Who doesn’t love a slice of delicious cake and a cup of tea, even while we need to observe strict social distancing. Recently, I met a lady who confided that she had never made a cake in her entire life…she had absolutely no idea where to start, it was a complete mystery to her.
She was over the moon with delight when she baked her very first cake while she as with us here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for a class. We showed her just how easy it was to make a super delicious cake when you follow a good recipe. You can’t imagine how thrilled she was, lots of photos, beaming smiles and such a sense of achievement.
A few little tips to get started:
1. A couple of spatulas and a wooden spoon.
2. A wire rack to cool the cake when it comes out of the tin.
3. A palette knife is useful for icing but not essential.
4. Buy an accurate scales, baking is an exact science, so weigh all the ingredients meticulously
5. The finest ingredients make the best cakes, use butter, fresh free range eggs and pure vanilla extract rather than essence which was never ‘next or near’ a vanilla pod in it’s life!
For memorable cakes use chocolate or unsweetened cocoa.
Being pernickity about the quality of the ingredients will really pay dividends and result in something really gorgeous. After all, if you go to the effort of making a cake, it might as well be super delicious!
6. Choose a really good recipe from a trusted source, sounds odd but sadly not all recipes are as carefully tested as they ought to be. Then inexperienced bakers blame themselves rather than the recipe and come to the conclusion that they can’t cook.
7. Equip yourself with some basic equipment and utensils:
A few good tins, a loaf tin 1lb (8x4x3 inches) or 2lb (6x4x3 inches), 2 x 7”or 8” round tins with pop up bases and maybe 19cm round for larger cakes.
8. A food mixer is an advantage but certainly not essential but it does make the job much easier.
9. Equally a food processor is worth the investment and means a cake can be made in mere minutes.
10. A piping bag and a couple of nozzles if you want to get creative.
These few items will get you started – you can add to your baking kit as you go along.
Here is a tried and tested recipes for one of my favourite cakes.
A Classic Coffee Cake with Caramelised Walnuts
This is a splendid recipe for an old-fashioned coffee cake – the sort Mummy made…We still make it regularly and everyone loves it. I’m a real purist about using extract rather than essence in the case of vanilla, but in this cake, I prefer to use coffee essence (which is actually mostly chicory) to real coffee. I’ve used a square tin here but one could use 2 round tins.
225g (8oz) soft butter
225g (8oz) caster sugar
4 organic or at least free range eggs
225g (8oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached
1 teaspoon baking powder
scant 2 tablespoons Camp coffee essence
Coffee Butter Cream for filling
150g (6oz) butter
330g (12oz) icing sugar, sieved
5-6 teaspoons Camp coffee essence
Coffee Glace Icing
450g (1lb) icing sugar
scant 2 tablespoons Camp coffee essence
about 4 tablespoons boiling water
Caramelised Walnuts (see below) or toasted hazelnuts or chocolate covered coffee beans.
2 x 20cm (8in) round sandwich tins.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Line the base and sides of the tin with greaseproof or silicone paper. Brush the bottom and sides with melted butter and dust lightly with flour.
Beat the soft butter with a wooden spoon, add the caster sugar and beat until pale in colour and light in texture. Whisk the eggs. Add to the mixture, bit by bit, beating well between each addition.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and stir gently into the cake mixture. Finally, add in the coffee essence and mix thoroughly.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. When the cake is cooked, the centre will be firm and springy and the edges will have shrunk from the sides of the tin. Leave to rest in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Remove the greaseproof paper from the base, then flip over so the top of the cake doesn’t get marked by the wire rack. Leave the cake to cool on the wire rack.
To make the coffee butter cream, whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence. Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.
When cold, cut the cake in half lengthwise, then cut each half horizontally creating rectangular layers, 4 in total. Sandwich each sponge layer together with ½ of the coffee butter cream, forming a loaf shaped cake. Place half of the remaining buttercream into a piping bag, fitted with a medium star shaped nozzle. Spread the sides and top of the cake thinly with the last of the butter cream and place into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to chill. This technique is called crumb coating.
Next make the Coffee Glace Icing. Sieve the icing sugar and put into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make it the consistency of a thick cream (careful not to add too much water)
Remove the cake from the fridge. Pour the glace icing evenly over the top of the cake, gently spreading it down the sides with a palette knife. Allow to set, 30 minutes (approx.). Decorate with piped rosettes of buttercream and garnish with the caramelized walnuts.
100g (3 1/2oz) sugar
50ml (2fl oz) cold water
20 walnut halves
225ml (8fl oz) hot water
Dissolve the sugar in the cold water over a gentle heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved, then remove the spoon and continue to simmer until the syrup caramelises to a chestnut colour. Remove from the heat, dip the walnuts into the hot caramel, and coat each one completely using a fork. Remove to a silicone baking mat, or oiled cake tin, and allow to cool. Once all the walnuts have been coated, Pour the hot water into the saucepan and continue to cook until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is quite smooth. Reduce until it starts to thicken slightly. Allow to get cold. This sauce can be used for serving with ice-cream.