It’s safe to say that life has been a little bit hectic of late. For the first time in my adult life, I’ve found myself working longer hours & bringing my work home (what have I become??). There is of course a valid reason for this, I unknowingly took on quite the challenge at work this summer & somewhere along the line, someone thought it was a good idea to for me work on an entire project by my lonesome. This has been both a blessing & a burden on this exhausted baker.
In short, the nature of this work is miles aways from my regular role, I have absolutely no experience in this field & so, like a child with a new toy (or a baker with a some new NordicWare), I have been incredibly excited at the opportunity to showcase both my initiative & creative side (I’ve waited 6 years for this one). So this project became my baby, I was thoroughly determined to make the best product possible within my strict one month deadline (much like my attitude towards baked goods). I’m pleased to say that I truly believe I have achieved not only this, but also a few personal goals along the way. Slightly less pleased to say that my hands have barely touched a bag of flour in weeks.
How did I do it? How did I manage without my usual sugar fix received from (multiple) baked goods? Caffeine. Lot’s of caffeine.
As an avid tea drinker, coffee is usually but a weekend treat or the most conveniently available hot beverage when undertaking railway travel. I can’t deny, I do love coffee. Usually a bit of a Marmite topic amongst hot beverage connoisseurs, tea or coffee, there is no middle ground. Happy to break the mould as always, I’d like to say that it’s fine to love both. When abroad, sourcing a good cup of tea is practically impossible, but coffee is very much widely available. Two years ago, I travelled to Rome & experienced coffee in all its glory. The Italians are purists, they love the hot, bold, black beverage. They take it in one small, thick, concentrated hit… espresso. God love the Italians, this is coffee as it should be, bold & flavourful (& a steal at 1 Euro a shot).
Coffee is such a powerful flavour that translates perfectly into baking, it truly holds its own however you choose to apply it. Obviously a much-loved flavour, coffee & walnut cake is a classic. One that can not only be found at many a coffee morning or bake sale, but it is also a frequent offender in my kitchen (not just because Burrito Boy can’t stand coffee, leaving the task of devouring it up to me). There have been many variations on this cake in my kitchen, including elaborately piped buttercreams & pralined walnuts, but for now with its simple nature, I like this one..
COFFEE WALNUT CAKE
(makes one 20cm sandwich)
- 200g butter
- 25g rapeseed oil
- 225g light soft brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water, cooled
- 225g self-raising flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 95g walnuts, roughly chopped
To fill & top:
- 400g full fat cream cheese
- 80g light soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water, cooled
- 35g cornflour
- Optional: 16 chocolate covered coffee beans & 1 tsp cocoa powder
- Grease & line two 20cm round sandwich tins with baking parchment
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter, oil & sugar
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time
- Add the flour & baking powder to the mixture
- Pour in the cooled coffee & vanilla extract, stir this through the batter until it is a uniform coffee colour throughout
- Stir through the walnuts
- Divide the mixture between the two sandwich tins & level using a spatula
- Bake the cakes at 180°C for 35 minutes
- Allow the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 minutes before removing & allowing to cool fully on a cooling rack
- To make the filling & topping, beat the cream cheese & light soft brown sugar
- Stir through the cooled coffee
- Sift in half of the cornflour & fold through
- Sift over the remaining cornflour & fold through
- Use half of the cream cheese to fill the sandwich & the other half to top
- Decorate with chocolate covered coffee beans & a light dusting of cocoa powder