My Nana passed away earlier this year, at Easter. Had she lived then today (15th October) would have been her 100th Birthday. Coincidentally had my Grandma lived, then today would have been her 106th birthday (she died the christmas before her 100th birthday).
Now, my Nana was a fantastic cake baker, she had a real talent for cake decoration. I’m told that she was still a pretty mean decorator even after she had a stroke (20years ago) and despite being paralysed down most of her right side managed to teach herself to do most things with her left !
My Mum taught me to cook. My first cake was Victoria sandwich cake. I had always assumed that it was a recipe that Mum had inherited from her Mum, and so today, when trying to decide what to make to celebrate what should have been I decided to cook a Victoria, as it sort of felt like a “legacy cake”. Anyway, I mentioned this to Mum and it turns out that she probably got the recipe from the Kenwood cook book and that if we have an inherited recipe going from Nana to Mum to Me then it is probably for pickled onions…
Pickled onions didn’t seem right as a memorial, so I used the sponge recipe as a basis and made a Coffee and Walnut cake instead because Nana loved Walnut Whips. I remember once, at about the age of 10 buying her a packet of 3 walnut whips as a christmas present – it was the same year that I bought Dad a packet of McVites Digestives (50p pocket money still didn’t go very far in the early 80’s, and we didn’t have that extensive a choice of biscuits).
Ingredients – given in imperial for sentimental reasons
6oz (175g) Margarine, Stork or Echo if they still sell it – I used butter as its what I had in the house, but my first cake was definitely marge
6oz (175g) Caster Sugar (If I’d had it in I would have used unrefined cane sugar as it works so well in a C&W)
6oz (175g) SR Flour (sieved)
Coffee – I used 3 tsp of instant dissolved in a little water, but you could use camp coffee or even fresh brewed – just don’t use more than 2 tbs of liquid as you don’t want the cake batter to be too runny
Walnuts – optional – I don’t add nuts to my C&W but if you like texture then you could add about 50g of chopped up walnuts to the batter
* preheat oven to 180 deg C. Grease and flour (and line if you want to) 2 sponge tins of approx 18-20cm diameter.
1. Cream the butter/Marge with the sugar until all combined and mixture has a soft spreadable texture. You can beat it by hand or use an electric mixture – my preference is to use the K Beater of a Kenwood mixer, especially as for part of my childhood the Kenwood we had was one we had inherited from Nana – but as my Kenwood blew up about 12 months ago I opted for the manual method of a wooden spoon (which is probably why my cake hasn’t risen as well as usual)
2. Add 1 egg and a little flour to the sugar/butter mixture, mix until well combined. Do the same for each of the other 2 eggs.
3 Add in some of the coffee flavouring. Mix until well combined. Then sieve in any remaining flour. Beat well until combined. Taste the mixture, add more coffee if you like a stronger flavour. At this point add walnuts if using and combine well.
4 Put half the mixture in the first tin and the remaining mixture in the second tin. Smooth the mixture over and place in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Its cooked when the top of the cake springs back when you press on it. Remove from oven and leave to cool slightly, then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack
A coffee flavoured butter cream is traditional and is what I would normally use. Smooth half in the middle and then the rest on top, decorate as you see fit with chopped walnuts (can provide a butter cream recipe if needed). Butter cream however makes my Dad feel ill, so I’ve tried a variation in the hope that it won’t upset his stomach.
I found this variation on butter cream in a sainsbury’s magazine circa 1998 but I don’t know who’s recipe it is…
3 level tbs instant coffee
12oz (350g) golden icing sugar
3 tbs whipping cream
4oz (110g) butter
5 Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and set aside. Dissolve coffee in 2 tbs boiling water.
6 Put butter in saucepan and melt over gentle heat. Let it bubble slightly (no more than 3 minutes or until it turns a light gold brown) – if you are lucky you should smell a smell reminiscent of butterscotch.
7 Add the butter to the icing and then quickly the dissolved coffee, and finally the cream. Beat all the ingredients together in the bowl until the icing is shiny and smooth. Leave the icing to one side for 20-30 minutes to thicken slightly.
8 Spread some of the mixture on the top of one of the sponges. Place the other sponge on top and spread the remaining icing over the top and sides. Decorate with any bits of walnut you happen to have in your cupboard.
9 Eat – preferably with a good cup of proper leaf tea
*I made half quantities of the icing and added more cream after waiting the 30 minutes, firstly because it was a bit too set and secondly because the coffee taste was VERY strong
No photo as its a very brown cake, it wouldn’t be very visually attractive even if I had inherited Nana’s talent with the decoration…
Postscript A quick google brings to light the fact that you cannot get coffee flavoured walnut whips anymore – however it does appear that they were first produced in 1910 which I guess is as near to Nana’s birthday as I’m going to get !