I hate coffee. I really can't stand the foul stuff, no matter how many proprietors insist on calling their tea rooms coffee shops or coffee houses. Yet I adore coffee flavoured cakes and chocolate - one of my favourite Thornton's chocolates are the cappuccino ones. It's the same thing with alcohol. Most people are slightly surprised to find that I don't drink, and it isn't because I have some ridiculously high moral theories about the rights effects of excessive drinking on society, I simply don't like the taste of it. Recently I was only forgiven when someone discovered this fact because I had just brought in a tin of chocolate cake into the student union for them. However, if someone takes the liqueur truffles from a box of chocolates then it is all out war. This little Miss Nice has claws.
This abhorrence of coffee has led me to collect quite a few of those little sample sachets so that I always have something to bake with if the fancy takes me. Or so I can play the cordial host if anyone pops round who I cannot persuade to try one of my numerous types of tea (tea is amazing). I'm an absolute sucker for those freebie sites and have gathered quite a collection of bits and bobs. Today's haul was some new samples of Nescafé's Gold Crema. They went in my box along with some caramel flavoured Douwe Egberts. When I saw the full size jars of those in Asda yesterday I almost wished I liked coffee so I could buy some just for the dinky little jars.
On that note, these cakes seemed to take on a caramel flavour on the second day which was a pleasant surprise because caramel is another of my favourites. I think it must've been the diffusion of the praline through the sponge. Plus, the whole caramelised walnuts on top start to dissolve due to the moisture from the buttercream so you get little rivulets of caramel flowing through the grooves of the swirl. I knew the toppers wouldn't stay crunchy for long but I hadn't anticipated the benefits of them softening! These really do have to be one of my most successful baking experiments, possibly more so because I didn't have all the ingredients. They were originally going to be extra special coffee and walnut cupcakes with white chocolate chips and walnut praline using an adaption of Jo Wheatley's coffee and walnut tray bake from her latest book, Home Baking. Not so unfortunately though after bounding eagerly down the stairs, recipe book in hand, I discover we only have half the amount of walnuts I wanted to use in the house. I was too looking forward to baking these to divert to my plan B recipe of peanut butter cupcakes so I decided to top make up the weight with pecans and miss out the chocolate altogether (yep, a shocker for me) and these yummy cakes were born. So here it is, a recipes deemed a 'bake again' one by my mum, along with a picture of my accidental spun sugar creation. Now, I really had better go and sort out all those freebie moisturiser samples....
80g mixed walnuts and pecans, roughly chopped
12 whole walnut halves OR pecan halves
120g granulated sugar
175g tub margarine
175g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
3 large eggs
1 rounded tsp baking powder
1 tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1.5tbsp boiling water and cooled.
100g very soft butter
225g icing sugar, sifted
1tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1tbsp milk
- First make the praline. Grease a baking tray and line a second tray with some baking paper. Onto the lined sheet, spread the walnut or pecan halves. Put the sugar in a sturdy pan over a medium-high heat. Once you see it start to melt, start turning it down. The key to any type of caramel or heated sugar based food (Mmmmmm) is to get the temperature just right so it behaves as it should and doesn't burn. Also once it has started to melt, LEAVE IT ALONE!!! Yes, it is tempting to stir it but you really must not. No spoons, no spatulas. Nope. The only think you are allowed to do is swirl the pan about to check the colour - you want a lovely amber shade. Once all the sugar has melted you need to work quickly. Spoon a little blob of caramel over each nut half then mix the chopped nuts into the remaining caramel and spread out onto the greased baking sheet trying to spread it in as thin a layer as possible, leaving both trays to cool and harden. They should look something like this:
- When the chopped nuts praline is cold, crush or chop into small pieces, trying not to eat too much. It only needs testing once. Ok, three times. Now preheat the oven to 190 degrees C/170 fan and place 12 muffin cases in a muffin tray.
- In a large bowl place all the cake ingredients and mix with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes until smooth and even, scraping down the sides once or twice to make sure everything gets a chance. Then gently fold in the praline bits until evenly distributed.
- Divide the mixture between the cake cases. You could probably squeeze out another cake, or even more if using the slightly smaller cupcake cases but don't use fairy cake cases or you will be making rather a lot of very small cakes. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 to 25 mins ish. Timing depends on your ovens individual personality. For example, in mine, or rather Mum's, I timed 20 mins, turned the tray around and turned it down 10 degrees, timed another 5 mins then gave it another 5 mins with the ove turned off. Once risen and a cake tester or tooth pick cooks out of the centre with no cake mix clinging to it, take the tray out of the oven and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before taking the cakes out of the tray to finsih cooling on the rack.
- To make the icing, beat the butter until creamy (an electric mixer is best) then beat in the icing sugar in batches alternating with the coffee liquid. Once everything it mixed together to a fluffy state, filling a piping bag equipped with your favourite icing nozzle and decorate the caps as desired, topping with the caramelised whole nuts. And if you run out of icing then, oh deary me, you are simply going to have to eat the remaining caramelised nuts on their own =) Enjoy!