Bake: A modern take on classic coffee cake
Baking shouldn’t be scary – especially with tried-and-tested, easy-to-follow recipes like this
A good coffee cake is something special, something I attribute to good coffee essence. Photograph: Harry Weir
Welcome to my new weekly baking column, where I hope I’ll inspire lots of readers to crack some eggs and discover the joy of baking.
My first cooking memory is from when I was four: I was stirring flapjacks in a blue plastic bowl. At my shoulder, in a blue nylon housecoat, was my grandma, who gave me a sense that happiness is home-baked, and so I fell in love with baking.
However, with busy lives and careers, many of us have forgotten the warm comfort of a kitchen full of freshly baked fairy cakes and apple pies. The skills our grandparents and parents passed down through the generations may have waned, but we’ve started to bake once again, and I’m here to reintroduce the basics and add to your repertoire.
Many of my recipes will offer a modern take on classic cakes and baked treats; others will be more recent favourites that I’ve been teaching over the past 15 years in my cooking school.
Baking shouldn’t be scary – there are lots of different ways to bake, and I’ll be bringing you tried-and-tested, easy-to-follow recipes, with a few helpful tips that will guide you to success (my first tip is to invest in a digital scales).
Once you expand your repertoire, those basic sponges, pastries and meringues will give you the confidence to tackle fancy tarts and perhaps even make someone special their next birthday cake.
Practice makes perfect and you’ll quickly find how social baking can be by sharing some goodies in work or perfecting your bakes until they’re worthy of their own Instagram account. Baking is a great way to win friends and influence your career prospects!
A good place to start is learning to bake a proper sponge. And of all the rich, luscious layered cakes with special fillings and shiny frostings to choose from, for my first bake I bring you my old favourite: coffee cake.
A good coffee cake is something special, something I attribute to Irel (or Camp) coffee essence, which gives that sensual “coffee cake” aroma as the madeira mixture drops into the tin. Older recipes can be a little heavy, so I’ve made this one with a light sponge and a glacé icing (rather than the heavier, traditional butter cream), which gives it a modern look and makes it more practical to package up and carry on the bus to work. Happy baking.
Makes 2 x 20cm cakes
2 x 20cm loose-bottom cake tins
Hand mixer or whisk
300g butter, softened
300g caster sugar
6 eggs, lightly beaten
300g self-raising flour, sieved
2-3 tbsp coffee essence
Coffee Buttercream Icing
180g icing sugar
110g softened butter
1 tbsp coffee essence
Coffee glacé top icing
75g icing sugar
1 tsp coffee essence
20ml-30ml boiling water
Optional garnish: cocoa coffee beans
Preheat oven to 180C fan (190C for a conventional oven) and grease and line two sandwich cake tins with parchment paper.
Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes until pale and fluffy.
On a low speed mix in half the eggs and half the sieved flour before adding in the coffee essence (or cooled coffee). Next add in the remaining eggs and flour.
Spoon the cake mix into both tins, levelling off the tops, and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until risen and springy to touch. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before adding the filling and icing.
Make the buttercream by combining the listed ingredients together until nice and smooth.
Spread the buttercream onto one sandwich with a knife (or transfer the buttercream to a piping bag to pipe it for a more professional look) then place the second sandwich on top.
Lastly, make the coffee glacé icing by mixing icing sugar with coffee essence, then gradually stir in the boiled water to a thick pouring consistency.
Starting in the centre, pour the icing slowly over the top of the cake, gently spreading it outwards until it reaches the edges without spilling over.
Decorate with cocoa coffee beans.
Variation: You can also make the cake in a standard 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin (you’ll need to bake the cake for approximately 1 hour, and, once cool, slice the cake in half). If you don’t have Irel or Camp coffee essence, per 1 tbsp Irel, substitute 1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tsp boiling water.