A coffee shop without some sort of coffee cake on offer seems wrong, to me at least.
Since starting our own place, I've tried out a few. It's my go-to order when indulging in checking out the competition. And I have to say that good coffee cake can be hard to find. Sometimes, the coffee flavour is too overwhelming. Sometimes, especially if walnuts are involved, I find the nuts too bitter alongside the coffee - which can be bitter as well. And I'm not a fan of overly sweet icing. As with most things, I like to be caressed. Personal quibbles, I know, but my tastebuds thank me.
I guess it's all a question of balance.
When I'm baking for Sweet, I like to vary recipes and change things up regularly. Coffee
cakes on offer have included Mocha Meringue, a Chocca Mocca Layer, and sometimes, Cappucino Cupcakes. But by far a favourite in the shop, and one which usually features on a weekly basis at least, is Coffee and Pecan Cake.
I've been making this for so long now that I can't recall where I got the original recipe. I know it was borne out of Delia, Rachel Allen and Miranda Gore Brown, but a bit of all thrown together. It certainly took a bit of tweaking to become something I was truly happy with. Changing the walnuts of the original to pecans for example (I think pecans are the perfect nut - nutty, sweet and buttery with no hint of bitterness). A bit more baking powder here to lighten the sponge. The perfect coffee there (I often use Coaltown Black Gold - a wonderful, mellow blend - our favourite brew and the one we use in the shop - that's also artisan roasted in Wales).
The end result is a lovely, light cake that's not in-your-face. Well, unless you want it to be.
Coffee and Pecan Cake
Ingredients (serves 12)
450g good quality, room temperature butter
450g golden caster sugar
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
450g self raising flour, sieved
2 tspns baking powder
100g pecans, finely chopped plus a few extra to decorate
2 tbpsns good quality coffee powder (if I'm using instant, it'll be Nescafe Azeera)
150g good quality, room temperature butter
325g icing sugar
1 tbspn good quality coffee powder, dissolved in 1 tbspn water
A little milk, to slacken if necessary
For the cake: Preheat your oven to 160 fan / 180 conventional / gas 5. Butter and baseline two 20cm (8 inch) sandwich pans. Dissolve the 4 tbspns coffee powder in 4 tbspns of boiling water and allow to cool.
Sieve the flour and baking powder together into a bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy (I use a stand mixer for this, and it takes a couple of minutes on a medium speed).
Add the eggs little by little, mixing in well. If it starts to look a little bit like scrambled eggs, it's a sign you've added too much egg too quickly. Just add a little flour - about a tablespoon - and beat for few seconds before continuing to add the egg.
Once all the eggs have been incorporated, turn the mixer to low and add the flour, a dessertspoon at a time. Once the flour is all in, add the coffee. Now, just give the mix a quick - five second - blast on medium to make sure it's all incorporated.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the chopped pecans, making sure they are evenly mixed in.
Share the mix between your two buttered pans, and then level the surface. I like to be precise about this and weigh the mix into the pans - usually about 500g in each plus a tablespoon or two extra.
Place the pans in the centre of your preheated oven, and then bake for 30 - 35 minutes until risen, golden and the cakes are just coming away from the sides of the tins a little. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool.
To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of a mixer along with the icing sugar. Beat on high until it's smooth and fluffy. Add the coffee and beat again until smooth. If you need to, add a little milk (a teaspoon at a time) to slacken it to make it more spreadable.
One the cakes have cooled, use the frosting to sandwich together and spread a thin crumb coat of icing all over the outside. Place in the fridge for 15 - 20 minutes to set a little, then use the rest of the icing to finish of the cake. I spread a second coat of icing and then use a spatula to trace a rustic spiral.
Finish off with the reserved pecan as decoration. You can just place them whole on the top, but I like to chop them finely and sprinkle them around the edge of the cake. It just seems a bit easier to eat.
The cake will amply serve 12.