My Walnut and Coffee/Vanilla Cake

So today I started my healthy living diet, and ended up making a not so healthy walnut and coffee/vanilla cake. I couldn’t help it. As soon as that word diet slipped into my head my body basically became an obstructor to the salad drawer and tricked me into making a sponge.

This sponge, I’m a big fan of a rustic looking cake.

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Sorry body, but I’m not sorry.

I thought, seeing as it was a big hit with my dad when he managed to get a piece that I’d put down the recipe for you to follow. Please bear in mind I’m not expert, in fact I’m pretty new to making cakes having always made cupcakes instead. This recipe is just what seems to work for me, as well as the oven temperature and baking time, but all appliances really vary so just watch out for that.

Ingredients for the Vanilla Sponge

I tend to make a vanilla sponge because I like to play it safe, and I’ve not got my perfect chocolate cake mix to perfection yet. This sponge goes really beautifully with the butter cream coffee icing and it always seems to end up spongey and moist. You will need:

– 220g of caster sugar

– 220g of butter (I really like Kerrygold Irish)

– 220g of plain flour

– tsp of baking powder

– 3 medium eggs

– 1- 2 tsp of vanilla extract

– 2 tbsp of milk (if you like a more crumbly cake add some more milk)

Method

It’s crazy really when you think about how easy it is to mix up the ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3

Cream the butter and sugar together until it looks and feels light and perhaps obviously a bit like cream. I love to use my grandmother’s tablespoon for this (I’m really big and doing the work by hand) but an electric whisk will get it done faster. I like to crack my eggs straight into the bowl and begin to mix this together. As the mixture begins to curdle I’ll add a tablespoon of flour and the baking powder in at a time. Eventually you’ll have added all the flour in and the mixture, I tend to find, is a bit tough to stir. Add the milk and vanilla and stir this all in until you have a uniformed and creamy luscious mess sitting in your bowl.

Butter up two tins of the same size, I like those silicone ones as the cakes tend to fall right out of them after cooking and split the mixture evenly into both. Once you’ve got your mixture split up, I swear by lifting up the tins and dropping them onto the tabletop to get the air pockets out of them. I’m not talking from a great height just a little lift and drop. Then pop them into the oven. Without fail my cakes are done after 20minutes, but I always check mine with a skewer, which will come out clean when the cakes are done. The cakes should be springy to touch (yum). Place them on a wire rack and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning them out. I hate getting those lines from the wire racks so I place a tea towel on them before I turn out my cakes.

Let the cakes cool completely before you ice them.

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Ingredients for the Coffee Butter Cream Icing

– 250g of butter

– Icing sugar (for me this is all about adding as I go)

– 1tbsp of coffee

– 1tsp of milk (optional)

Method

I definitely use an electric whisk for this bit, the cream becomes ten times more creamer and lighter with an electric then by hand. Cream the butter by itself first, to make sure it’s soft enough and then gently I repeat gently add the icing sugar a bit at a time. If you have a taste of your mixture you should not be able to taste too much butter but rather more sugar. I like to add the milk in at this point as I reckon it makes the mixture more creamy and yummy. Then add the coffee liquid, but remember to add this to flavour. It’s totally possible that as you add the liquid  you will get some curdling so keep on adding that icing sugar.

Another optional WALNUT PIECES

Now of course I mentioned walnuts in this cake and as you can see by the decoration I basically smothered the cake in them after I iced it.

But another secret for those who love lots of nutty bits is to add some into the middle buttercream before you sandwich your two cakes together.  Firstly add a few heaps of coffee buttercream to one sponge, once you’ve got your layer drop in a bunch of walnuts spread evenly, then add a light layer of buttercream to the other cake and sandwich the two bits together. Simple.

I kept my decoration simple, but as I said before smothering the cake in walnut pieces and sieving some icing sugar over the top. I would definitely also add smashed chocolate bits to the top of this cake as well, but seeing as it was spur of the moment I didn’t have any on hand.

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I seriously loved making this cake and although I know that I have to be good from now on I know it’s not the end of my cake making days. Watch this space.

Decorating Delia Smith’s Christmas Cake

No I didn’t actually decorate Delia Smith’s Christmas cake but I did use her recipe and then decorated it.

So over the last two months I have made a Christmas cake. I fed it with brandy, and today was the day I got to decorate it. Honestly I’ve been looking forward to this day for ages. Now I will admit I am not anyway near a star baker but I can’t help but love getting my hands dirty in terms of baking and decorating.

Check out my (not very good) photographs of my cake:

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I got the recipe for the Christmas Cake from Delia Smith’s Christmas. I’ve listed the ingredients and a summary of how to make it. Delia you are a saint!

What you’ll need (taken from Delia’s Christmas cookbook, page 14):

– 1lb (450g) currants

– 6oz (175g) sultanas

– 6oz (175g) raisins

– 2oz (50g) glace cherries, rinsed, drained and finely chopped

– 2oz (50g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped

– 3 tablespoons brandy

– 8oz (225g) plain flour

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1/4 freshly ground nutmeg

– 1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice

– 8 oz (225g) unsalted butter

– 8 oz (225g) soft brown sugar

– 4 eggs

– 2 oz (50g) almonds, chopped

– 1 dessertspoon of black treacle

– The grated zest of 1 lemon

– The grated zest of 1 orange

– 8 inch round cake tin

– greaseproof paper to tie round and cover the tin when cooking

What you have to do:

1. Begin the cake the night before you want to bake it.

2. Weigh out all dried fruit and peel and mix in a bowl with the brandy. Cover the bowl and leave for 12 hours.

3. Pre-heat over to 140 C.

4. Measure out rest of the ingredients.

5. Sift the flour, salt and spices into a mixing bowl, preferably a large one.

6. In a separate bowl, whisk the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in whisked eggs, if the mixture starts to curdle don’t worry about it.

7. Fold in the flour and spices from the other bowl.

8. Fold in the fruit, chopped buts and treacle and then add the grated fruit zest.

9. Transfer mixture into prepared tin, cover with greaseproof/baking paper with a small hole in the centre to prevent burning. Bake the cake on the lowest shelf, for 4.5 hours. Sometimes it can take longer to cook.

10. Leave the cake to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, when it is cold ‘feed’ the cake by tapping little holes into the top and spooning brandy over the top.

For the decoration:

– Lots and lots of marzipan

– Royal icing (you can make this with icing sugar, egg whites and glycerin, or shop buy it)

– Food colouring – the green one from Tesco is really good.

– Liquorice all sorts

– Your favourite flavour of jam

– A spoon

– Baking/Greaseproof paper

How I did it:

Really this part is easy. Cover the entire cake in jam and then smother it in rolled out marzipan. Leave it to set for about a day. Then with the royal icing cover the entire cake again and with a spoon tap it on the top gentle to make a kind of ice scene.

Roll two lots of three balls in sizes going from small to big for your snowmen. Put them together and with liquorice all sorts decorate how you want.

For the cat just get one small-biggish ball and one small ball put them together, make a tail and two little ears then add some whiskers, once again with marzipan.

The Christmas trees are a bit tricky, first draw a Christmas tree on your baking sheet and cut it out so it creates like a template. You can then lay it on your rolled out marzipan and cut around it with a knife. Make sure you make enough to go round your cake. When you have enough colour them with the green food colouring, for me I find it’s best to do this on a tray so the green doesn’t go all over the cake. When they are dry put some jam on the cake and then stick them round the rest of the cake.

And there you have it, one very easy Christmas cake to bake.