Serves 16

I don’t consider myself to be a Top Baker, but what I do always seems to be appreciated. I am very definitely in the how it tastes camp, rather than how it looks. Today, while making this all-time favourite bake, I realised that I have never before written down my recipe. It was a surprise! In Sussex people used to queue for this when our friends Sarah and Jim opened their private garden at West Dean annually for the Yellow Book. Here in Orkney, and having made it for one or two village occasions, it is now being requested. Last year Coffee & Walnut cake was one of the categories in The Hope Show and there were some splendid entries. If the Show happens this year I have been handed the poisoned chalice of being asked to judge. I’d better shed a lot of weight before the beginning of August, just in case, as there were so many entries last year!

Print the recipe here.

• 4 large eggs

• 1 tbsp coffee essence or very strong coffee

• 125g (approx) caster sugar

• 175g self raising flour

• 1 tsp baking powder

• 125g (approx) soft baking margarine, straight from the fridge, or well softened butter at room temperature

• 2-3 tsps hot water (from a recently boiled kettle)

To decorate:

• 100g softened unsalted butter

• 150g icing sugar

• 1 tbsp coffee essence, or to taste

• 75g or more walnuts, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 180C, 350F. Line a 20cm square shallow baking tin with parchment.

2. Place your mixing/mixer bowl on the scales and zero the readout. Break the eggs into the bowl – they will probably weight about 120-130g. You need this weight of sugar and fat and 40-50g more of flour. Beat the eggs with the coffee essence and return the bowl to the scales, adding the sugar, flour, baking powder and finally the fat.

3. Beat the mixture until it is a smooth, creamy consistency then continue beating for up to a minute. Add the hot water, a little at a time, and beat again – the mixture should be slack and look almost as though it will curdle. Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth the top.

4. Bake in the preheated one for 30-35 minutes, until the centre of the cake springs back when lightly touched with your fingers.

5. Use the baking parchment to help you lift the cake out of the tin onto a wire rack and leave it to cool.

6. For the icing, beat the butter and sugar together to a smooth and creamy consistency, adding the essence as the mixture comes together. Continue beating until smooth, soft and spreadable.

7. Slather the cake with the icing then scatter it generously with the chopped walnuts. Cut into sensible sized pieces but, of course, nuts are good for you and this is really about the nuts!!

Top Tips:

  • One stage cake mixes are really easy but you must add extra baking powder for a good rise. The hot water at the end of mixing also ensures a light sponge.
  • Fan ovens have been an important development in the kitchen in my working lifetime but you need to know your own oven and how it works. I have 2 single ones – an AEG which you have to reduce the dial temperature by 10-20C to use well, and a Lamorna, Howden’s kitchens own label. The Lamorna (the much cheaper oven) cooks correct to dial and is actually the better one for baking.
  • This recipe works just as well with gluten-free flour which is useful when baking for fetes and all those things that we used to do… It also freezes very well iced and decorated.
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