Espresso Cake

This espresso cake, not to be confused with coffee cake, has an unmistakable coffee lilt that's simultaneously subtle and rousing in that way only espresso can be.

Espresso Cake Recipe

“This espresso cake is one of my late mother-in-law Margaret’s most-treasured recipes.” Thus begins pastry chef Sarabeth Levine’s introduction to this espresso cake recipe, which was originally published in her cookbook Sarabeth’s Bakery. Although we didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Margaret, we, too, think of her with appreciation when we make this simple yet spectacular espresso cake. We think you will, too. Don’t be misled by the relatively subtle flavor of the cake. The presence of coffee is unmistakable and rousing in that way only espresso can be. This recipe has been updated. Originally published December 28, 2010.Renee Schettler Rossi

*What Kind Of Coffee To Use In This Espresso Cake

If you’re one of those types who needs a shot of espresso in the a.m. before you can even consider being grateful for this cake, consider oomphing the caffeination of this recipe by adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon (or more) instant espresso powder to ensure you get your proper fix. Conversely, if serving this as dessert after dinner some evening, you may wish to rely on decaf expresso or warn guests of its stimulating potential. You can substitute instant coffee powder for the instant espresso powder, although the espresso powder will yield a far richer flavor.)

Special Equipment: 10- to 12-cup fluted tube pan

Espresso Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 12


  • For the cake
  • 1 cup hot strongly brewed coffee
  • 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder*, or more to taste
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • For the coffee glaze
  • 2 tablespoons hot brewed coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder (preferably instant espresso)
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 to 2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted


  • Make the cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) and position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour a 10- to 12-cup fluted tube pan and tap out the excess flour.
  • 2. Combine the brewed coffee and espresso powder in a glass measuring cup and let cool.
  • 3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in the sugar, then add the vanilla and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the mixture is very light in color and texture, about 4 minutes. Beat in the yolks, 1 at a time.
  • 4. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the cooled coffee in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until smooth after each addition.
  • 5. Beat the egg whites in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer on high speed or a balloon whisk until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the spatula.
  • 6. Bake until the top of the cake springs back when gently pressed with your finger and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 60 minutes.
  • 7. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert and unmold the cake onto the wire rack set over a baking sheet. Cool completely.
  • Make the glaze
  • 8. Mix the brewed coffee and espresso powder in a small saucepan until the espresso powder is dissolved. Stir in the milk. Add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until smooth. Place over low heat and heat, whisking constantly, until the glaze is warm to the touch and thins slightly.
  • Embellish the cake
  • 9. Transfer the glaze to a glass measuring cup. Slowly pour the warm glaze over the cake, letting it flow over the indentations in the cake down the center of the cake. You will have plenty of glaze. Cool completely before slicing. (The cake can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.)
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