Coffee and Hazelnut Chiffon Cake

This is adapted from Delia Smith which means I quiver at changing it. But I can’t slice round cakes in half horizontally to save my life (see Layers footnote); I had cream cheese not mascarpone; and I do like hazelnuts more than walnuts.

This GF cake was very highly rated by my tasters (who’ve all made a fair few Coffee ‘n Walnut cakes in their lives!).

Serves: 12 – 24 depending on tin/portion size

For the cake:

  • 3 large eggs (62-68g each when weighed in the shell), separated into 2 large bowls (see Separating Eggs footnote)
  • 175g unsalted butter, softened; plus extra cold butter for greasing tin
  • 200g gluten-free flour
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder (only if your GF flour is plain, not self-raising)
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 2 & 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee powder (if using granules, give them a bash in a bowl or mortar & pestle until they’re more finely ground)
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 75g skinned hazelnuts, very finely chopped

For the icing:

  • 375g cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder (if using granules, give them a bash in a bowl or mortar & pestle until they’re more finely ground)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons golden caster sugar; plus additional to your taste as necessary
  • Hazelnuts: skinned whole, halves, or finely chopped, to garnish


  • A 23cm / 9″ round, loose-based or springform cake tin;
    or, a standard traybake tin 9x12″ / 23x30cm;
    or, a standard 12-hole cupcake tin (see Cupcakes footnote)
  • Baking/parchment paper to line tin
  • Mixing bowls: 2 large and 1 small
  • Mortar & pestle, or a small bowl and spoon, if using coffee granules, not powder
  • Electric mixer (hand-held or stand)
  • Spatula
  • Chopping board and sharp knife;
    or, a food processor / nut grinder if you don’t want to chop the hazelnuts by hand*
    *Take care not to process them into nut butter – pulse until just finely chopped
  • Cooling rack
  • Palette knife, for icing (optional)

Making the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 170 C (150 C fan-assisted).
  2. If using a round tin, lightly grease all over and line the bottom with paper, ensuring the lining covers the join of the ring.
    If using a traybake tin, lightly grease all over and line the bottom with paper, leaving two ‘handles’ of extra paper over the long sides to pull the cake out later.
  3. Separate your eggs, putting the whites in one bowl, and the yolks in the other large mixing bowl.
  4. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high speed as the colour and texture change. (‘Stiff peaks’ means that you feel you could turn the bowl over your head without consequences.)
  5. Whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the cake ingredients BUT NOT THE NUTS on medium speed until fully combined, about 2-3 minutes (no need to clean the beaters from the whites). Sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts without stirring in.
  6. Add 1/3 of the egg whites, folding briskly with a spatula to loosen the mixture; then add the rest, folding very carefully so you don’t lose the volume, until no white streaks or lumps remain.
  7. Scrape the batter into your prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake for around 35 minutes, turning the tin halfway through for even baking. When the centre springs back quickly from a light finger touch, remove the tin from the oven to a cooling rack.
  8. After 20 minutes, turn out the cake and leave to cool around 1 hour before icing.

Making the icing:

  1. Whilst the cake is baking, in a small mixing bowl, very gently combine the cream cheese, coffee, spice, and sugar. Add extra sugar a tablespoon at a time (if needed) until you reach your preferred sweetness. (Note that the more you work the cream cheese, the runnier it will be.) Chill in the fridge until the cake has baked and is fully cooled.
  2. Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake with a spatula, palette knife, or just a spoon. Garnish with whole hazelnuts, halves, or chopped pieces before serving.

Separating Eggs
I’ve used the ‘chiffon’ method to keep the cake as light as possible. You don’t have to do this; you could keep the eggs whole and make an ‘all-in-one cake’ with all ingredients without folding in the whisked whites separately. However, do sprinkle on the chopped nuts at the end and fold them in manually.

Doing Layers
If you can slice a round cake in half horizontally, do that; or, make this in 2 smaller round tins, 8″ diameter, and reduce the baking time to 20-25 minutes. There is enough icing in the recipe to put a layer on the bottom half before sandwiching them together and icing the top.
If doing this, it’s always nice to have a sprinkle of very finely chopped hazelnuts, and/or a hint of spice, over the icing on the bottom layer.

Making Cupcakes
You could always put the cake batter into paper cupcake cases; the baking time should be closer to 20 minutes in total. You should get about 12 cupcakes.

Photography Note
I had to drop off the cake and run, so I didn’t get pics of slices. But I had many messages from tasters saying this cake will replace their favourite Coffee & Walnut Cake recipe, so, job done. 🙂


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