Thursday, 21 May 2009

Coffee & walnut cake

I made this last weekend for a friend's party in the countryside. She lives in a delightful stone house near Sacrofano with views out across rolling verdant hills, a garden overflowing with jasmine & honeysuckle, a litter of orphaned kittens living on her terrace and a hammock strung between two fruit trees, to which CB retired in state, receiving delegations of visitors and calling for wine to be brought to him.

Guests were American, Italian, Canadian and various other varieties. I suspected - rightly - that coffee & walnut is a very British tradition which would be unfamiliar to many of the guests, and which might also go down well with them. It did. I have just been typing up the recipe for a colleague who requested it and thought I'd offer it to you as well.

Coffee & walnut cake

175g each butter, self-raising flour and caster sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder / lievito per dolci

100g shelled walnuts

Espresso – around 6 cups in total

(for the topping)

200g mascarpone

200g fromage frais / philadelphia / similar

Caster sugar

Pre-heat oven to around 180°. Grease two 23cm spring-form cake tins and line with baking parchment.

Make the espresso: a 2-person stove-top pot is just right. Or two generous cups from a barista's machine. Leave it to cool.

If you can be bothered, carefully cream butter and sugar together by hand until smooth & white, then fold in sifted flour, backing powder & eggs. Otherwise, chuck them all in the blender and whizz til smooth.

Meanwhile spread all the walnuts on a baking tray and toast them lightly in the oven for a couple of minutes til you can smell a rich toasty flavour. Keep an eye on them, they burn very easily and then become disgusting.

Keep 10-12 nice walnut halves to one side for decoration and finely chop or crush the rest. (I like to put them into a small clean plastic bag & smash them with a rolling pin). Mix walnut pieces gently into the cake mix, then add the cooled espresso bit at a time, mixing well until blended in.

Divide the cake mix equally between the two prepared tins and bake until golden brown & springy to the touch.

Optional Syrup – for extra moist, sticky cake

While the cakes bake, make another 2 cups (NB espresso-size not US-style "cups") of espresso, dissolve 4-5 teaspoons sugar in the coffee to make a sticky syrupy concoction. If you have a sweet tooth, or its opposite, adjust the sugar to taste.

Once the cakes are baked, carefully spoon the coffee evenly over both cakes as soon as you remove them from the oven. Leave to cool in their tins before turning them out onto a plate or serving dish.


Repeat the coffee/sugar procedure as for the syrup & leave to cool. By hand or in a mixer, blend the mascarpone & crème fraiche. Slowly add the cooled sweetened coffee and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for at least an hour or two before applying to the cake. Use a generous quantity to sandwich the two cakes together and the remainder on the top, finishing off with the reserved walnut halves.

It all vanished in record time, and sadly I forgot to take a picture.


Guido said...

When I stayed in Milan for a few months I cooked hedgehogs, lemon slices and other cakes/sweets from an English tradition.

My Milanese friends loved it and of course wanted the recipes.

I think that Northern Italy doesn't have a strong gastronomical tradition in deserts/cakes etc. (I am happy to be corrected if I'm wrong) so when you cook something like that they love it (I did something like this in reverse when I prepared a tiramisu in the 1980's before anyone heard about it here in Australia).

Once I described a Christmas Plum pudding with melting hard butter sauce on top an they looked appalled. Maybe it was just a bit too much for them.

Martinus Scriblerus said...


It is, apparently, traditional to bake for your students' last class. They might get the trial run of this.

Guido - you wouldn't believe the looks wheatgrass-shake-sipping Californians give me when I rapturise about Christmas pudding. I think they're lobbying to get it on the Californian foodies equivalent of the Banned Books list.

Spangly Princess said...

um.... hedgehogs?

Guido said...

Sorry....Hedgehogs is an Australian reference. It's a chocolate slice.

Ingredients225 g dry sweet biscuits broken into small pieces
115 g butter
115 g sugar
2 tablespoon cocoa
1 egg, well beaten
¾ cup chopped almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method1. Melt butter and sugar in a medium sized saucepan, over a gentle heat.
2. Stir in cocoa and egg.
3. Bring just to the boil, then remove from heat.
4. Add remaining ingredients and mix.
5. Press mixture into a greased slab tin and refrigerate.
6. When cool, ice with chocolate icing and sprinkle with desiccated coconut.

Don't let the mixture cool too much or it will be hard to spread.