Coffee Cinnamon Walnut Brownie Cake

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If there’s one thing I learned from my mom and grandma, it’s that “diet food” can taste really good. Sure, I regularly tout the benefits of real, wholesome foods, but I’m not going to apologize for the fact that I will still lick the bowl when it comes to boxed chocolate cake layered with sugar-free chocolate pudding and sugar-free whipped chemicals topping. If your taste buds and tummy still love that stuff on occasion too, don’t worry: this is a judgement-free zone.

Throughout the year I still make plenty of “diet” desserts but they are for a different kind of diet. Not one consumed with trying to eat the lowest number of calories or grams of fat, but one concerned with longevity and good health. And to get there, we need to natural, minimally-processed foods that not only nourish our palettes but provide essential nutrients like good fats, fiber, and antioxidants. And still, my “diet food” tastes really darn good.

You see those brownies up there? The ones that look undeniably moist and fudgy, and so decadently rich and chocolatey that they must be “bad” for you? This is just the kind of dessert I’m talking about. Perhaps you already guessed what comes next: these brownies are not only gluten-free, but grain-free, dairy-free, and free of refined sugar. And trust me when I say you won’t miss those things one bit, because this is most definitely one of the best chocolate desserts I’ve ever made. Well deserved after three tries, I must add.

Actually, there’s two most important things I learned from my mom and grandma. The second is never to pass up a good deal. But of course, only on things I actually need, or would use. So when California Walnuts tweeted out to bloggers looking to cook with walnuts, I wasn’t about to pass that up.

Walnuts are already a favorite in our house because, well, they taste good. A great walnut is truly almost buttery. But let’s not forget what I learned when researching walnuts for my Love Your Heart heart-healthy recipes event in February: Walnuts have the highest omega-3 content of all nuts, and are a favorite among dieticians for their lipid-lowering, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

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I found the fresh California walnuts to be less bitter and more creamy than other grocery store varieties I’ve bought (who knows how old those things are?) and decided they would be the perfect base for a batch of grain-free brownies. But not just any brownies. Thanks to some other new recipes I’ve been working on, I’ve determined that chocolate with coffee and cinnamon is my favorite flavor du jour, and naturally the direction to go with these brownies. If you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a true out-of-this world chocolate experience. I’m talking about about a true chocogasm.

Trust me, I know my chocolate.

These brownies don’t require any grains to create their moist and fudgy crumb, and though they lack any butter or oil, they are quite the opposite of of dry, thanks to a silky puree of dates and maple syrup. Of course, these also serve to sweeten the brownies, along with a smidge of stevia, so we can get away without any added sugar. If I may say a few things about stevia, because I know plenty of people who are still hesitant:

  • It is all-natural – whatever you do, please don’t group it in with the wides class of zero-calorie sweeteners comprised of artificial substitutes like aspartame and sucralose
  • It is easy to find. I make it easy for you to buy!
  • Brand matters. Some are much better tasting than others. If you’ve tried one kind and hated it, don’t write it off altogether.
  • How you use it matters. I don’t love stevia in my coffee, but I find it works in plenty of recipes.
  • It’s most successful when used with other sweeteners.

And this, you guys, is definitely one of the best recipes you can start with to whet your stevia palette. Thanks to the strong flavors like cinnamon and coffee, and additional sweeteners like dates and maple syrup, there is absolutely no hint of any bitter aftertaste that people claim from stevia; rather, the small amount just intensifies what’s already there.

Phew. Now that we’ve got that covered, I’m heading back to my chocolate… where you can only imagine what fun times my taste buds are having. Until you go ahead and make these yourself.

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Coffee Cinnamon Walnut Brownie Cake

Yield: 12 servings

If you haven't paired chocolate with cinnamon and coffee, you're missing out. Enjoy this just-sweet-enough moist and fudgy cake - you won't believe it's grain-free and dairy-free too!

Note: this recipe has been tried in both a 9" pie plate and a 8" square pan. In the larger pan, the recipe produces a dense, fudgy brownie. In the smaller pan, the batter rises more and produces a lighter, more cake-like brownie.


1 cup dates (140 gm)
boiling water
2 3/4 cup (256 gm) walnuts
2 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup date soaking water
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pure powdered stevia extract*
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder

*If you have stevia packets, this is equivalent to 8 packets. For all other sweeteners, use equivalent to 1/3 cup sugar.


Preheat oven to 325ยบF.

Place dates in a small bowl and pour enough boiling water over the dates to cover them. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Place walnuts in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade. Process until a soft nut butter forms, about 2-3 minutes.

Remove the dates from the water with a slotted spoon and add to the food processor. (Reserve the water.) Process for 1-2 minutes, until a smooth paste forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Add eggs and process again to incorporate, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. The mixture will be smooth and light. Add maple syrup, 1/2 cup reserved date soaking water, espresso powder, cinnamon, vanilla extract salt, and stevia. Process for another minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl once.

Lastly, add the cocoa powder and baking powder, and again process for about one minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.

