Thursday, 16 February 2012

Coffee and Walnut Cake

I wonder who discovered that coffee and walnut is a marriage made in heaven? The Italians I hazard? I mean coffee and peanuts, no thanks, coffee and pecan nuts, not really, coffee and hazelnuts ….. maybe? Mr Ferrero Roche, one of the richest men in the world made his fortune on the marriage of chocolate and hazelnut paste.

For this cake I use very strong espresso, none of that powdered muck and certainly nothing containing chicory. Growing up in South Africa proper coffee wasn’t available until the mid-80’s – yes darkest Africa was kind of life the UK in this respect – a very late-comer to the ground coffee bean. Over time I’ve become a total coffee snob and won’t drink instant unless I’m totally desperate. Like I’m almost falling asleep at work and the cafeteria is closed.

My favourite coffee is the one I drink every morning. Which is Sainbury’s Taste The Difference Tarrazu from Costa Rica. I used to drink Lavazza red label but now I find that too strong. Every morning I fire up my trusty Bialetti espresso maker and make two big servings of espresso. I pour this into two mugs filled quarter of the way with hot milk and vanilla flavoured sugar. I can’t function before I’ve taken my coffee back to bed and spend at least 15 minutes sipping my coffee and reading my current book. This ritual sets me up for the day, every day.

Back to the cake…. Last year for Red Nose Day we had a massive cake sale at work and a colleague brought in a delicious Coffee and Walnut cake. It’s not a cake I’ve ever made, who knows why…. so I was spurred on to give one a go as soon as possible. She kindly gave me her recipe which is this one from the Daily Mail. Personally I don’t think raisins should be in this cake, so I left them out.

I’ve made a few other adaptations, as I always do -  here’s the recipe:

Makes 8-10 slices


• 175g unsalted butter softened plus extra for greasing

• 175g caster sugar

• 3 large free-range eggs beaten

• 3 tbsp milk

• 175g self-raising flour [I used Doves Gluten Free self-raising flour]

• 1 tsp baking powder

• 2 tbsp of cooled strong espresso / or 2 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 2bsp boiling water

• 80g walnut pieces chopped into small chunks (I bash mine in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin)


• 150g unsalted butter, softened

• 300g icing sugar

• 3 tbsp of cooled strong espresso / or 3-4 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 3 tbsp boiling water

• 60g walnut pieces for decoration - either in halves or chopped up smaller depending on you want to decorate the top

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Lightly grease a 22cm round, 5cm deep cake tin and line the base with parchment paper. You can also use a medium size oblong tin [as in the picture]

Sieve the flour and baking powder and put to one side. To make the sponge, beat together the butter and sugar, until pale and fluffy. Aim for a full 5 minutes of beating if you can. The fluffier the mixture the lighter the cake. Add the eggs and milk a little at a time, beating after each addition. If the mixture looks like it’s starting to curdle add a tablespoon of flour and beat on slow for a few seconds. Fold in rest of the flour with a large metal spoon, then stir in the coffee. When this is all well mixed, gently fold in the walnut pieces.

Tip the cake mixture into the prepared tin, smooth off the top and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. The cake should spring back to the touch of a fingertip and be slightly shrinking away from the edge of the tin. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out on to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Beat the butter in a mixing bowl until soft, then sift in the icing sugar, add the dissolved coffee granules and beat as hard as you can for as much as 10 minutes, if you can bear it, to make it really light and fluffy.

When the sponge is completely cool, remove it from the tin and add the topping. Either smooth it over with a knife or be extravagant and pipe in a fancy style over the top, finishing off with the walnut pieces arranged decoratively all over.

In the picture above you may notice that there is no half walnut prettily decorating the slice.  That's because I decided to experiment and finely chop up the walnuts and incorporate them into the icing.  Warning!  don't do this - it makes the icing difficult to spread.  Most definitely rather decorate the cake with the walnut halves.  It looks so much prettier that way too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has to be my favourite cake, i adore coffee and will definetly be making this , thanks melanie x