instant coffee to the buttercream after dissolving it in the heavy cream.
  • Don’t forget to add salt and vanilla, which will assist balance and bring out all the taste of the buttercream.

If the butter hasn’t been whisked properly, you risk ending up with a pasty buttercream with the fatty mouthfeel of solid butter. If this occurs, your coffee layer cake will have thick, gummy buttercream.

If the buttercream settles (particularly in the winter), just re-whip it to restore it to its original consistency.

  • Coffee flavored heavy cream added to the butter in the frosting
  • Coffee flavored butter to make coffee buttercream
  • The coffee flavored buttercream after adding the confectioners sugar
  • Coffee flavored buttercream in a glass bowl

How to assemble the coffee layer cake

This coffee cake comes together quickly. You can go rustic and just assemble the cake with a layer of buttercream in the middle, and frost the outside of the cake.

But if you’re going for something a little fancier, then take extra care to make the cake layer flat on top, and to evenly spread the buttercream as a filling. The cake layers should also be evenly spaced and not uneven. Here are some pointers.

  • Make the cake layers’ surfaces neat and even (i.e. slice off any domed tops).
  • Put the first layer of cake on the tray (the bottom of the cake layer facing down).
  • Spread an even layer of buttercream frosting.
  • Put the second cake layer on top of the first (the bottom of the cake layer facing up this time).
  • Let a thin coating of frosting to harden as the crumb coat (in the fridge or a cool place).
  • Decorate the cake with the coffee buttercream (rustic or clean appearance).
  • A cake layer on a cake stand
  • Buttercream on top of the cake layer
  • The buttercream spread in an even layer
  • The second coffee flavored cake layer placed on top to assemble the cake
  • Thin layer of buttercream (crumb coating) on the side of the cake
  • Crumb coated coffee layer cake
  • The final layer of coffee buttercream on the cake
  • The finished coffee flavored cake

Decorating the cake

On top of this coffee cake (espresso cake), I piped a border of coffee buttercream. But, I used chocolate fudge sauce to create a marble look. This was due to the fact that Sri Lankan coffee cakes are generally garnished with a little chocolate, and I was feeling homesick!

To do this, I created my chocolate fudge sauce ahead of time and let it to chill. You won’t be using all of it, so make sure to refrigerate the rest of it so you can use it top ice cream, waffles, pancakes, or even make chocolate milk with it!

Place around 3 – 4 tbsp of the fudge sauce in the bowl. At room temperature, my fudge sauce is usually rather stiff. To loosen the sauce a little, I add about 1 – 2 tsp of water and mix it in until it has slightly softened, but not runny in consistency.

Next, using a pastry bag, insert the tip of your choosing (with the end of the bag snipped off). Spread a line (1 – 2 inches in width) of the chocolate sauce inside the pastry bag, on one side, starting from the tip, and up to about half-way up the pastry bag. One thin strip of chocolate sauce on one side of the pastry bag.

Now place the coffee buttercream inside the bag. As you pipe the buttercream, you’ll see a stripe of the chocolate fudge sauce in there as well .

For a more straightforward decorating, top your coffee layer cake with chocolate sprinkles, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, or roasted almonds.

A close up of the coffee flavored cake

Storing the cake

To keep the coffee cake layers (unfrosted);

Let the cake layers to cool to room temperature. Cover each layer in plastic wrap first, then foil. Then freeze for up to 3 months, and thaw them out in the fridge before using.

Wrap them in plastic wrap and set them aside at room temperature overnight.

If you have frosted the cake, the cake will stay at room temperature for about 3 days, provided the cake was stored in an air-tight container. Exposed edges will eventually dry out.

You may also store the cake in the refrigerator. Let the cake thaw out at room temperature before serving, because that soft buttercream and the moist cake taste best at room temperature.

A slice of the cake pulled out of the cake

Why I love this recipe


The cake layers are soft, with the perfect crumb and perfect sweetness! The coffee taste is noticeable but not overpowering.

The basis of the coffee buttercream is my vanilla buttercream, which my readers adore! It’s not too sweet and insanely creamy. Then add some coffee to it, and it becomes even more enticing.

Every coffee lover’s dream dessert is the combination of the coffee cake layers and the coffee buttercream! If you know someone who loves coffee, and they have a birthday coming up, this will make for a fantastic coffee flavored birthday cake!