Spray a 8 or 9" square baking dish or a standard pie dish with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Bake for 32-34 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Nutrition Facts:

Amount Per Serving
Calories 219.3
Total Fat 15.4 g
Saturated Fat 1.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 10.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.2 g
Cholesterol 30.8 mg
Sodium 143.0 mg
Potassium 202.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 18.8 g
Dietary Fiber 3.5 g
Sugars 12.0 g
Protein 5.1 g

Cara Lyons,

California Walnuts provided me with a sample of walnuts to try out in my recipes. There was no compensation or requirement for a blog post. Opinions are my own and the recipe developed was purely for my own enjoyment.


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21 Responses to “Coffee Cinnamon Walnut Brownie Cake”

  1. 1

    Ricki — May 25, 2012 @ 9:05 am Reply

    You know how I love dates in fudgy chocolate desserts! That photo has me drooling. So many healthy ingredients in this baby! I hope you enjoyed every piece (I’m sure Grandma would be proud). ๐Ÿ˜€

    • 1.1

      Cara — May 25, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

      Oh, she would. I can totally hear her. “Ohmygawd. These are the best I ever had!” – what she says about practically everything ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. 2

    Alisa — May 25, 2012 @ 11:43 am Reply

    I have a similar recipe that I’m working on, but hadn’t thought to use walnuts! I really need to trial out more nuts in baking since my husband doesn’t eat almonds.

    • 2.1

      Cara — May 25, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

      Well, speaking not-so-humbly from my experience with these brownies… walnuts rock. Do it!

  3. 3

    Heidi @ Food Doodles — May 25, 2012 @ 12:27 pm Reply

    Wow this looks incredible! I don’t know how to feel about the stevia, I like it in some things but not others, and I usually like it when it’s used with other sweeteners, so in this case dates and maple syrup. Either way this is an impressive looking cake!

    • 3.1

      Cara — May 25, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

      I hear you. Some people seem to be more sensitive to it than others and I totally respect that. But I swear you can’t detect it here – it really just enhances the dates and maple syrup. Have a great weekend!

  4. 4

    Bonnie K — May 25, 2012 @ 3:20 pm Reply

    I think my dad would really like this. He’s a big fan of dates and walnuts and chocolates. I would definitely try it.

    • 4.1

      Cara — May 25, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

      Be sure to report back ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. 5

    Gretchen @gfedge — May 25, 2012 @ 8:42 pm Reply

    Silly me – here I was thinking I had too many walnuts in the freezer! This recipe will take care of THAT. Now I have to make this for next Friday to share with my friends that volunteer in the local food pantry with me. If I make it before then there might not be any left – drooling on the keyboard here . . . .

    • 5.1

      Cara — May 25, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

      Well you could always make another batch ๐Ÿ™‚ I just whipped up another, this time to put in banana ice cream (I know, I know) but that leaves me with 10 brownies left… what to do, what to do ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. 6

    Kate — May 26, 2012 @ 12:43 pm Reply

    I like your version of diet foods.

  7. 7

    Deb Sperry — May 26, 2012 @ 1:05 pm Reply

    HI Cara,
    I’ve been following your blog for awhile off of the suggestion of a friend of mine. I have been hesitant to try some of the dessert recipes you have done, but think after reading enough recipes, you’ve finally convinced. me. =) I have a week off of work and am looking forward to cooking some, could you send me your top five dessert recipe suggestions to try? thanks so much!

  8. 8

    Joanne — May 26, 2012 @ 10:02 pm Reply

    Nom nom nom. I’m getting some CA walnuts in the mail soon as well and now I can’t wait to cook with them! Only you could make totally sugar-free, grain-free etc. brownies look THIS good!

  9. 9

    grace — May 27, 2012 @ 9:10 am Reply

    chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, and walnuts are four of my favorite things, no lie. what a terrific creation!

  10. 10

    Jen — June 14, 2012 @ 10:32 pm Reply

    As a grower of California walnuts, I can not wait to try this. Amazing! Am glad to have found you!

    • 10.1

      Cara — June 15, 2012 @ 11:10 am

      Thank you for growing such fabulous walnuts ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. 11

    Deb Sperry — June 23, 2012 @ 11:24 pm Reply

    Cara, I went ahead and tried these (finally) and they turned out well. I was a bit skeptical because I am a fan of “regular” brownies. Without expecting the same taste, they were wonderful. My husband was skeptical at first, but even he had a good portion and kept claiming he really enjoyed them. I skipped the stevia (I’m cheap and wasn’t sure I’d be using it much after this recipe) and skipped the espresso but otherwise followed the recipe and all went well. Thank you for providing this great recipe!

    • 11.1

      Cara — June 24, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

      Glad you liked them! I love all kinds of brownies, I don’t discriminate ๐Ÿ˜‰ But for me, the fudgier the better! That’s why I loved the texture of these so much!

  12. 12

    Terra — September 5, 2012 @ 9:57 pm Reply

    Oh I am loving your recipe, and for sure adding it to my brownies I need make list:-) I love when I find recipes that use dates, I worked with prunes the other day:-) Coffee is what makes this recipe ROCK!!! Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe, Hugs, Terra

  13. 13

    kim@hungryhealthygirl — January 20, 2013 @ 10:01 am Reply

    These look wonderful and I love the ingredient list! These would make the perfect Valentine’s Day treat I’ve been looking for!

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