Walnut coffee cake with cacao nibs is a gluten-free delight that showcases a buttery cake, a crunchy top, and a swirl of cream cheese filling. It’s made with brown rice, millet, and tapioca flours for a tender crumb that’s just as good the day after it’s made.
Adapted from Heather Hardcastle | The Flour Craft Bakery & Café Cookbook | Welcome Books, 2021
Not too sweet, with tons of great texture, including a crunchy, nutty top, a rich, buttery cake, and a dreamy cream-cheese surprise inside, this recipe is one you’ll return to time and again. It manages to be both homey and impressive at the same time and continues to be a favorite both at our family table and with our customers. This keeps well at room temperature when made a day ahead and is the perfect treat for a holiday breakfast with family or a lazy Sunday brunch.–Heather Hardcastle
HOW DO I KEEP MY GLUTEN-FREE CAKE MOIST?
Because of the nature of gluten-free flours, they can occasionally be less tender or dry out faster than a cake made with wheat flour. One of the best ways to keep your cake tender is through the addition of fat and dairy. This recipe, in particular, uses full-fat sour cream to compensate and maintain a tender crumb.
Gluten-Free Walnut Coffee Cake with Cacao Nibs
- 10-cup Bundt pan
For the cake batter
- Baking spray for the pan
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz ) butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup millet flour
- 1/4 cup tapioca starch or tapioca flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup full-fat sour cream
For the filling
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) butter at room temperature
- 1 (8-ounce) package full-fat cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
- 3/4 cup cake batter (from above)
For the crumble
- 1 cup chopped raw walnuts
- 1/3 cup cacao nibs
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) butter at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Make the cake batter
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 10-cup Bundt pan with baking spray.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the soft butter and both sugars on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy and pale in color, about 2 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl to release any unmixed bits of butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix to combine. Scrape down the bowl.
- Add brown rice flour, millet flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix on medium speed until well incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
☞ TESTER TIP: When adding your dry ingredients to the batter, start mixing on low speed to avoid a cloud of flour dust.
- Add the sour cream and mix on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes. The sour cream will help to lighten the batter overall. Dump the cake batter into a small bowl and set aside.
Make the filling
- In a stand mixer fitted with the same paddle attachment, combine the softened butter, cream cheese, and sugar in the same bowl used to mix the cake batter. Mix on high speed until smooth and no lumps remain, about 2 minutes.
- Add Grand Marnier and mix to combine. Add 3/4 cup of the cake batter and mix until combined.
Make the crumble
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine all of the crumble ingredients. Process until coarse crumbs form, 20 to 30 pulses. You still want to see recognizable pieces of each ingredient but they should be held together in large crumble-like pieces.
Assemble the cake
- Scatter half of the crumble around the bottom of the pan. Add one third of the reserved cake batter on top of the crumble. Smooth with a small offset spatula into an even layer.
- Dollop cream cheese filling on top of the cake batter. Smooth again with a small offset spatula to form a thick, even layer, covering the whole width of the pan, from center to edge.
- Add the remaining two thirds of the cake batter and smooth to cover all of the cream cheese filling. Scatter the remaining half of the crumble over the top.
- Cover the cake with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove foil and decrease the oven temperature to 325°F (163°C). Bake until the top is a medium brown and feels just set and springy to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes more. The center of the cake, where the cream cheese layer is, will feel softer than the sides of the cake but should still feel set.
- Cool completely in the pan, about 2 hours. Unmold, serve, and devour.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This was a fairly complex cake, requiring me to dirty a lot of dishes, but the end product was totally worth it. What an amazing texture and flavor! This walnut coffee cake with cacao nibs is moist, full of flavor and texture, and so airy. I can see myself coming back to this recipe over and over again. It would work with so many flavors and different toppings, but that cream cheese filling has to stay, it’s amazing! I served it as part of an Easter spread with ham, bacon, deviled eggs, sausage, potatoes.
This walnut coffee cake with cacao nibs nails every component that a good coffee cake should have: different textures throughout the cake, moderate sweetness that is balanced perfectly with a good cup of coffee and a strong crumb that can stand up to a good coffee dunk. Despite being a gluten-free cake, the texture was airy and fluffy and remained moist thanks to the dense cheese layer throughout. Despite the different components, the cake comes together rather quickly (warning! you’ll have some dishes to do after) and is perfect to make the day before you have guests coming. All this cake needs to be served with is some coffee or tea and maybe some berries for a little extra brightness.
This gluten-free take on a beloved brunch classic is a total hit. It has all the hallmarks of a good bake—a rich and delicately flavored crumb with a slightly sweet walnut/cacao nib crumble. Previously when baking with cacao nibs, I found their flavor and texture overpowering and one-note. Here they are well-blended with walnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a food processor.
While the crumble on the top is pretty and crisps nicely for a nice outer crust, I still prefer my sour cream coffee cake with crumble filling swirled throughout the inside of the cake, not just at the top and bottom of the cake. Inside the cake, the crumb is moist without tasting heavy thanks to the cream cheese and sour cream. My family had no idea the cake was not made with regular flour. There was no grittiness or stickiness that sometimes comes through when baking with rice flour. Note that the recipe has a long ingredient list, used many bowls and tools, and had specific assembly steps. Nevertheless, my cooled cake popped effortlessly out of my Bundt pan with just baking spray. All in all, a very successful bake. I am so happy to have a GF walnut coffee cake with cacao nibs in my arsenal to share with friends who might have dietary restrictions. This cake will make everyone happy!
Yup, this one’s a winner. It definitely creates a few dishes but the result is totally worth it! Delicious and impressive. Make it when you’re having people over so you’re not tempted to eat the whole thing by yourself. I totally could have… it’s THAT good!
Thanks, Maria! I’m delighted that you love it as much as we do.