food & drink · recipes

Coffee, Walnut and Date Cupcakes

I’ve always found that shop-bought coffee cake lacks the light, fluffy texture that home baking gives. There are some really good sponge, carrot, fruit and chocolate cakes out there, but I still haven’t come across an amazing coffee cake. They’re always dry, and usually a little bland. Baking my own is a clear solution, but sadly means I have more cake than one person trying to follow a healthy-ish diet should eat. With my boyfriend and flatmates being coffee haters I’ve had to wait until visiting home to whip up a coffee flavoured delight. Sadly, there isn’t much room in the freezer in the London flat, and my metabolism isn’t quite fast enough to burn off a whole batch of cupcakes…Thankfully for my waistline, my parents and brother love coffee. They also love walnuts and dates, both of which go amazingly with coffee. Trust me.

My initial plan was to ice these with a coffee butter-cream frosting, and fill them with a fruit paste made from dates, but I encountered two problems;

  1. I couldn’t find the food processor to make a date purée.
  2. My dad insists he doesn’t like sweet stuff (we ignore the whole tin of Quality Street he went through at Christmas… that doesn’t count, apparently) so frosting them was out of the question.

So, no paste and no frosting. Really, I should call these compromise cakes… But it didn’t really matter in the end as the cupcakes were simply beautiful as they were; fluffy, moist and just the right level of sweet. They were the absolute perfect accompaniment to a post-lunch cup of coffee.

Recipe below the cut.

Coffee, Walnut and Date Cupcakes
(Makes 12)

  • 120 g plain flour
  • 120 g golden caster sugar
  • 11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 40g walnuts, chopped
  • 70g pitted dates, chopped
  • 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120 ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 level tsp instant coffee (use less if you prefer a weaker coffee flavour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄4 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C / 325°F / Gas 3. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases and set aside.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, walnuts, dates and butter to a bowl. Using a free-standing mixer, or hand-held whisk, beat until sandy in consistency and everything is combined.
  3. Mix your instant coffee with with the 120ml of milk. If you need to, microwave on medium power for 10 second blasts and stir until fully dissolved.
  4. Gradually pour in half the coffee and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
    My camera battery was very nearly flat because I hadn’t thought to charge it beforehand, so it kept taking forever to focus and most things came out really blurry. Still, I managed to get some usable pictures.


  5. Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining coffee milk together in a separate jug, then pour into the flour mixture. Mix until incorporated, then mix for another 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth.
  6. Divide between the twelve paper cases -an ice-cream scoop works wonders- and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched.

Allow the cupcakes to cool a little in the pan before transferring to a plate. I raided the local 99p store and picked up some paper doilies to make my photographs a little more interesting. Whilst I’m at home, I can also make use of the nicer plates and better lighting in my mum’s kitchen. I’ll have to hunt for some pretty plates in the charity shop when I return to London.

Sadly, I’m only visiting home for two weeks; I have to be back in London in time to meet my Swedish e-penpal. I’m really excited to finally be meeting her! It’s her birthday just after she returns home, so I’m hoping to make an early birthday cake if I get the time.

After that, my not-so-little-anymore brother should be coming down to visit at the end of August. As he’ll be staying on or just before his birthday as well, I’ll have plenty of opportunity to bake up some more treats.


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