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Coffee flavoured cake cut open to reveal three layers inside
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4.82 from 16 votes

Triple Layer Coffee Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Three degrees of coffee make up the layers in this eye-catching triple layer coffee flavoured cake. Based around the Latte, Mocha and Americano drinks and topped with smooth and silky Swiss Meringue Buttercream, this coffee sponge cake is sure to please lovers of coffee.
Prep Time1 hr 40 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 10 mins
Course: Baking
Cuisine: Worldwide
Servings: 10
Calories: 778kcal


Use 3 x 6-inch cake pans for this recipe - see notes on how to scale up for 8-inch pans

    For the Coffee Cake

    • 180 g/ 6½oz Butter - softened
    • 180 g/ 6½oz Caster sugar
    • 3 Eggs - large, free range
    • 180 g/ 6½oz Plain (all purpose) flour
    • teaspoon Baking powder
    • 3 tablespoon Instant coffee granules dissolved in 3 tablespoon just boiled water - cooled (I used Gold Blend)
    • 1 tablespoon Cocoa powder
    • ½ teaspoon Vanilla extract

    For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream

    • 6 Egg whites (large, free range)
    • 400 g/ 2 cups White sugar (caster or granulated)
    • 450 g/ 2 cups Butter - softened


    Make the Coffee Cake Layers

    • Preheat the (fan) oven to 170°/ 325°F/ GM3
    • Grease and line 3 x 6-inch circular baking tins (note these are smaller than average tins - if you are using 8-inch tins see my notes on how to scale up the recipe)
    • In a bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using electric beaters. 
    • Crack the eggs into a small jug and beat. Add to the creamed butter and sugar, a little at a time, beating well between each addition (this helps reduce the risk of the batter splitting)
    • Stir the flour and baking powder together in a bowl and sieve over the cake batter. Mix in 
    • Divide the cake batter equally into 3 small mixing bowls (digital scales help here)
    • To the first bowl stir in 1½ tsp of the cooled coffee and the vanilla extract
    • To the next bowl add the cocoa powder (sieved) and 2 tsp of the cooled coffee. Stir until just mixed in
    • To the final bowl add 1 tablespoon cooled coffee and mix in
    • Store the leftover coffee for the buttercream
    • Pour the cake batters into the prepared tins and bake for 20-23 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly pressed or a skewer comes out clean
    • Let cool in the tins for 2 minutes, then remove from the tins, peel off the baking parchment from the bottom of each sponge cake and let cool completely on a wire rack

    Make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream

    • Put the egg whites and sugar into a heatproof bowl and whisk until combined
    • Put the bowl over a pot with an inch of simmering water - do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 71C/ 160F on a food thermometer
    • Pour the egg mixture into the bowl of a stand-mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled - it should no longer feel warm to the touch - aim for around 25C/ 77F
    • Cube the butter. Continue to whisk the meringue whilst slowly adding the butter cubes one at a time. Mix until smooth
    • Add the remaining coffee, a teaspoon at a time until you are happy with the colour and flavour of the buttercream
    • If not assembling the cake straight away, store the buttercream in the fridge (covered) until ready to use. Bring back to room temperature and re-whip. At first, the buttercream will split but after a few minutes, the silky smooth texture will return

    Assembling the Cake

    • There is no right or wrong for the order of the layers. Pick the one you want to be on the bottom and lay it on a cake stand or serving plate
    • Spread a generous tablespoon of buttercream over the top of the cake then lay another layer of cake neatly on top
    • Again, spread a generous tablespoon of buttercream over the top of this layer and then lay the final cake on top
    • Reserve ⅓ of the remaining buttercream for piping decorations on top then smooth the rest of the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake
    • Pipe a few pretty shapes on the top and sides of the cake as you see fit. Scatter a little grated chocolate over the cake if desired
    • Serve within a few hours or store in the fridge, returning to room temperature before serving (approx 2 hours)


    Scaling Up the Recipe for 8-inch Tins

    • This recipe is sufficient for 3 sponge cakes baked in 6-inch tins. Do not try stretching the recipe to fill 8-inch tins - the layers will be too thin
    • Ideally, scaling up to a 5 egg recipe is required for 3 layers of 8-inch cakes. However, that gives some fiddly measurements, so I suggest simply doubling the recipe, filling your cake tins ⅔ full then using any surplus cake batter to make a few cupcakes
    • As for the buttercream, you will not need to double this. Instead, go for 9 egg whites/ 600g sugar / 675g butter

    Baking Tips

    • Please use digital scales for this recipe as they are so much more accurate than the cup system. Cups are notoriously inaccurate because they can vary in size and one person's method of filling a cup can be quite different to another person's
    • Regardless of whether your tins claim to be non-stick always grease them and use a circle of baking parchment to line the bases. These 2 steps help ensure the cakes never get stuck in the pan
    • Preheat the oven and prepare the baking tins before baking commences so that the cake layers can go into the oven as soon as the batter is mixed and the raising agent (baking powder) is activated. You'll get the best rise this way
    • Let the cakes rest in their baking tins for 2 minutes once they are taken out of the oven. They will shrink slightly, pulling away from the edge of the tin. This helps get them out of the tins more easily
    • Don't under-estimate the time it takes to make the buttercream - allow at least 45 minutes and up to 1 hour (but it's ok, the stand mixer does the hard work)
    • I do not recommend making this buttercream by hand -  you'd be beating for hours
    • On this note, I once made SMB using a handheld whisk, but that took 45 minutes of standing around holding the beater, so again, I'd really only recommend using a stand mixer for this buttercream. If you do not have one, simply make the cake and use an alternative buttercream as suggested in the tips section in the post above
    • Depending on the brand of coffee used, the coffee Swiss meringue buttercream may discolour if stored at room temperature, although it's still safe to eat and the flavour remains unaffected
    • There is a risk that the buttercream will darken and/ or discolour if left at room temperature. Either frost your cake just 2-3 hours prior to serving or store in the fridge and bring it back to room temperature before serving. Alternatively, use a different frosting completely (see my suggestions in my blog post)


    • If you've been beating the meringue for a long time and it refuses to reach the stiff peak stage the most likely reason is that a spot of egg yolk accidentally made its way into the bowl. Even the smallest amount will prevent the whites from whipping up and sadly, there is no way to rectify this issue other than starting again
    • Likewise, any grease in the bowl will have the same effect. For this reason, ensure your bowl and beaters are perfectly clean before starting
    • If your buttercream mixture appears thin and runny after adding the butter, this is because either the butter or the meringue was too warm when the butter was added. But the fix is easy - place the mixing bowl in the refrigerator (covered) for 20 minutes to cool down, then continue to beat until thickened. If it's still too thin, return to the fridge for another 20 minutes and try again.


    Calories: 778kcal | Carbohydrates: 74g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 33g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 185mg | Sodium: 501mg | Potassium: 205mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 58g | Vitamin A: 1646IU | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 1mg