My boyfriend’s favourite: coffee & walnut cake

coffee and walnut cakeWhen we were in England so I couldn’t pass on any opportunity for an afternoon tea. I will always go for the carrot cake, such a favourite of mine, but my boyfriend will never miss a good coffee and walnut cake. On his birthday we were in Amsterdam, so I couldn’t bake anything, but I made up for it now with this delicious surprise! No need to tell you it didn’t last very long! I got the recipe from one of my new purchases: Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food.

Here’s how you make it: preheat the oven to 160 C. Line the bottom of 2 20 cm round tins with baking parchment. Boil some water in the kettle (to dissolve some instant coffee later on).

First, make the sponge: put 2 tbsp instant coffee in a mug and add 2 tbsp hot water to dissolve it (you can use 1 tbsp coffee for a lighter taste or 3 for a good kick, adjust the water accordingly). Finely chop 50 g walnuts and set aside. Put 150 g self-raising flour in a large bowl with 50 g wholemeal flour (if you don’t have wholemeal, just add another 50 g self-raising flour instead), 200 g soft light brown sugar and 1 tsp baking powder and mix a bit to combine. Add 175 g softened butter, 4 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract the prepared coffee and chopped walnuts and beat it hard until smooth and well combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and put them in the oven for 25 min until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

About 5 min before the cake is ready, mix 1 tsp instant coffee powder with 1 tbsp sugar and 2 tablespoons hot water and stir to dissolve. Remove the cakes from the oven and brush liberally with the coffee mixture. Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning them onto a wire rack to cool completely (this should take about 10 min).

Next, make the buttercream: mix 400 g icing sugar in a large bowl with 200 g very soft butter and beat until light and fluffy. Mix 2 tbsp instant coffee powder with 1 tbsp hot water until dissolved and add to the buttercream. Mix again. To assemble the cake, put one on a serving plate and slather the top liberally with half of the buttercream. Place the other sponge on top and slather with the remaining buttercream. You can cover the sides too if you prefer, I do! Arrange some more walnuts on top for decoration. Enjoy while listening to Rule Brittania (I do like this Night of the Proms version!).

Use up leftover walnuts in carrot cake or apricot & marzipan twist.

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Getting ready for Christmas: apricot & marzipan twist

Apricot and marzipan twistMy December issue of GoodFood magazine arrived and as every year this is the Christmas issue, full of delicious recipes and ideas. I always want to start baking right away when I get it, but a lot of recipes are for a crowd and this is one of those. So I had to wait for a crowd first, but that’s usually not a big worry. This recipe serves 12 and is by Paul Hollywood, BBC’s Great British Bake Off judge.

You need a lot of time for this one because it requires rising. You even need to start the night before: chop 120 g dried apricots and put them in a bowl with 150 ml orange juice to soak overnight.

The next day, make the dough by putting 250 g strong white bread flour in a bowl with 1 tsp salt, 50 g softened butter, 100 ml milk, 10 g dried yeast and 1 large egg and mix together to form a dough. Knead for 6 min. The recipe suggests turning it out on a floured surface and kneading by hand, but the dough is incredibly sticky, so I suggest using electric dough mixers instead and keeping the dough in your bowl. If not, you’ll be adding flour for 6 min to reduce the sticking and it won’t even make much of a difference! Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl (if you used the mixer, it’s already in one so you can leave it). Cover with cling film and set aside to rise in a warm place (aka on the heating) for 1 hr.

Meanwhile, drain the apricots. In a mixing bowl, cream 90 softened butter and 70 g light muscovado sugar until fluffy. Mix in the apricots, 35 g plain flour, 60 g raisins, 65 g chopped walnuts and the grated zest of 1 orange.

Turn the risen dough out on a floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 25×33 cm. If your dough is still extremely sticky (as was mine), just use floured hands to flatten it into a rectangle and forget about the rolling pin altogether. Evenly spread over the apricot mix. Roll out 200 g marzipan to a same size rectangle and lay it on top (if you’re not a big marzipan fan, you can easily leave it out, your twist will still be very very tasty). Roll up the rectangle tightly like a swiss roll (or try to make it look like that even if the dough is too sticky to roll). Now cut lengthways along the roll, leaving 1 end joined. Twist 2 lengths together, then shape into a ring on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Set aside to rise for 1 hr.

Heat the oven to 180 C and bake the twist for 30 min until risen and dark golden. Towards the end of the baking time, gently warm 50 g apricot jam (in a small pan or in the microwave). Brush the freshly baked loaf with the warm jam to glaze it, then set aside to cool (you can omit this step if you don’t have any jam – I did have jam but just forgot it, and it tasted great anyway). Once cool, mix 150 g icing sugar with enough water to make a runny icing and drizzle the twist heavily with the runny icing. Great for a boxing day brunch or just for any Sunday of the year really. Enjoy!