It’s my grandfathers 89th birthday today and the family gathered at his house to celebrate with cake (what else). As he was born on Valentine’s Day, his name is of course Valentine. I suspect his French mother was a romantic. For an eighty nine year old he’s doing remarkedly well. He has a walking frame to help him get about, but he still likes to potter around his garden and go to the local shops.
His favourite cake of all time is a traditional English coffee and walnut cake. My granny made the most wonderful moist sponge version of this cake, but unfortunately I don’t have her recipe. He says he hasn’t had this cake since Granny last made it for him, which must be close to ten years ago. No pressure then Granddad?
After hours of internet research, I’ve decided to use Rose Prince’s recipe from the UK Telegraph, mainly because it included almond meal, which will make the cake very moist. I have a morbid fear of dry crumbly cakes, especially when making sponges, but almond meal always saves the day.
- 350g (12oz) butter
- 350g (12oz) golden caster sugar
- 140g (5oz) walnut pieces, roughly ground
- 6 medium eggs
- 250g (9oz) self-raising flour, sifted
- 1½ level tsps baking powder
- 100g (3½ oz) ground almonds
- 3 tsp instant coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
- 300g (10½oz) butter, softened
- 600g (1lb 5oz) icing sugar, sifted
- 3 tsps instant coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
- 12 halved walnuts for decoration (optional)
Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease and line two 20cm (8in) round cake tins.
First things first, you need to beat together the butter and golden caster sugar. Getting your mix pale and fluffy is the key to making a wonderful sponge. Using an electric mixer will make this a lot easier.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next egg. Add the ground walnuts (if you can’t purchase ground walnuts, simply use a grinder or food processor). Add the coffee mix. As a non instant coffee drinker (I’m a bit of a coffee snob), you can use a strong espresso if you wish, but the coffee flavour will be diluted.
Fold through the sifted flour, baking powder and almond meal with a wooden spoon. Mix until just combined. You can use the mixer on low speed if you wish but over mixing will remove the air you’ve incorporated while beating the butter and sugar together.
Divide the cake mix between the two cake tins. Bake in the oven for 1 hour (my recipe said for 45 minutes) or when a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cakes in the tins to cool before upending and icing.
To make the coffee buttercream, cream the soft butter in a mixer adding 1/2 cup of the sifted icing sugar at a time. Pour in the coffee mix and beat thoroughly.
Spread 1/3 of the buttercream on one cake and sandwich the second cake on top. Add another 1/3 buttercream on top and smooth out with a spatula. Finish by piping flowers or swirls with the remaining 1/3 of the buttercream and cover the side of the cake. Add the halved walnuts on top to decorate. If you don’t wish to bother with the piping decorations or icing the side of the cake, just reduce the buttercream recipe by one-third (200g butter and 400g icing sugar).
Happy Birthday Monsieur Valentine 💕