Sunday, 13 February 2011

Coffee cake - needs tweaking?

Another recipe from Hannah Miles' Big Book of Cakes and Cookies, number 49: coffee streusel layer cake.

I found this tricky to make and, while it tastes good, I think I would try to tweak it if I did it again.

  • 115g caster sugar, softened
  • 115g butter
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 175g self raising flour, sifted
  • 4tbsp milk
  • 85g walnut pieces
  • 115g soft brown sugar
  • 2tbsp plain flour
  • 1tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 30g butter, melted and cooled
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1tbsp instant coffee in 1tbsp boiling water
  • 30g walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 150°C. Grease or line an 8" square pan.

To make the streusel, whizz the walnuts (85g), brown sugar, plain flour and coffee granules in a blender, to fine crumbs. Add cooled melted butter and whizz again. Set aside.

For the cake, cream butter (115g) and caster sugar until fluffy. Gradually beat in eggs. Fold in SR flour and milk with large metal spoon.

Spread half the cake mix on the bottom of the pan and sprinkle with half the streusel mixture. Spread the rest of the cake mix on top, and finish with the remaining streusel. Bake for 1h-1h30, testing with a skewer.

To make the icing, blend the coffee and icing sugar. Drizzle over the cake and top with the remaining walnuts.

The basic tasks of the recipe were fine. The cake came together nicely, and the streusel was dead easy in the herb chopper of my stick blender. The problem started when putting it all into the tin.

The batter was very stiff; spreading half of it over the 8" tin was hard work to get it even, and it gave quite a thin layer. Spreading the streusel was fine, but then spreading the rest of the batter on top was near impossible. Any movement just caused the top layer of batter to roll over, picking up streusel with it. It was like trying to butter sand. I tried to place small blobs of batter all over the area, to cut the amount of spreading needed, but it was still tricky and I gave up trying to spread it all the way to the edges. There was plenty of streusel to cover this fact up!

Baking took 1h25 in my electric fan oven. After 1hr I covered the top with a square of foil to stop the streusel burning (it didn't show any signs, but I didn't want to risk it) - it finished a nice even brown. Once cooled, I unpeeled the cake from the baking parchment and cut a square. The streusel held together pretty well - I was worried it might all just crumble off as soon as you touched the cake. However, I was quite disappointed with the cake in that it was too shallow, and the "middle" layer of streusel was near if not on the bottom. I didn't bother with the icing and walnuts on the top.

It still tastes good, though, and the streusel topping gives an interesting texture which I like and will try again. But I would be tempted to try a smaller tin, or maybe a loaf tin, to make more of the layer effect (I guess I would only need about half the amount of streusel, too). And I would probably modify the sponge recipe (or use another) so as to get a looser and more easily spreadable mixture. I don't know if this one was supposed to be so stiff - the only thing I can think of is that my eggs may have been medium and not large as they were from an unlabelled box. I had well-softened butter, the right amount of milk, and beat the mix well with a hand mixer. Curious!

Never mind. It's a shame, as the other recipes of Hannah's I've tried have been good, but it's still cake, and it will still get eaten :)

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