Aren't you supposed to feel refreshed after an extra-long Easter bank holiday weekend? Maybe not if you're a parent... or a farmer... or both!

Our weekend was chock full of family dinners, trips to the cinema and out shopping, lunches out, Easter egg hunts and baking.

My kids had an amazing weekend - I did, too, but I think I need another long weekend to fully recover.

I'm sure most parents are feeling the same way; back to the office after a weekend full of activities. When my 5am alarm went off, I took five minutes to seriously think about my life choices. Then, of course, I got up and got going. Coffee helped greatly, as it always does.

I love a good cup of coffee, but I also love baking with coffee. Coffee cakes, mocha mousses and coffee-flavoured cremeauxs (a creamy French filling for cakes and pastries) are my go-to recipes, but I also always add a (boiling hot) half cup of strong coffee to my chocolate cake batter.

It doesn't make the chocolate cake taste like coffee; it just makes it taste more chocolatey.

Most North American tray bake recipes start with a biscuit base. / Janine Kennedy

In Canada, where I'm from, we like having squares with our afternoon cup of tea. Squares are similar to traybakes, but the recipes are often quite different from traditional Irish tray bakes.

Our squares are rarely cakey in texture; most use a crumbly biscuit base and are then topped with a variety of flavours and textures.

One of my favourites features the classic coffee and walnut combo into a mallowy, crunchy and not-too-sweet square, which is the perfect pick-me-up after a crazy long weekend.

It comes together pretty quickly, though there is a bit of skill required. If you're a coffee and walnut cake lover, this is well worth a try.

Mocha walnut bars

The meringue layer should be a bit crunchy on top and mallowy in the middle. / Janine Kennedy

Makes 16 bars


First layer:

200g brown sugar

125g butter, softened

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

220g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

100g chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

Second layer:

2 egg whites

200g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 tbsp instant coffee granules

100g chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

Third layer:

100g chopped walnuts (don't toast these; they will brown in the oven)


1 Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

2 In the stand mixer, using a paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer here), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Mix and then add the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix until just combined and fold in the toasted walnuts.

3 Spread the dough on to the lined cookie sheet and gently press down with your fingers until the dough is evenly spread out along the bottom.

4 Clean the stand mixer bowl well and dry it completely. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks are reached. Add the vanilla and coffee granules.

5 Gradually add the sugar while continuing to whisk. When stiff and glossy peaks are formed, your meringue is ready. Gently fold in toasted walnuts.

6 Spread the meringue mixture evenly over the cookie dough base. Top with the remaining untoasted crushed walnuts.

7 Bake for 45 minutes. Check after 30 - if you have a hot oven, the walnuts on top may brown too quickly. If this happens, just place a sheet of tin foil over the top until the base is fully baked.

8 Allow to cool completely before portioning into squares or bars. These bars will keep in an airtight container for up to four days and they freeze beautifully.

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