No-stress coffee traybake works every time

This all-in-one recipe is straightforward but heavenly

The coffee essence in the cake and the buttercream brings a light coffee flavour that isn’t too dark or bitter, so it works for the whole family

The coffee essence in the cake and the buttercream brings a light coffee flavour that isn’t too dark or bitter, so it works for the whole family

 

My kids love it when my friend Sue comes to visit as she always arrives with one of her signature bakes from her kitchen near Lough Corrib. Our favourite is her coffee traybake. A coffee traybake is one of those recipes everyone should have in their repertoire.

A traybake is honest, simple home cooking, and all the better for it. It’s a straightforward recipe that works every time and is great whether you are an experienced but time-strapped cook, or a beginner wanting to build some baking confidence.

On those days where I want to wind down with some calm pottering in the kitchen, I want a simple recipe that doesn’t require too much concentration. There is a time and place for creating elegant patisserie, but sometimes a little no-stress baking is therapeutic. A traybake is achievable without taking over an entire afternoon.

While not exactly a health food, the humble traybake can be more mindful of the waistline. A beautifully decorated three-layered cake is a wonderful thing, but trying to shave a thin sliver from it can leave you feeling a bit deprived. A traybake can be cut into pieces of any size and there is only one layer of buttercream. It makes portion control that little bit easier.

This all-in-one version is a lovely light coffee sponge topped with a coffee buttercream. The coffee essence in the cake and the buttercream brings a light coffee flavour that isn’t too dark or bitter, so it works for the whole family.

A decoration of chocolate-covered coffee beans adds a little hit of intense coffee flavour, though I’d omit them for younger eaters. This cake can keep, in an airtight container, for up to five days but, in truth, it never lasts more than five hours before it is demolished. Alternatively, it can be frozen for one month, and it defrosts in no time, making it a winner for last-minute visitors.

COFFEE TRAYBAKE

Serves 6
For the all-in-one coffee sponge:
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
225g butter, room temperature
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp coffee essence (or 1 tbsp espresso coffee), cooled
1 tbsp boiling water, if needed
Coffee buttercream icing: 100g butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sieved
1 tbsp coffee essence (or strong espresso coffee)
To decorate: 1-2 tbsp grated chocolate
Chocolate-coated coffee beans (optional)

Method

1. Preheat an oven to 160 degrees Celsius, fan, or equivalent and line a 18cm x 28cm baking tin with parchment paper.

2. Sieve together the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Assuming the butter is room-temperature soft, add all the other sponge ingredients into the bowl and use a handheld electric whisk (or a stand mixer) to beat the ingredients together until smooth and well combined (if the batter is very stiff, add a spoonful of boiling water to loosen the consistency). 

3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and level with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until risen in the centre, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

4. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning the sponge out on to a wire rack to cool fully. 

5. For the coffee buttercream icing, beat the butter to soften it, then gradually incorporate the sieved icing sugar. Lastly add the coffee essence. Do not refrigerate the buttercream as it needs to be soft in order to spread evenly over the cake.

6. Use a spatula to spread the buttercream over the surface of the baked and cooled sponge. 

Variation: Replace the buttercream icing with coffee glace icing by gradually adding coffee essence and boiling water to icing sugar.

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