Coffee and Walnut Cake

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Cakes River Cottage HandbookThis traditional cake never fails to please; its bitter-sweet flavours make it one of my all-time favourites. I like to use old-fashioned Camp coffee essence for the coffee bit. Still made in Scotland, this iconic dark brown syrup is a blend of chicory and coffee. It dates back to 1876 when it was used by the military as an easy-to-prepare hot drink for sustaining troops during foreign campaigns. However, you can use instant coffee or very strong freshly brewed coffee instead.

  • Yield: 10 Servings


For the cake
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 200 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
  • 100 g light soft brown sugar
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 50 ml coffee essence (or 1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water, or 3 tbsp very strong fresh coffee)
  • 100 g chopped walnuts
  • 50 ml milk
For the buttercream
  • 60 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
  • 125 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 10 ml coffee essence (or 2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tsp boiling water or 1 tbsp strong fresh coffee)
For the topping and Equipment
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp coffee essence (or 2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water, or 1 tbsp strong fresh coffee)
  • 50 g chopped walnuts
  • 20 cm sandwich tins, lightly greased and base-lined with baking parchment
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, using either a wooden spoon or a hand-held electric whisk, beat the butter to a cream. Add the brown and caster sugars and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tbsp flour with each and beating thoroughly before adding the next. Stir in the coffee essence.
  3. Now carefully fold in the remaining flour, half at a time, with a large metal spoon. Fold in the chopped walnuts and sufficient milk to give a soft dropping consistency. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins, spreading it out evenly with the back of the spoon. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes until the tops are a light golden brown and the cakes spring back into shape when gently pressed. Leave in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the buttercream. Beat the butter to a cream, add the icing sugar and the coffee essence and beat until light and creamy.
  5. To make the glacé icing for the topping, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the coffee essence and 1–2 tbsp boiling water, and mix until thick.
  6. Spread one of the cooled cakes with the buttercream. Sandwich together with the second cake and cover the top with glacé icing. Finish with the chopped walnuts. This cake will keep for a week in an airtight tin.

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