Today, a cake. It doesn’t at all fit in with the Southwest theme I’m currently rocking, but I figured that was okay because who doesn’t love a good cake? And that’s what this is. A very good cake.
If I’m going for honesty (the best policy), I made this to submit for the Great Denby Cake-Off. The challenge was to create the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea. First of all, I love a challenge of any kind (I can be…very competitive [understatement]) and a baking one?!!! Well, that’s right in my wheelhouse. Secondly, I absolutely adore afternoon tea, and it’s one of my favorite fancy pants things to do with my girlfriends at home and abroad. Paging through British Baking for inspiration, I settled on an English favorite- coffee and walnut cake, revamped with a little Buddha twist.
Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve had eggs for dinner most of the week (lazy), I had time to make a cake. My priorities are clear.
The traditional coffee and walnut cake is a staple in any coffee shop or tea house and can be as extravagant as a gateaux or as homely as a loaf. Mine is somewhere in the middle. The recipe from Peyton and Byrne used an almost Victoria-like butter sponge as the base. Mine, rather, is a twist on one of my grandma’s Hungarian tortes. The kind that, like the Mandalas Torte, uses eggs as the base, and that was originally measured using coffee cups and large soup spoons. I tweaked it a bit, making it perfect for tea time since this one, unlike grandma’s original, has a hint of espresso sandwiched in between layers of walnut-ty, buttercream-y goodness.
It’s really not as intimidating as it looks. Give it a go!
- 8 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 3 ½ TB espresso powder
- 1 lb confectioner’s sugar (about 4 cups)
- 3-4 TB heavy cream
- 2 cups walnuts, lightly toasted, cooled and chopped
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease, sugar and line with parchment three 8” cake rounds. Set aside.
- Dissolve the espresso powder in about ¼ cup of the water. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the whites until stiff. Transfer to another bowl and set aside.
- Back in the mixer bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add the vanilla, salt and baking powder. Slowly add the flour, alternating with the water, and beat until just incorporated. Add the espresso water.
- Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the sugar/flour mixture. Divide the batter into the three cake pans.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and invert onto cooling racks to finish cooling.
- In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter on high until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes (the longer the better). Add the vanilla.
- Turn the mixer speed down and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and 3 TB cream, scraping the sides of the bowl and adding more cream if necessary to reach desired consistency.
- Add the walnuts, making sure they’re well mixed in.
- Frost the cooled cake, adding icing between the two layers. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack or desert alongside your favorite cuppa.
- Makes a 3-layer 8” cake or a 2-layer 9” cake