Monday 23 April 2012

Coffee and walnut cake for the birthday boy

Tim has been agitating for a coffee and walnut cake for some time, so as the day after tomorrow is his birthday, I gave in.

Looks like a cake...
As it happens, Jean had given us The Hairy Bikers Best-loved Recipes (subtitled "Mums know best") just last week, and there was a delicious-looking version in there. I have at least four versions of the basic Victoria Sponge Sandwich recipe, almost exactly the same - equal quantities of butter (or Stork), caster sugar and self-raising flour, some eggs and "Camp" coffee essence. I used to make the Stork version as a teenager, until my dad commandeered the Stork recipe book I was given by a demonstration team at a school cookery class. I was always slightly disappointed by the result, because it came out rather like a large round biscuit. Four ounces / two eggs to a pair of 7" (18cm) sandwich tins is just not quite enough. The Hairy Bikers give eight ounces / four eggs to a pair of 8" (20cm) tins. Their recipe also called for additional baking powder. The end result was satisfyingly substantial! Thanks again Jean!

Since we have been here, a roll of Lakeland "Magic" non-stick liner has been languishing alongside the baking parchment, on the slightly spurious grounds that it was too expensive to use. As we didn't have enough baking parchment for two 20cm circles, I used this instead. You don't need to grease the tin, in fact it's better not to. It is reputed to last five years regular use - after peeling it off the cake, you just wash it in mild detergent, and dry it (have you ever tried to dry a non-stick disk? If you get too vigorous, it shoots across the kitchen).

Camp coffee and chicory essence, according to Wikipedia, so it must be true,  is a Scottish food product, which began production in 1876 by Paterson & Sons Ltd. in a plant on Charlotte St, Glasgow.

On the original label, the Indian gentleman is a Sepoy servant, standing beside the Scottish soldier and handing him his coffee. Since 2006, the two men are social equals, sitting side by side enjoying their coffee. I suspect in India at least until independence in 1947 the relative status could have gone either way ...
Camp is sometimes available on the "British foods" shelves of our local supermarkets, but we couldn't find any, though Super U had a basic chicory essence. I substituted a mixture of this and instant coffee (Nescafé Gold Blend) to the equivalent volume, but it wasn't enough and I'll use more of both next time.

Here's the recipe, as it isn't on their official web site.
For the cake:
65g walnut halves
225g softened butter, cubed, plus a little more to grease the baking tins
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs (or 2 duck eggs)
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp Camp coffee and chicory essence

For the icing:
150g softened butter, cubed
300g icing sugar, sifted
4 tsp Camp coffee and chicory essence

For self raising flour, I used plain flour and an additional 2 teaspoons baking powder.
For 2 tablespoons of Camp, I dissolved 3 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee with 30ml water and a dash of chicory essence. For the 4 teaspoons, I used 20ml of water, 2 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee and omitted the chicory. Next time I'll double the coffee - and prepare it in advance with hot water so it dissolves.

Preheat the oven to 190C / gas mark 5. Butter the bases of two 20cm sandwich tins and line with circles of baking parchment.

Put the walnut halves in a food processor or blender and blitz them into fairly fine crumbs, but don't worry if there are a few large pieces remaining. Tip the walnuts into a bowl.

Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and coffee essence into a food processor and blend on the pulse setting until well combined and creamy (quite a stiff mixture, probably due to using duck eggs). You may need to push the mixture down with a rubber spatula. Take the blade out, add the blitzed walnuts and mix by hand until just combined. "If you don't have a food processor, finely chop the walnuts, tip all the ingredients into a big bowl and beat like hell!" None of this creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs one at a time and folding in flour business.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined tins. You can smooth it off, but I found the mixture was pretty much self levelling once it went into the oven. Bake on the same shelf in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes or until the sponge is just beginning to draw away from the sides of the tins.

Remove the tins from the oven and leave to cool for about 5 minutes. Run a spatula around the edge of the cakes and turn them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool completely.

To make the icing, put the butter in a food processor or mixing bowl, then add the icing sugar and coffee essence.  Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste and add more coffee essence if desired. (Tim does not recommend the food processor method, and I didn't fancy it either.)

Place one of the sponges on a plate or cake rack and spread with half the icing. Add the second sponge and spread the rest of the icing on the top.  Use the back of a spoon, a rubber spatula or a fork to make interesting swirly patterns (Tim's the expert at this, so I left that to him). Decorate with the walnut halves. Leave to stand in a cool place for at least an hour before serving to allow the icing to become a little firmer.

Serves 12.
Tastes like a cake!


Niall & Antoinette said...

Happy Birthday for tomorrow! We're off on our haggis hunt [ferry overnight from Ouistreham tomorrow]

The cake looks superb! Do you do orders? I have a birthday in June ;-)

Jean said...

Happy birthday, Tim!!
The cake looks magnificent.
"Serves 12" - or two people six times !!

GaynorB said...

Happy Birthday, Tim.
The cake looks delicious and it's provenance is excellent - Hairy Biker via Jean and Pauline.
Do you think it will last for 12 portions?

Pollygarter said...

N&A: safe journey!
J&N: twelve people or two gannets!
G&T actually it's very rich, so a twelfth is about as much as you can eat in one go. Allow at least half an hour between goes. Well, twenty minutes. A quarter of an hour, anyway!

Susan said...

Happy birthday Tim!

Tim said...

Thank you, everyone, for the birfday wishes... I shall, as is my usual birthday norm, take a day off from work on Wednesday... unless the weather [forcast to be 'orrible'] is so 'orrible' that it makes more sense to work on my birtday and take another day off when the weather is nicer and allows me to play with my present from Pauline.