A cross section of the coffee layer cake

Coffee Layer Cake

Yield: One 8 inch (2 layer) cake

Cuisine: European, North American, Sri Lankan

Coffee Layer Cake includes soft coffee cake layers and a creamy, fluffy coffee buttercream! Perfectly sweet Coffee Cake for all coffee lovers!

EASY / INTERMEDIATE – There are two parts to this recipe (cake and frosting). The cake recipe is simple. Frosting the cake is equally simple if you want for a rustic aesthetic. Smoother frosting and piped decorations will bump up the recipe to intermediate level, since this will require some experience to get it right.

US based cup, teaspoon, tablespoon measurements.  Common Measurement Conversions For accurate results, weight measurements are recommended.

Prep: 1 hour

Cooling time: 4 hours

Cook: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Servings: –+ slices


Coffee cake layers

  • ▢ 226 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ▢ ½ tsp salt
  • ▢ 300 g white sugar 1 ½ cups
  • ▢ 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • ▢ ¾ cup milk
  • ▢ 4 tsp instant coffee granules I use Nescafe
  • ▢ 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 315 g AP flour 2 12 cup, measured with a spoon and leveled
  • ▢ 2 ½ tsp baking powder

Coffee buttercream

  • 4 sticks 455 g unsalted butter (cool but not cold; around 70°F)
  • ▢ ½ tsp salt or ¾ tsp
  • ▢ 80 mL cold whipping cream ⅓ cup
  • 4 – 6 tsp instant coffee granules (use 6 for a stronger coffee taste)
  • ▢ 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 – 5 cups 500 – 567 g confectioner’s sugar (measured by spoon and level method)

To decorate (optional)

  • ▢ Chocolate fudge sauce
  • ▢ Chocolate covered coffee beans
  • ▢ Chocolate sprinkles
  • ▢ Speculoos cookies crushed


Coffee Cake layers

  • Make sure all of the ingredients are at room temperature for the best results.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of two 8 inch pans with parchment paper, and butter and flour the sides. Set aside.
  • Beat the softened butter into the mixture until it is creamy and fluffy. This can take about 5 – 10 minutes with a stand mixer, depending on how soft the butter is.

    226 g unsalted butter at room temperature

  • Add the salt and sugar, and continue to beat the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.

    300 g white sugar, ½ tsp salt

  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

    4 large eggs

  • Dissolve the instant coffee granules in the milk, and stir in the vanilla. Put it away until you need it.

    34 cup milk, 4 teaspoon instant coffee granules, and 2 teaspoon vanilla essence

  • Sift the flour and baking powder together in a separate dish and whisk to mix.

    315 g AP flour, 2 ½ tsp baking powder

  • In 3-4 additions, fold the dry ingredients into the cake batter, alternating with the coffee-milk combination. The dry components should be put first and then the wet ingredients. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.

    4 tsp instant coffee granules, 315 g AP flour

  • Distribute the batter evenly between the two cake pans. You can either weigh the batter and divide it equally by weight, OR use an ice cream scoop to evenly portion the batter into the cake pans. Using a tiny offset spatula or a small rubber spatula, spread the batter evenly in the pan.
  • Knock the cake pans against the counter three or four times to level the batter and eliminate any significant gas pockets.
  • Bake the cakes for around 25 – 30 minutes in a preheated oven, flipping the pan halfway through.
  • When finished, the cake should be springy to the touch (when you gently poke the middle of the cake, it should spring back up). Let the cake to cool gently in the pan after removing it from the oven. While the cake is still warm, turn it out onto a wire rack to cool fully.
  • If you’re going to assemble the cake the next day, cover the cooled cake layers in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Coffee buttercream

  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, place the butter. Whip the butter with a whisk attachment until it is creamy and white in color, approximately 3 to 7 minutes on high speed (not maximum speed). Allow as much time as you need to make the butter really creamy.

    455 g unsalted butter

  • Stir the instant coffee into the cream after dissolving it in 1 – 2 tbsp of water.

    4–6 tablespoons instant coffee granules, 80 mL cool whipped cream

  • Whisk in the salt, coffee cream, and vanilla extract until the butter-cream mixture is light and frothy (for a few minutes).

    12 teaspoon salt, 80 mL chilled whipping cream, 4 – 6 teaspoon instant coffee granules, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • Reduce the speed to low and gradually add 500 g (4 cups) confectioner’s sugar, a little at a time, incorporating the confectioner’s sugar into the butter. Be careful to scrape the bowl’s sides as you go.

