There is a reason this post has only one picture.
It’s because this is by far my favourite cake in the world. It’s the cake I make most often, the cake that is devoured most regularly by my friends and family and quite possibly one of the most important components of my last meal.
And before I could fire up my good camera and dig out a pretty cake plate, it was gone.
Behold, the coffee and walnut cake.
I have named this Justin’s Coffee and Walnut Cake as my dear friend Justin is the only person who loves this cake more than I do. An otherwise kind and gentle man, I could see him starting a fist fight for a minute sliver of this cake.
The recipe that follows is entirely my own, although I have never before written it out. I complete it on auto pilot so often that it never occurred to me how much of everything went into it.
One ingredient I must insist on is Camp Coffee. It’s a thick sludgy emulsion of coffee, sugar and chicory that your grandparents are likely to have kept in the cupboards as standard. As revolting as the description sounds, it’s absolutely delicious and makes the cake taste like the sweet aromatic tea time treats of yesteryear. I have tried numerous recipes that substitute cooled espresso, instant coffee powder, etc. but nothing compares.
You’ll find it in the supermarket at the very edge of the tea and coffee aisle, or occasionally tucked away with the home baking ingredients.
And secondly… always weigh your eggs.
It seems pointless, especially with the stringent sizing laws on eggs these days, but by weighing the eggs and adding equal quantities of self raising flour, butter and caster sugar, I’m yet to have a sponge cake fail on me. The amounts given below are typical for a four-egg sponge but adjust as necessary.
Finally… despite all my fancy kitchen equipment, I always make a sponge cake in the food processor. In this case, the icing too. I add an extra teaspoon of baking powder out of fear that there’s not enough air in there, but it’s probably me worrying too much about the possibility of missing out on perfect cake.
Justin’s Coffee and Walnut Cake
Serves: 10 (technically)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
Four large eggs
225g self raising flour
3 tablespoons Camp Coffee
1 teaspoon baking powder
A splash of milk (optional)
For the icing:
150g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar (no need to sift if using the mighty food processor)
2 tablespoons Camp Coffee (or more, to taste)
75g walnuts, chopped, to decorate
1) Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celcius. Grease and flour two deep 9 or 10 inch sandwich tins.
2) In the food processor, or with a hand mixer, or even with a good arm and a wooden spoon, combine the butter and the caster sugar. Cream until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes in the food processor.
3) Add the eggs one at a time, making sure that each one is accompanied by a tablespoon of flour and thoroughly combined before the next one is added. Then dump in the rest of the flour and the baking powder, if using. The mixture should have a similar consistency to thick custard – if that’s not the case, loosen it with a little milk.
4) Finally, pour in the coffee. The cake mix should now be the colour of dulche leche… mmm…
5) Divide between your two prepared sandwich tins and place in the middle of your preheated oven. Allow to bake for 25-30 minutes, until slightly cracked on top and springing back when poked. If they appear to be browning too quickly, pop a little foil on top. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack, removing from their tins after five minutes. Allow to cool completely.
6) Use this time to get to work on your icing. Place the butter, icing sugar and coffee in the food processor and blitz til creamy. Scrape down the sides and repeat. It’s worth noting that this makes just enough icing to sandwich the cakes together and cover the top – I usually make a little more for eating straight off the spoon.
7) When the cakes are cool, sandwich them together with half of the icing, using the rest to cover the top. Add a scattering of chopped walnuts, put the kettle on and prepare to gorge.
Just don’t tell Justin. Unless you are willing to share.