This Autumn it’s all about cake. Gooey and dense, light and airy; fruity, chocolatey, nutty or creamy; it’s cake and I’ll eat it.
I have started sea swimming, proper sea swimming, every other day, whatever the weather. I had always dipped my toe in, during the summer, as long as it was very hot outside – a rare occurrence in the west of Ireland – and there wasn’t a breeze and no jelly fish, no pebbles, no seaweed... so I rarely dipped my toe in.
I used to watch these brave swimming lunatics aged 18 – 85, through autumn and winter, bobbing up and down in the ocean, laughing joyfully whilst being splashed in the face by sea spray - as I sat shivering in sympathy but wrapped in the warmth of my car and vowing never to be that crazy. Well that has all changed. I swim and I love it.
There is a huge sense of community with the lunatics and more than anything a vast rush of endorphins, vitality and appreciation of nature and where I am lucky enough to live.
This is where cake comes in; after drying off and starting to warm up, the need for cake and hot coffee is a desire that has to be sated. Also, one feels completely justified to take on some serious calories after plunging into freezing temperatures… the joy!
Here at The Burren Perfumery, we serve delicious Anam coffee, which is hand roasted in small batches by Brian O'Briain, just up the road. So what better and more comforting than a really good coffee and walnut cake? I have made quite a few coffee cakes over the years and played around with different fillings, toppings and nut to sponge ratios and I am really happy with this one. Please do give it a go and let me know what you think. It’s easy and delicious.
COFFEE AND WALNUT CAKE
- 110g caster sugar
- 115g soft brown sugar
- 100g walnuts
- 225g softened butter
- 4 eggs
- 200g plain flour
- 2 ½ tspns baking powder
- ½ tspn bicarbonate of soda
- 3 tbsps. strong espresso
- 2 tbsps. milk
COFFEE CREAM FILLING
- 250mls double cream
- 1 tbsp. icing sugar
- 3 tbsps. strong espresso
COFFEE BUTTERCREAM TOPPING
- 180g icing sugar
- 90g softened butter
- 2 tbsps. strong espresso
- Approximately 10 walnut halves to decorate
Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/ gas mark 4/ 350f.
Butter two 20cm/ 8 inch cake tins and line the base with greaseproof paper.
Put the walnuts and both sugars into a food processor and blitz to a fine powder.
Add the softened butter, flour, baking powder, bicarb and eggs and process to a smooth batter ( don’t over process, as your cake will go a bit rubbery!)
Add the espresso and milk and blitz again. The cake mix should be a soft, dropping consistency ( i.e. should easily fall off a spoon) so add some more milk or coffee if necessary.
Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake for 25 minutes, until the sponge is risen and feels springy to the touch. Leave the cakes in their tins on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, before turning them out on the rack and remove the greaseproof paper.
While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream topping:
Pulse the icing sugar in the food processor until it is lump free then add the butter and process for longer than you think to make a smooth and light icing. If you don’t process the icing for long enough, it will taste powdery with icing sugar instead of buttery and light.
Then add the espresso and blitz again. Taste and add more coffee if you like.
Then make the coffee cream filling:
Lightly whip the double cream and icing sugar to soft peaks – don’t over beat the cream as it will go buttery! Then add the espresso add gently whisk in to mix. Taste and add more icing sugar or coffee to taste.
When the cakes are completely cool, place one sponge upside down on a cake stand or serving plate and spread with the coffee cream filling. Then place the other sponge on top and gently press down to secure it. Spread the top of the cake with the coffee buttercream icing, using a spatula or palette knife. Give it a generous swirly topping! Then decorate with the walnut halves.
This next cake is all about delicious indulgence.
Crispy chocolate and hazelnutty cake which is like a denser nutty pavlova type creation, topped with a delicious sour cream and Nutella ‘cloud’. It is fantastic when fresh but turns denser and richer after a couple of days, so you don’t HAVE to eat it all in one day. Oh, and it’s gluten free!
CRISPY CHOCOLATE AND HAZELNUT CAKE
- 125g butter
- 170g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 225g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
- 150g Nutella or your preferred chocolate hazelnut spread
- 6 large eggs
- 55g hazelnut flour (just blitz hazelnuts in a food processor for 10-15 seconds)
- 2 tbsps. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tspn salt
SOUR CREAM TOPPING
- 250ml double cream
- 30g icing sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 250g sour cream
- 80g Nutella or your preferred chocolate hazelnut spread
Preheat oven to 180c/160c fan/350f/ gas mark 4.
Grease a 23cm/9inch springform cake tin sprinkle it with caster sugar, turning the tin to coat and shake out any excess.
Put the butter, chocolate and Nutella in a large heatproof bowl and set over a small pan of simmering water. Heat gently, stirring frequently until the butter and chocolate have melted and you have a smooth creamy mixture. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Separate 4 of the eggs, placing the whites in a large mixing bowl. Place the yolks in another large bowl with the remaining whole eggs and add the hazelnut flour, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk to blend well. Using a spatula, gently mix the egg yolk mixture into the melted chocolate mixture.
Beat the egg whites with a clean whisk (or in a stand mixer) to soft peaks and gradually add the 170g caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time and continue to beat until the egg whites have tripled in volume, hold stiff peaks and are glossy like meringue.
Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, using a large metal spoon or spatula, until just combined. Don’t over mix, or you will lose all that lovely air!
Pour the cake mix into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle with another 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until the edge of the cake starts to pull away from the side of the tin and the cake looks risen and lightly cracked like a souffle. It should have a slight wobble.
Place the cake on a wire rack and allow to cool completely in the cake tin before unmoulding. The centre of the cake will collapse but this is all part of the plan!
While the cake is cooling, make the topping. Beat the cream, icing sugar and salt in a medium bowl until you get soft peaks, then whisk in the sour cream. Then fold in the Nutella, using a spatula, to get a lovely streaky effect. You can now pile this on top of the cake or if you want to maintain the crispy texture of the cake - serve the cream on the side.