So darned good. I took one look at this cake, in Retro Cakes and Cookies by Wendy Sweetser, and I had to make it. Coffee flavor and nuts. Oh, this is an English recipe and they want walnuts. Suzen is not anti-English – she’d live in London – but she’s not a walnut fan. So I made this with pecans.
Compared to American recipes, there is a lot of coffee here. In the cake and Lord knows in that frosting. I used Italian espresso powder and just the amounts specified. I got the coffee tang, but it was not over the top. The cake is moist, filled with flavor and quite sweet.
Now, in the book, there is a picture of this cake and it is well frosted. So is my cake in my picture. And that is because I doubled the amount of frosting in the recipe below. So, you have an option. Go with frosting that is more of an icing, or go for the gold. Or the brown. Or whatever.
Jeez, just go for it.
And to serve with it? Well, what else. Espresso.
Personally, I would not eat this after 9 PM at night unless you have an exam in the morning.
That picture of the cake above is one I made by combing three exposures with the HDR software from NIK, plus their special vignette effect to tone the entire picture. I think that the picture style here matches the idea of a retro recipe.
Retro Cakes and Cookies is filled with recipes from the home kitchens of Great Britain in the 50’s and 60’s. There are things here you’ve never seen or heard of before. There are things here you need to taste.
I may have made a mistake in that last paragraph. This cake may be much older than just 50’s. Older than me, even. You’ll see in the section describing how to make the cake. You don’t cream the butter, add this, then that. Oh, no. You just put everything all at once in the bowl and mix. Everything. All at once. My grandmother would have made this cake.
I wish she had.
Coffee-Walnut Layer Cake
Yield: 1 3-layer cake
For the cake:
- Oil or butter to grease 3 cake pans
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 1 ⅛ cups superfine sugar
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 1 ¾ cups self-rising flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoon hot water, and cooled
- 1 cup chopped walnuts [or pecans!]
For the frosting [remember, you may want to double this]:
- 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
- 2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water, and cooled
- Walnut [or pecan] halves to decorate
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease 3 8-inch layer cake pans and line the bottom with parchment.
Put the butter, sugar, eggs, self-rising flour, baking powder, and dissolved coffee in a large mixing bowl, and beat together with an electric hand mixer on low speed, or a wooden spoon, until smooth. Stir in the chopped walnuts.
Divide the mixture between the pans, spreading it in even layers and leveling the tops. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and springy to the touch. Leave the cakes to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting:
Beat the butter until soft and creamy. Gradually sift in the confectioners’ sugar, beating well after each addition. Add the dissolved coffee after three quarters of the sugar has been added.
Sandwich the cake layers with some of the buttercream, and spread the remainder on top. Decorate with a ring of walnut [or pecan] halves.
Source: Retro Cakes and Cookies by Wendy Sweetser [published by CICO Books]
Sometimes it can be a little hard to keep current on this blog with what we cook. I can get behind in my writing. This cake is an example. We had it for Christmas. Last year.
I had other dessert ideas at the time. Buche de Noel. Apple pie. Some medieval German wonders. All sorts of things.
“We want the Marble Cake,” my grandsons announced.
“What marble cake?” I asked. I had no idea.
“The one you made for our birthday party. Five years ago,” the twins announced.
I scratched my head. So did Suzen. Apparently that cake had made quite an impression. Suzen was willing to go marble, but she wanted to make the bestest ever marble cake. For that, there was one obvious source: Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Years ago, Rose wrote The Cake Bible. You would sort of think that might end things for her cakewise. But, as this title suggests, there is a higher plane. Heavenly Cakes is an understatement. The book is filled with very lovely creations. You’ll see some other ideas from Rose in the coming weeks. This one is relatively simple to make and exceptional.
Marble cake is perfect for those of us who cannot make up our minds: vanilla, chocolate, vanilla, chocolate. Here you have both flavors in the very rich batter. Six egg yolks! Two sticks of butter! And sour cream! It’s an abundance of all the things that you have to watch for. Personally, I’m pretty sure that the calories in the butter and the calories in the sour cream cancel themselves out. I can’t begin to think of anything plausible about the eggs.
It’s a rich satisfying cake. That’s why Rose says in will feed 12-14.
Marble Velvet Cakes
Yield: serves 12-14
For cake batter:
- 3 ounces dark chocolate
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 ½ cups superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the ganache glaze:
- 4 ounces dark chocolate
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat one 10-cup metal fluted tube pan with baking spray and flour.
Heat the chocolate until almost completely melted. Use a small microwavable bowl, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or use the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often—do not let the bottom of the container touch the water).
Remove the chocolate from the heat and, with the silicone spatula, stir until fully melted. Allow it to cool until it is no longer warm to the touch but is still fluid.
In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks, ¼cup of the sour cream, and the vanilla just until lightly combined.
To make the batter, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining sour cream. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 ½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in three parts, beating on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Remove almost one-third of the batter (1 1/2 cups) to a bowl and stir in the melted chocolate until uniform in color. Spoon one-third of the remaining batter into the prepared pan. Top with dollops of half the chocolate batter. Spread gently but evenly. Top with another third of the plain batter and then with dollops of the remaining chocolate batter. Spread evenly and top with the remaining third of the plain batter, spreading it evenly over the top.
Use a regular tablespoon to marbleize the batter lightly: Dip in the tablespoon, without touching the bottom or sides, and lift up and over in a folding motion, like the roll of a wave, six to eight tunes, going all around the pan. Smooth the surface evenly.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted between the tube and the side conies out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven. During baking it will rise above the center tube, but on cooling it will be almost level with the sides of the pan.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the cake by jiggling it up and down until it moves slightly. Invert it onto a wire rack that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Cool completely before applying the glaze, if using.
To make the ganache glaze, have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a small glass bowl. In a food processor, process the chocolate until very fine. Remove it to a small heat-proof glass bowl.
In a 1-cup or larger microwavable cup with a spout (or in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often), scald the cream (heat it to the boiling point; small bubbles will form around the periphery) and pour it over the chocolate. Cover the bowl for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. Using a silicone spatula, gently stir together the chocolate and cream until smooth, trying not to create air bubbles. Press the mixture through the strainer, stir in the Cognac, if using, and cool until tepid. A small amount of glaze dropped from a spoon should mound a bit before smoothly disappearing. If the glaze is too thick and the mound remains on the surface, or if the glaze seems curdled, add more warm cream 1 teaspoon at a time. When the consistency is correct, use the glaze at once, or store covered and reheat it.
To glaze the cake, place it on a serving plate. Pour the glaze evenly over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides and pool slightly on the serving plate.
Source: Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum