Monday 13 January 2014

Coffee Walnut Cake

My husband is not generally much a sweet tooth, so he generally isn't very interested in seeing what I am baking. There is one cake, however, that always gets a positive reaction, a cake that we make for all special daddy occasions: coffee walnut cake.

But this time, it was my son who requested I make this cake for church. The men's group were in charge of doing the teas, coffees, and cakes after mass this past weekend, so naturally a lot of women were busy in various kitchens making cakes. woman: me. 

To be fair, some men in the group have attempted to make and bring cakes in the past. One fell short in that there was a large, unmixed ball of flour in the middle of the cake. And others were made, but went so badly wrong they were never even brought in to be seen by the critical eye of the coffee crowd. Others have simply bought Tesco Value tray bakes. Most of the time, though, if you see a man bringing in a bit of home baking there, it is his wife who has actually made it. Although thousands of men all over the country have followed Paul Hollywood's example and taken up baking as a hobby, none of them are apparently members of our local church's men's group. 

This week it was up to me to make all the treats, so I set to work and got out the ingredients for my Delia Smith recipe:

I went ahead and did the fine chopping of the walnuts first. You could, of course, do this by hand, but I happened to have a child on my right hip and was looking for one handed ways to make this cake.

Since said child was still attached to my hip, I decided to have a go at using my vintage mixer. It gives off kind of a funny smell, but seems to work fine, and my mechanically minded husband seems to think it's ok. There wasn't any smoke, anyway. Delia instructs you to just throw everything in together at once and mix, but I prefer to do the older method of creaming the butter and sugar first...

Then adding eggs and the dissolved instant coffee (I used espresso).

Then the flour. She recommends adding extra baking powder to the self raising flour, but I forgot to. Oops. However, since I'd added air in by creaming the butter first, it turned out ok.

Last of all I stirred in the walnuts. I then smoothed the batter out into two 7 inch lined round pans, but I didn't get a photo cause baby was freaking out at this stage.

Delia recommended 30 minutes, but I found that after 20 minutes mine were actually slightly overdone.

I let them cool then started on the icing: a coffee mousseline. This is, by far, the trickiest part of making the cake, as it involves making a sugar syrup. I usually do this when kids are in in bed as it involves watching the stove constantly and hot burning sugar, two things that don't turn out well when kids are in the room...or even awake in a fifty yard radius.

First I put a couple of egg yolks into a bowl.

And whisked them.

Then in a small milk pan went some sugar.

And some water

Then I heated it, swirling until the sugar was dissolved.

Then I brought it up to a simmering temperature for about 10 minutes, at which time I started testing it to see if it was the right temperature (I don't like sugar thermometers). You take a bit on a spoon, wait a couple seconds, then lightly burn your fingers testing to see if when you pinch a bit off it will make a thread kind of like this:

Then I steadily poured the syrup on the egg yolks while whisking. And taking a photo. I have three hands, you see.

Ok, maybe I paused briefly. Then I added butter a wee blob at a time, whisking it in.

It's a nice, gloopy icing. Cakes containing nuts tend to be a bit on the drier side so this icing really balances out textures better than buttercream icing does, in my humble opinion.

Then I added some instant espresso dissolved in some water.

Oh, yum. Now this is the point where you have to control yourself and not eat it all. PUT THE WHISK DOWN. At least put it on the cake first before stuffing it down your neck.

First I put a blob into the middle of my Poundland cake carrying case. This helps prevent the cake from sliding around.

On went layer number one.

And then just under half the icing.

I put it to within about a half inch of the edge, but not quite there as a bit is inevitably going to splodge out when the top layer goes on.

On went layer number two.

Then the rest of the icing.

And last but not least, some walnuts I lazily crushed in my hand so that people know the cake has walnuts in it.

There were three other options available to the Sunday crowd, but this cake was the most popular choice. And you will always find it at our place on Fathers Day and on my husband's birthday. If you don't want to gate crash one of our parties, here is the recipe adapted from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course

Coffee Walnut Cake
4 oz (110g) self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (110g) butter at room temperature
4 oz (110g) caster sugar
2 large eggs
50g walnuts
1 Tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tsp hot water

Grease and line two 7 inch rounds. Preheat oven to 325F/170F.
Finely chop walnuts and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and dissolved coffee and mix until well blended. Mix in flour and baking powder. Fold in walnuts. Split between two cake tins and spread mixture out evenly, then place in oven. Start checking after 15 minutes.
Let cool before icing

Coffee Cream Mousseline

60g caster sugar
4 Tbsp water
2 large egg yolks
150g butter at room temperature
1 Tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water

Place the sugar and water together in a small saucepan and slowly bring to the bowl, making sure to dissolve the sugar before letting it boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, then keep testing it to see if it will make a "thread" when pressed between thumb and forefinger. Once you have done this, pour the syrup in a steady stream on the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Then whisk the butter in a small globule at a time until you have a smooth gloopy cream. Then whisk in the coffee and ice your cake, dotting the top with as many or as few walnuts as you like.


  1. Coffee walnut cake is the cake i recently learnt from the Professional baking classes in Chennai .Hope you and your family enjoyed this delight.

  2. The recipe you shared is totally a partycatcher. Last year at this time I tried the same recipe with the help of baking classes in Chennai Velachery which was amazing. Thank you for blogging this post. It remembers my craze for the cake baking.