Irish Coffee Cake
The legendary Irish drink transformed into a rich and luscious cake

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Irish Coffee Cake

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For the cake
1.3 cup / 240g / 8 ounces Butter
1.5 cup / 240g / 8 ounces Granulated sugar
1.5 / 240g / 8 ounces Self-raising flour
1/8 teaspoon Salt
6 teaspoons Instant coffee crystals
4 tablespoons Hot water
4 Large eggs Beaten
2 tablespoon each Butter and flour for cake pans
To make it easier to move the layers around after soaking with the syrup (and for prepping the springform pan if you want to use one in the cake's assembly) Baking parchment
For the coffee and whiskey syrup
300 ml / 0.5 UK pint Strong coffee
1.5 cup / 240g / 8 ounces Granulated sugar
6 tablespoons Irish whiskey
For the topping
8 tablespoons Confectioners' / icing sugar Sieved
4 tablespoons Irish whiskey
600ml / -.75 UK pint Double cream Whipped
To decorate the top
2-4 tablespoons Chopped hazelnuts
1 teaspoon Cocoa Enough for dusting

    Laced with whiskey-and-coffee syrup for maximum darkness and kick

    • Medium


    • For the cake

    • For the coffee and whiskey syrup

    • For the topping

    • To decorate the top

    • or



    The reputation of the drink chef Joe Sheridan invented one cold and rainy evening in 1943 at the old seaplane base at Foynes, County Clare began to spread far and wide during the 1950’s. It’s around then, and into the Sixties and Seventies, that recipes for cakes based on Irish coffee started appearing in now-vintage Irish cookbooks.

    Earlier versions of our own recipe — which appear on various other recipe sites with the source and some of the directions stripped off — call for a one-layer sponge. But with further testing we’ve found that this cake works just as well as a layer cake, looks nicer (if a little less like a glass of Irish coffee), and has the advantage of there being lots more of it to go around. So we’ve altered the recipe to reflect this fazer compras.

    The cake itself is simple — a delicate sponge with a strong coffee flavor. But the real kick in this version of the cake comes with the syrup that later saturates the cake — more coffee, naturally with whiskey in it — and then with the topping, rich with double cream as a good Irish Coffee topping should be, flavored with yet more whiskey, and finished off with a dusting of cocoa, or (if you prefer) a sprinkling of that best-loved of native Irish nuts, the hazelnut.


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    A pre-baking note

    The cake appearing in our image was baked in 8-inch pans. If you prefer thinner layers, use nine-inch pans and shorten the baking time by five or ten minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs.

    Also: for a more structured-looking cake at the end of the process, you might like to assemble the layers and their filling and topping in a springform pan, and chill the whole business in that before serving. It's your call.


    Preheat the oven to 180° C / 350° F. Butter well two 8- or 9-inch cake pans: then flour them lightly. (As mentioned above, if you have a springform pan of the same size as the pans you're baking in, make it ready by cutting a baking parchment circle to cover the bottom, and a strip of baking parchment about half an inch taller than the edge for the sides of the pan. You don't need to grease this baking parchment: it's just to keep the whipped cream topping under control when you remove the springform after chilling the cake in the very last step.)


    Cream the butter and sugar well until light and fluffy: then add the eggs one at a time and continue beating after each until the whole mixture becomes very light. Sieve the flour and salt together; then at low speed with the mixer, or by hand if you prefer, fold two thirds of the dry mixture into the creamed butter, sugar and eggs. Dissolve the instant coffee in the water and add it to the batter: then fold in the remaining 1/3 of the flour.


    Spoon the batter into two 9-inch cake pans / tins (or 8-inch if you prefer). Smooth the top of the batter, leveling it out. Then bake the layers for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is just starting to pull away from the sides of the cake pans. Allow the cake layers to cool for ten or fifteen minutes, and then carefully turn the layers out onto a rack to cool. When they're out, wash the cake pans and dry carefully. You'll need them again shortly.


    For the syrup: Heat the strong coffee and sugar together gently until the sugar has dissolved: then boil rapidly for 1 minute. Make sure you do this in a pan at least three times the size of the syrup, because it will try to boil over, and it'll leave you with an incredible mess if it gets all over the cooktop. Remove the pan from the heat, allow to cool for three minutes or so, and then stir in the whiskey.


    Now put a piece of baking parchment in the bottom of each layer pan, covering the bottom of it as completely as possible and making sure to leave some sticking up and out on each side so that you can pull the cake layer out of it with minimum trouble later. Then return the cooled cake layers to their pans. Find a skewer and use it to poke concentric circles of holes into the top of each layer, being as careful as you can not to go all the way through the layer and out the bottom. Then slowly pour half the coffee-and-whiskey syrup over each layer, and leave it to soak for 2-3 hours.


    For the filling / topping: Whip the double cream to the soft-peak stage, and either slow the beater down and stir in or (if you prefer) blend in by hand, the icing sugar and then the remaining whiskey. Turn the first layer of the cake out onto a serving plate and spread its top with about a third of the whipped-cream-and-icing-sugar mixture. Add the second layer and cover it with the remainder of the mixture. Then sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts: or if you're not big on nuts, or allergic, top with shaved bittersweet chocolate.


    Chill well before serving.

    One note: All told, there is nearly 175ml of Irish whiskey in this cake -- the equivalent of nearly four Irish bar measures of whiskey (or 2 doubles). Maybe we're just being overcautious, but it seems unwise to drive after you've had more than a slice of this: there might be enough alcohol in it to produce a false positive on a test and get you in trouble with the local constabulary, and no one wants that. So, a word to the wise... hang the car keys up first.


    I write for a living. But food is one of my favorite hobbies... learning about it, cooking it, eating it!

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