(Not) Pudding club: coffee cake

Tonight was to have been pudding club, but with a large amount of snow on our road, our cars are effectively stranded, and the journey out to Long Eaton by public transport, nursing a cake tin, unfortunately didn’t quite appeal so much.

I had been toying with making three things: Nigel Slater’s orange jelly (which was on his TV show a few weeks ago but in the Guardian nearly 10 years back!) (although I made grapefruit jelly recently, so… too soon?); Gordon Ramsay’s Mocha Mousses or some sort of coffee cake / gateau.

The desire to make a coffee flavoured dessert stems from a realisation that has come years too late. My husband P does not drink coffee, so I had assumed he also didn’t like coffee flavoured things. Thinking back on it, I’ve seen him eat tiramisù enough times in restaurants to know this wasn’t true. And discussing it, whilst he still doesn’t want to drink coffee, it turns out he is more than happy with coffee flavoured desserts. Which makes me very happy as coffee is perhaps my most favourite dessert flavouring in all the world. (A similar amount of happiness comes from the almost simultaneous discover that he DOES like blue cheese – for some reason it’s been in my head that he didn’t for about seven years!)

I experimented making mocha mousses before by just adding a shot of moka pot espresso to a chocolate mousse. It didn’t work. For one, I got the chocolate quantities wrong, and so the resulting foam never actually set.

The Gordon Ramsay recipe does not somehow seem to me to be a chocolate mousse, which is a very simple recipe with but two ingredients: chocolate and egg. Is it possible to make a mocha mousse with so few ingredients, without resorting to cream and cream cheeses?

The other Big Question in coffee flavour desserts is how to get the coffee flavour in? I’m a huge coffee snob, and I don’t give house room to instant coffee. But a blog post from Dan Lepard and a paper article from Nigel Slater both suggest that there is a place for instant coffee in cake making. Slater puts it:

About the coffee. I have flavoured cake and frosting with both strong home-made espresso and instant coffee granules, and I have come to the conclusion that the latter gives a richer, more rounded flavour.

The only bore is having to go out and buy the stuff. And if anyone looks as if they are about to get snooty with you, just remind them that Elizabeth David apparently drank instant coffee by the mugful.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to buy it. Somehow I am on Starbucks’s mailing list ((I know, I know, says he’s a coffee snob in one paragraph and mentions Starbucks in the next.)) and they are currently hawking a new brand of instant coffee, and they keep posting me samples of sachets of their instant coffee, so I used that.

I toyed with various different coffee cake recipes: Dan Lepard’s Waitrose recipe; Nigel Slater’s again. At one point I even looked a bit at “Delia’s Austrian“.

The cake I eventually made used Dan Lepard’s cake recipe, but with a different filling and syrup. I liked the idea of using veggie oil as the sponge fat because I have a bottle of the stuff that P bought that I almost never use. (I’m an oil snob as well as a coffee snob). Another thing that attracted me to Lepard’s recipe was this exhaustive photoblog on his website forum responding to a comment that suggested his recipe was unusable.

Unsurprisingly, my cake did not look as good as Dan’s.

Coffee mocha cake

His recipe has an awful lot of raising agents – self-raising flour AND baking powder, and on top of that, separating the eggs and beating the whites to fluffy peaks – and despite that, my cakes did not rise like his.

A two egg sponge has often felt a bit mean to me for two 20cm sponge tins, and indeed when I was pouring the batter in, there was barely enough to fill the bottom. I think I could possibly have got away with even more liquid, but there certainly wasn’t enough to depress the centre bits, which is what you are supposed to do to ensure the sides of the cake rise as much as the middle. And when it came out, short of the time allotted, it was a little crisp and biscuity.

No matter, I intended to moisten the cake using a coffee syrup, making a sort of kind of coffee drizzle cake. So I made a shot of espresso using a moka pot, sweetened it with the last of the Madeira wine we brought back from honeymoon, and drizzled that over both halves of the cake. Next time I will make the syrup an awful lot sweeter.

For the filling, I used some ambient chocolate crème patissière I found in the supermarket last week. It is not great, I have to say. I can taste the UHT-ness of the cream it is made with, and it has a bit of a synthetic taste to it.

All in all, not a huge success. We’re still doing our best to eat the cake, however.

225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
225g caster sugar
225ml vegetable oil
2 medium eggs, separated
2 heaped tsp instant coffee granules, dissolved in 2 tsp boiling water
75ml whole milk

(method for using Kenwood food processor)

Heat oven (I used non fan, 170 deg, this prob too hot) and grease and line two round 20cm sponge tins.

Separate the eggs and beat the whites to soft peaks. Remove from the bowl and reserve.

Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, and, still using the whisk attachment, mix the yolks, oil, sugar, coffee and milk into a batter. Add back a third of the egg white and whisk until mixed. Fold in the remaining egg white and divide between the tins. Bake until cooked, about half an hour until the middles of the cake are spongey to the touch.

Allow tins to cool slightly on rack then remove cakes from tins before cold.

Allow cakes to cool fully before moving on to filling and syrup.

Make a syrup out of espresso, sherry and sugar and drizzle over the cake.

Make a filling out of whatever you like – buttercream? Coffee flavoured buttercream? A simple flavoured icing of icing sugar and coffee? Just stay away from shop bought chocolate crème patissière.


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