    500 – 567 g confectioner’s sugar

  • After the sugar has been mixed into the butter, raise the speed to high and whisk for 1 – 3 minutes. If you prefer a sweeter buttercream, taste it and add the remaining confectioner’s sugar. Whisk for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the frosting is light, fluffy, soft, and spreadable.

    500 – 567 g confectioner’s sugar

  • If the frosting is too firm, add more cream (1 tablespoon at a time) to make a softer buttercream. If you want the buttercream to have a stronger coffee flavor, you can also dissolve any extra coffee granules into 1 tbsp of water and whisk in that as well.

Assembling the cake

  • Level the cake layers’ tops (if they are domed).
  • Place one cake layer on a cake serving plate or decorating plate. Make sure the cake’s bottom is facing down.
  • Spread approximately 34 cup of the frosting equally on top of this cake layer. You can add more or less of the frosting as you like.
  • Put the second cake layer on top of the first. Make sure the bottom of the cake is facing up this time, so that you have a level surface on top to frost. Carefully push the cake layer down to ensure it adheres to the buttercream underneath.
  • To thoroughly cover the cake, apply a thin layer of frosting. The crumb coating is seen here. The crumb coating will help make the sides and top of the cake even, and make it easier to frost the final layer of buttercream.
  • Let the crumb coating to set for a few minutes in the fridge (or a cold area in your kitchen).
  • Spread the remaining icing evenly over the cake. Use an offset spatula to create swirls for an old fashioned cake look, OR use a bench scraper or spatula to smooth out the frosting.


  • Decorate the cake as desired. Here, I applied one strip of soft chocolate fudge sauce inside a pastry bag, and then filled the pastry bag with the coffee buttercream. When piped, this gives a chocolate marble look in the buttercream (as you can see in the pictures).

    Chocolate fudge sauce

  • Alternately, you may pipe a basic buttercream border or adorn the cake with sprinkles or crushed biscuits.

    Speculoos biscuits, chocolate-covered coffee beans, and chocolate sprinkles

Tips & Tricks

Note about the coffee

I used coffee granules that dissolve in warm water. So you don’t need to heat the water to dissolve the coffee.
If you use instant coffee powder, you must minimize the quantity of coffee you use.

Note about making the buttercream

The coffee cream mixture can be added to the whisked butter at the beginning. But it can also be added at the end after adding the confectioner’s sugar. There will be little difference between these two ways. Just be sure to thoroughly combine everything.

Nutrition Information:

823kcal (41% of total calories) Carbohydrates (89g): 30% 6g protein (12%) Fat: 51g (78%) 31g Saturated Fat (194%) 2g polyunsaturated fat 13g Monounsaturated Fat 2g trans fat Cholesterol level: 187mg (62%). Sodium (%): 233mg 199mg potassium (6%) 1 gram (4%) fiber 67g (74%) sugar Vitamin A (32%): 1620IU 1mg (1% vitamin C) 85mg calcium (9%) Iron: 2mg (11%)

Course:Cakes, Desserts

Cuisine:European, North American, Sri Lankan

Coffee, Coffee Buttercream, Coffee Cake, Coffee Flavored Desserts

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Related Questions

  • What kind of coffee should I use in cake?

    Hot brewed coffee works best in sauces and chocolate cakes prepared with cocoa powder, where it adds a thick, fudgy texture while enhancing the chocolaty notes of the cocoa and masking the bitter ones. On the other hand, cold-brewed coffee, or simply leftover coffee from breakfast, works beautifully in chilled desserts.

  • What is a coffee cake flavor?

    Coffee cake, or kaffekuchen, is a single layer cake with a sweet, cinnamon-infused flavor and streusel top made from flour, butter, and sugar. Streusel may also be used as a filling within the cake. Fruit varieties abound, with blueberries being the most frequent.

  • What Flavour goes with coffee cake?

    Mix any combination of fruits and berries to taste in a dish with some cream. What exactly is this? It will go perfectly well with the moist and tender coffee cake by giving it a very fresh and fruity flavor. You may choose from kiwi, strawberries, blackberries, pineapple, blueberries, and other fruits.

  • What gives most flavor to a cake?

    Although butter gives the finest taste, vegetable oil keeps your cakes moist. I use a combination of salted butter and vegetable oil in all my cake recipes to get the most flavorful and moistest results.