Monday 20 July 2009

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Coffee and Walnut cake was my late grandmother's favourite: every year my mum and I would make one for her birthday. I can't quite separate it from her. She taught me a lot about cooking - not only many fun and exciting things - but also how much hard work can go into creating food. She (and her many helpers) organised a massive fruit and vegtable garden with literally acres of produce that had to be planted, tended, picked and then often blanched and frozen or made into jams and preserves. Not to say she didn't also show me how cooking could be a pleasure - but the reality of creating so much from scratch couldn't be rose-washed.

I spent at least a day a week at their house when I was little, helping out - but mainly eating. My favourite haunt had to be the fruit cage in summer - raspberries, loganberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrents, blackberries and so much more would fall off into my little hands.

And so this is Delia's stalwart recipe that came out at least once a year to much appreciation. It doesn't really need playing with in my opinion - it's always wonderful. For this version I made double the mixture to make a four layer cake in four tins, rather than splitting two - I love the crunchy edges in contrast to the smooth mousseline. Which is also why I didn't cut them off to make a 'prettier' cake.

*** Please use this updated recipe instead of this one to make this cake. I've left the one here because I think it's fun to see the difference in my recipe writing... ***

Coffee and Walnut Cake
(From Delia Smith's Book of Cakes)

For the cake:
110g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
110g butter at room temperature
110g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g walnuts, finely chopped
1 tbsp instant coffee
1 tbsp boiling water

Preheat oven to 170C. Grease and line two 7" sponge tins. Mix the coffee with the boiling water to form an essence. Cream the butter and sugar and then add eggs, beaten, slowly with the occasional spoon of flour. Fold in the coffee essence and walnuts. Transfer to tins and bake for thirty minutes.

For the mousseline:
150g butter
60g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp coffee, dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water.

Put the 4 tbsp of water and sugar in a small saucepan and slowly bring to the boil - make sure sugar has dissolved before it boils. Let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until it forms a thread. The temp should be between 103C and 105C. Whisk the egg yolks in a stand mixer, then pour the sugar syrup over the eggs in a steady stream as you keep whisking. Then whisk the butter in bit by bit until it is smooth and fluffy. Whisk in the dissolved coffee.

To assemble spread the mousseline between the cakes and over the top and decorate with walnut halves.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Summer Fruit and White Chocolate Layer Cake

Last week my mum's friend, Alice, celebrated her 40th birthday. She had a lovely party at a nearby village pub, especially as we could spill out into the sunshine to catch the last rays on the village green to the beat of her bongo-drumming friends with a pint of cider. It was really rather idyllic.

A few weeks ago I heard that she wasn't going to have a cake, so I jumped at the opportunity and offered my services. I wanted to branch out from my normal chocolate birthday cake and make a summery, light version. In the end I created this, a mish-mash of various recipes and luck - but it came out beautifully. I tried a new buttermilk sponge recipe, which I ended up not overly happy with as it ended up a bit heavy, but that's easily rectified by reverting to my trustworthy old recipe, which I've put below. The recipe seemed to overcomplicate everything yet not improve upon a simple recipe.

I bought myself some beautiful new square cake tins, in 6" and 9", when I was in London and I couldn't wait to try them out. They're amazing - though I think I overfilled them and so the mix didn't rise evenly - or maybe I'll just blame it on the recipe! Still, the square is great - it's really fun to work with a new shape.

I played with the white chocolate ganache mixture I used for mum's birthday cake, upping the white chocolate in the ratio to thicken it. I was intending to use that as the icing, but it ended up so yellow from the lovely white chocolate and I didn't have enough, so I decided to improvise a buttercream. I didn't really have a recipe, as the two books I have with me don't really have one, and I didn't have internet access. Luckily it came out nicely, though I still stand by my feeling that buttercream is too sweet. I think it might be rather weird to have chucked in lime juice, vanilla and the ganache, but it felt right at the time and seemed to work! As a result of it all being rather hurried and adding icing sugar etc till I felt it was right/tasted good, I don't think the recipe below is exactly what I used - you would have to go on your own instincts there.

I froze the cake layers for a few hours while I made the icings, which made them much easier to deal with. When it came to assembling it, I smeared a little ganache onto the middle of the cake board to help secure it, then placed strips of baking parchment around the edges to keep it free from icing. I used a big serrated knife to cut the frozen layers in half, then proceeded to sandwich it all together.

For the fillings between layers I first spread a thick layer of the white chocolate ganache, then arranged the strawberry slices and blueberries on top, before spreading a layer of whipped cream on top. Between the two halves I just used the ganache, and then used the ganache again to fill in the gaps and give a first crumb coat - see below. I then properly crumb coated and topped the whole thing with the buttercream and more fruit.

Summer Fruit and White Chocolate Layer Cake

For the cakes (6"/9"):
110g/275g butter
110g/275g caster sugar
2/5 eggs
110g/275g flour
1/2.5 heaped tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 170C. Line/grease and flour tins. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time with a tablespoonful of flour, beating well between each addition. Fold in the rest of the flour and baking powder until combined. If needed, add a little hot water. Pour into the tin and spread out evenly. Bake for about 25-30 mins, though the 9" may need longer, or until they are golden and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

For the ganache:
300g (best quality) white chocolate
150ml double cream
150ml creme fraiche

Heat the cream and creme fraiche in a saucepan until nearly boiling. Meanwhile break the chocolate into a bowl. Take the cream mix off the heat and pour onto the chocolate. Make sure all the chocolate is submerged then leave for a few minutes before stirring until thickened and smooth. Leave to thicken in the fridge.

For the buttercream:
250g unsalted butter
500g icing sugar
2 tbsp white chocolate ganache, above
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp lime juice

Beat butter in mixer until paler, then add the icing sugar and beat until fluffy. Add in the ganache and beat well, followed by the lime juice and vanilla. Leave to set slightly in the fridge before using.