“I love arranging bowls of walnuts around my home at Christmas time. We tend to nibble on them after dinner, but there are always a few left over come the New Year. So, this week, I thought I would use up these nuts to create a deliciously light walnut-and-coffee cake. There’s a fair amount of liquid in this recipe, which makes it moist, and the walnut brittle and chocolate ganache take it to a new level of indulgence”
Espresso cake with walnut brittle and chocolate ganache
25g melted butter
60ml strong espresso or 6tspn instant coffee dissolved in 60ml boiling water
250g unsalted butter, slightly cooler than room temperature and chopped
250g caster sugar
Half tspn salt flakes
2 free-range eggs
Half tspn vanilla-bean paste
250g self-raising flour
200ml full-cream milk
Pinch of salt flakes
150g caster sugar
200g double cream
2tbspn caster sugar
150g 70% cocoa
solid chocolate, broken into small pieces
Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 and prepare a 10in Bundt tin by brushing with melted butter-be sure to cover every indentation. Cake-release spray is a helpful alternative. Make the espresso and put it aside to cool.
Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and cream until fluffy. Slowly pour in the cooled espresso. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and increase the mixer speed. Add the eggs and vanilla-bean paste a little at a time, mixing after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl again and beat the mixture until it’s light and uniform.
Sift the flour into a separate bowl. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add a third of the flour to the cake mix. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the flour, then the other half of the milk and finish with the rest of the flour. (This method is used when there’s a high proportion of liquid in the mixture.)
Use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure the mixture is uniform. Pour the mixture into the prepared Bundt tin. Bake for 30 minutes, rotate the tin and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a wired rack and allow your cake to cool completely before icing it.
To make the walnut brittle, prepare an oven tray with a sheet of baking parchment and scatter the walnuts over it. Toast them in the oven, at the same temperature that the cake is baking at, for five minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and scatter the salt flakes over the nuts, then them set aside, keeping the baking parchment in place. Heat the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan with the splash of water without stirring it, until you see the sugar turn an even mahogany colour.
If you have a sugar thermo-meter, it should read 150˚C/300˚F, which is the hard-crack stage. Pour the sugar all over the walnuts-be careful, as boiling sugar can really burn-and leave to cool. Once they’re hardened, peel away the baking parchment and break the brittle into shards with your hands or a sharp knife.
To make the ganache, heat the cream and sugar over a low heat and, just before it boils, remove it from the heat and tip in the chocolate pieces. Leave it for a minute or two and then stir until the chocolate has melted and you have deliciously smooth, pourable ganache.
To assemble, pour the ganache over the top of the cake so it dribbles
down the sides and then scatter with the walnut brittle. This cake will
keep for three days at room temperature in a covered stand and the
flavour improves with age.
More ways with walnuts
Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 and line two oven trays with parchment paper. Whisk together 150ml maple syrup, 25ml sunflower oil and 1tspn vanilla-bean paste and then pour the results over a bowl containing 500g rolled oats, 100g sunflower and pumpkin seeds, 150g walnuts and 100g almonds. Mix well and spread evenly onto the trays. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through, and then cool completely before storing in airtight containers, ready for breakfast. It’s delicious served with fresh fruit and yoghurt stirred through it.
Walnut-and-beetroot salad with quinoa
Mix toasted walnut pieces and cooked beetroot plus chilli-and-olive-oil-roasted butternut squash with a sachet of microwaveable white and red quinoa. Add a few handfuls of rocket, a scattering of pumpkin seeds and a honey vinaigrette for a healthy, New Year’s resolution-worthy feast.
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