Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Yes, that is a half eaten cheese and onion hedgehog so beloved of 1970's housewives you see in the background. One of my oldest and dearest friends is Robert. He is a marvel and pain in the arse all rolled into one. This man has absolutely no regard for his own health, he smokes, drinks alcohol, consumes coffee and eats dairy like there's no tomorrow and yet he looks fabulous and is one of the happiest buggers I know. If ever there was someone who epitomised the phrase 'Joie de Vivre' it's him. He'll be laughing on the other side of his face when he's strapped up to an iron lung with a serious case of gout but not to worry. He certainly doesn't.

Simple pleasures for Robert: the text we get every Friday evening telling us it's 'beer o'clock', his insistance on going to the same bloody pub week in week out because it's like a goldfish bowl which allows him to point and laugh at unknowing passers by, a bit of a sing song to 'Celion Delion' (sic) after a few too many drinks at the aforementioned pub. Ok, I'm not doing a great job of selling him to you but all you need to know is that this man is as good as family to me and I love him like a brother. An annoying brother.

So anyway, it was his 38th birthday a couple of weeks ago. My friends and I never tire of reminding him that he's a whole six years or so older than the rest of us and we wait with glee for the huge occassion that will be his fortieth. We therefore use any excuse to remind him of said fact and every year his birthday carries pretty much the same theme: Bob Is Forty! Haha!

As self-appointed baker of birthday cakes I crafted for him a coffee and walnut cake. (As an aside - I always think of coffee and walnut as being quite a 'manly' cake. I'm not sure why. Is it just me or does anyone else think this?). As always when planning a cake, my first port of call is Nigel Slater. I have used his coffee and walnut cake recipe before and it's faultless. Follow it to the letter and you'll get a cake which is crumbling and moist and moreish and just perfect. And it seemed fitting for Robert, what with it being FULL of butter and coffee.

COFFEE AND WALNUT CAKE from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater (one of my all-time favourite cookbooks).
Serves 8-10

175g butter (room temperature)
175g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
65g walnut pieces

For the butter cream:
200g butter (room temperature)
400g icing sugar
2 teaspoins instant coffee granules
60g walnut pieces

You will need two 20cm loose-bottomed sponge tins. Set the oven at 180 degrees. Line the base of the sponge tins with baking parchment.

Beat the butter and caster sugar 'til light, pale and fluffy. You cuold do this by hand but it is far easier and, frankly, better with an electric mixer. Crack the eggs into a bowl, break them up with a fork, then add them a little at a time to the butter and sugar, beating well after each addition.

Mix the flour and baking powder together and gently mix into the butter and sugar, either with the mixer on a slow speed or by hand, with a large metal spoon. Dissolve the ocffee granules in a table spoon of boiling water, then stir into the mixture. Chop the walnuts and fold them in gently.

Divide the cake mixture between the two tins, smooth the top lightly and bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes. I have noticed mine are pretty much consistently done after twenty-three minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

To make the butter cream, beat the butter with an electric beater 'til soft and pale, then add the icing sugar and beat 'til smooth and creamy. Stir a tablespoon of boiling water into the coffee granules, then mix it into the butter cream. Fold in the walnut pieces.

As soon as the cake is cool, turn one half of it upside down on plate or board, spread it with a good third of the butter cream, then place the second cake half on top. Spread the remaining butter cream on top and round the sides.


Jennie Landels said...

I'm def going to make this cake -it looks so tasty/gorgeous!! and I do agree that it is a very masculine cake!!

Hugs Jen x x

Gemma said...

I love this cake (and this book, have you tried the Christmas cake? It's amazing), I made it for the first time a couple of months ago but need to make it again soon.

Happy Birthday Robert!

Manuel said...

worth turning forty for.....

carine said...

Jennie - Make it!
Gemma - Make it!
Manuel - Make it!

Seriously, you won't be disappointed. It's easily the best coffee and walnut cake ever.


Manuel said...

make it? pfft.....do we not remember the pancake abomination......

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