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An occasional cake

I am not sure what possessed me to bake a cake on a 30°C day. These kinds of days are rare in the Netherlands. Because they are rare days, the houses are not well designed for the heat. For example, they face the wrong way — the sun beats down on our front window. That’s not very cool. Literally. But, CIA has a birthday coming up, and we’re going to be in Zürich for it; baking whilst away is rarely practical, so I thought an early cake surprise might be in order. So, I looked around for an interesting and tasty-sounding cake, and along came this one, from Nigel Slater.

Now, usually I am not one for specific amounts, as you may recall, but I have also been taught that when baking not to fiddle with the amounts or the cake won’t rise, or will collapse, or might explode, or might attack you when you take it out of the oven. I didn’t change the recipe much, and not at all for the cake part. And so, without further ado, here it is.

Coffee and Walnut Cake

For this recipe, you will need all the following, in these specific amounts:

For the cake part

175 g butter; 175 g unrefined golden caster sugar; 65 g walnut pieces; 3 large eggs; 175 g self-raising flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 2 tsps strong espresso

For the top and middle part (icing and filling)

100 g butter; 200 g icing sugar; 2 tsps strong espresso; 60 g walnut pieces

Instruction manual

Turn on the oven, at 180°C; then grease your tins (they should be 21 cm tins). We only have one tin, and our oven could only fit one tin in it anyway, even if we had two. But if you have a proper oven in a proper kitchen, you can probably cook two at once!

Chop the walnuts (see above). You can do this later too, if you like. Cream the butter and sugar together. This is easier if you have a machine to help you, but we are old school, so I totally just used a spoon and a lot of effort. Break your eggs into another bowl, and give them a bit of a stir. Nothing too vigorous, it just makes the next bit easier. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar a little at a time (say, a quarter of the eggs, something like that), and then mix it until it has all emulsified*. Repeat until all the eggs are in with the butter and sugar (see left).

Once this is done, in another bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together. Then combine this with the other ingredients. Without a mixer, I just added about half the flour, then stirred until combined, then repeated. Perhaps if you have a mixer you can do this the same way you would any other cake.

Now comes the cool bit. Add the coffee and the walnuts. Seriously, this is the best cake mix ever (or at least the best cake mix today).

Split the mixture into two tins; or as mentioned above, put half in one tin, whilst the rest sits and waits for its turn in the oven. For me, it took only 20 minutes, and it was cooked beautifully. If you are cooking two cakes, probably a few extra minutes is advisable. But it’s cake, right? You have to adjust to your local conditions and the quality of your oven.

Now we are getting to the serious part. Whilst the cake is cooking, you can make the “frosting”**.

This entails mixing the icing sugar and the butter in a bowl. Now, Nigel Slater uses twice as much butter and twice as much sugar as me. But I found those quantities outrageously decadent, even by my outrageously sweet-toothed standards. I also added a little cocoa power (kakao poeder in the local language), just, you know, because chocolate! Stir in the walnuts at the end.

Incidentally, on 30 degree days, you may want to put the icing in the fridge, whilst the cake cools.

The cooling cakes should look something like on the right.

Put one cake on a plate, or other suitable serving item (plates work best, I think). Then slather on about a third of the super-delicious gloriously excessive icing. Place the other cake on top of this, and squeeze it a little.

Cover the top cake in icing too, and then marvel at your work. It’s really good. Try not to eat it all at once. If you do, that’s fine too, but I must issue a kind of health warning. Okay, now that’s done, go crazy!


Photos mainly by CIA, as photo taking when cooking is tricky stuff, and I am insufficiently talented to manage that yet (and we don’t have a tripod here). It did somewhat undermine the sense of surprise though.

*I really just like how the word “emulsified” sounds. It just rolls off the tongue beautifully.

**Frosting just sounds weird to me, it should be called icing. Just, because.

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Happy birthday to CIA and congratulations to you on cake success! My birthday is also coming right up and I can assure you NO ONE is lighting an oven in our house! lol Have a wonderful celebration! xoM

    August 20, 2012
    • Thanks Margarita! I had a great birthday and PJD sure impressed with this amazing cake effort! Hope you had a great celebration too in sunny NYC!

      September 3, 2012
      • Yes, thank you. It was blissfully peaceful! xoM

        September 3, 2012
  2. This post is extra delicious when read out-loud in Nigel Slater’s voice

    August 20, 2012
  3. Oh that cake looks and sounds simply delicious!

    August 20, 2012
    • Absolutely, it really, really was! I was one super happy birthday girl! You should try this recipe – highly recommended!

      September 3, 2012
  4. nienke #

    What a wonderful early birthday cake!
    Enjoy Zurich world travellers 🙂

    August 21, 2012
    • Thanks so much Nienke! I was pretty stoked with the amazing early birthday cake! From one world traveller to another 😀

      September 3, 2012
  5. It looks yummy! 😀

    September 4, 2012

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