What is it?: A rework of the old coffee and walnut cake
Occasion: Band of Bakers at Anderson & Co
For the first few months of 2013, Band of Bakers have a kind of ‘residency’ at the popular south-east London cafe / deli, Anderson & Co. Anderson & Co has been operating from its lovely site on Bellenden Road for about two years and sells fabulous cake, great coffee and lunch to the discerning residents of Peckham and its surrounds. Since more and more businesses have started to open on the same street (the brilliant Flock & Herd, for example), the cafe has become busier and the demand for cake even greater. Enter Band of Bakers. Naomi, our co-founder, and Lisa, Anderson & Co’s owner, devised a plan to have Band of Bakers members baking cakes for the Saturday service, which both relieves the pressure on the kitchen and allows the bakers the opportunity to bake for members of the public. Genius. Due to a cancellation, my turn came around more quickly than expected and I was surprised to find myself quite nervous. Baking for your friends, family and colleagues is one thing – they’re usually grateful simply to have food – but baking for the general public is quite another. This was definitely an occasion for Short & Sweet.
The double espresso and brazil nut cake was perfect for this occasion. Coffee and walnut cakes are on just about every cafe menu in the UK and this is different enough to be intriguing, but not so weird that it would scare people away. I was also keen to make something that was tried-and-tested, and this was one of the first cakes I ever baked from the book, last year for my coffee-fiend brother-in-law’s birthday. I have also used the coffee water icing on a number of occasions including, most recently, as a topping for my Dad’s birthday cake. I later found him in the kitchen scooping the leftover icing out of the bowl with his fingers. This cake consists of two sponges sandwiched together and topped with the coffee water icing and then decorated with some chopped brazil nuts.
Interestingly, the cake contains spelt flour as well as the usual plain flour which, when mixed with the chopped brazil nuts, gives a quite crunchy texture. The sponge has very little sweetness, to the point where it is almost savoury, but this is balanced nicely by the addition of the coffee water icing, simply made with coffee, hot water and a LOT of icing sugar. Given the choice, I would choose this over a coffee and walnut any day – the brazil nuts are buttery where walnuts can often be quite bitter – plus, I love any new take on an old classic. Having so many coffee-lovers in my life, I can see this one winding up one of my staple birthday cake recipes.
In other news:
I confess it has been a somewhat quiet week. I booked tickets for Feast last night though.