Sunday, 14 September 2014

Weekend Baking: Coffee and Walnut Cake

Yakob celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary yesterday, with a tea party and a magician and a 20 year quiz, which he had helpfully labelled "10th anniversary quiz". Classic Yakob.

I said I would bake a cake which meant only one thing - a classic coffee and walnut. We have a thing about "Coffee and Pedantic Walnut Cake" which came from a joke on Twitter that neither of us can remember. Then I got my recipe books out to get started and realised that, in-jokes aside, I have never actually made a classic coffee and walnut sponge before; at least, I can';t remember ever doing so. Coffee and Brazil nut, yes; coffee with chocolate coffee ganache, yes; but this was to be baked instead of a cake his wife was baking and I was worried about presenting something other than the traditional, with the buttercream and the walnut decoration.

Thus, I read this article and produced something traditional. I am a bit worried about my oven because it keeps producing cakes that are very thin on one edge and very thick on the other, particularly if they're baked on the top shelf; the oven is not set on a slant, I am sure, or it would be obvious when pouring oil into a pan on the hob. I fear that the fan is blowing a bit heftily and causing cake-batter-drift. Since the oven is approaching its 10th birthday, perhaps it needs a good seeing-to by an engineer.

2tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1tbsp boiling water
125g walnut halves
225g butter, at room temperature
225g soft, light-brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten together
225g plain flour
3tsp baking powder
1/4tsp salt
Milk, optional

For the icing:
2tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1tbsp boiling water
165g unsalted butter
425g icing sugar
2tbsp milk
2tbsp mascarpone (the recipe called for 4tbsp of double cream but I was Using Stuff Up)

Toast the walnut halves in a dry pan. Don't forget about them and keep thinking, "What is that smell?" Set aside enough for decoration and then chop up the rest.

Heat the oven to 180C and prepare 2 x 20cm sandwich tins. I prepared for this by buying silicone bakeware. Perhaps I should try baking in a real tin again and seeing if this solves the batter-drift problem.

Beat the butter and sugar together until really light and fluffy. Pour in the beaten egg very gradually with the mixer running, scraping down the sides of the mixer as necessary. Fold in the flour, baking powder and salt, adding the coffee and chopped walnuts as you go. This should be a soft-drop sort of batter so add some milk if you need to. I probably added about 4tbsp of milk.

Divide between the 2 tins, and bake for about 25 minutes until well risen. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tins, then put on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing, beat the butter until soft and fluffy, then beat in the icing sugar, marvelling as you do at how icing sugar can just get itself over EVERYTHING, even when there is a lid on the mixer. Beat in the rest of the icing ingredients. Continue beating, hoping to get rid of that slightly grainy texture, and wonder why you can never manage it. Think fondly about Swiss meringue buttercream and realise it is too late to go down that road now. Realise icing now very soft and starting to look a bit on-the-turn; place in fridge until cakes are cold.

Assemble the cake with half the buttercream in the middle and the other half on top, decorated with walnuts. You may need more walnuts if you have eaten some of your toasted walnuts as a baking snack.

The coffee flavour was a bit too pronounced for me but it got the big thumbs up from everyone at the party. Unfortunately this meant I didn't get a picture, but you've seen a lot of coffee and walnut cakes in your time, I'm sure.

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