Image by Holly Bell
If you asked my Mum what she is good at she would most likely say sport. Good at doing it, good at watching it, good at reading about it. I did not inherit either her or my father's sporty gene. They tried, they really did. I remember the beautiful crimson bike that remained with stabilisers until I grew too big for it. I remember the excitable suggestions of 'shall we play a game of football/tennis/badminton?' - always met by me with a non-committal glance from behind the latest book I was devouring.
Now my Mum has a theory that she's not a great cake baker. I beg to differ as her coffee and walnut is the stuff of dreams; pillowy soft sponge with just the right amount of bitter coffee and almost buttery walnuts. A huge slice and a cup of strong black coffee is my pick me up heaven.
For the cake:
• 170g baking margarine or softened butter
• 170g caster sugar
• 3 large eggs, at room temperature and beaten
• 2 tbsp strong black coffee, cooled (if you have a fancy coffee machine or a cafe nearby then use espresso, otherwise use instant)
• 200g self-raising flour
• 60g walnuts, chopped
For the icing and decoration:
• 170g salted butter, softened
• 450g icing sugar, sieved
• 1 tbsp strong black coffee
• 110g walnuts halves, or less if you prefer
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and grease and line two 20cm-round nonstick cake tins with baking paper. Cream together the margarine and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. This will take about four minutes using a mixer or about seven to eight minutes using a wooden spoon and some elbow grease.
Slowly add the beaten egg to the mixture, a little bit at a time and beat well after each addition - this does take a little time but it is worth it for a superior texture. If the mixture curdles, worry not. Just add a tablespoon of the flour to rebind the mixture and carry on mixing as before, until all the egg is added. Beat in the cooled coffee.
Now fold in the flour using a large metal spoon in a smooth and looping slicing motion, be careful not to beat the air out of the wet mixture. Fold in the chopped walnuts then spoon the batter equally into the cake tins, spread to the edges and made level with a knife. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes but do check after 25 if your oven is over zealous. The cake is ready when the edges have slightly shrunk away from the sides of the tin and a toothpick comes out of the centre of the cakes clean. Leave to cool a little in the tin, then gently remove and let cool on a wire rack.
Whilst the cake is cooling, make the icing. Cream the butter until light in colour and fluffy looking using a mixer or a wooden spoon. Add the icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time, beating well after each addition. Lastly add the coffee and beat well. For a super light buttercream I beat at the highest setting for seven minutes in my stand mixer - this makes for a mousse-like icing flecked with air. Sandwich the cakes together using half of the buttercream icing, then spread the rest over the top and decorate with walnuts.
Holly blogs at Recipes from a Normal Mum
Her first book is out now, also called Recipes from a Normal Mum