I ought to be more organised. In the final months of my pregnancy last year, I had busied myself photographing for many future blog posts in anticipation of the little one keeping me away from the camera. In truth, the camera hardly leaves my side these days as there seems to always be some cute baby moment to capture. And, in fact, he seems quite content to share the limelight with my kitchen gadgets that I have actually photographed enough recipes to keep the blog updated for the rest of the year. But if only I had time to sit down in front of the computer to process everything! And it is not even the baby who is keeping me from my “me time”. But more on that in another post (perhaps … if I manage to get around to it!).
One thing that we were totally unprepared for with a new baby has been the newfound social life, and this is especially surprising since so many well-meaning parents had attempted to forewarn us last year that the arrival of a newborn would mark a significant decrease in social activity and adult interaction of any kind. But we have instead discovered that friends and family who were previously not so interested in hanging out with our boring selves have now come out of the woodwork to meet and greet our more interesting and entertaining offspring. And so it has been, almost since the day we brought him home, that nearly every weekend has been booked with a social engagement of some sort, peppered with playdates throughout the week and short-term visits from friends and family travelling from afar.
So even if my post-partum body was not mentally prepared to cook dinner for a party of eight, there’s nothing like having a hoard of people coming over to motivate one to get back into the kitchen. And the truth is, in those first few weeks home from the hospital, cooking and baking gave me a brief and welcome relief from the feeding-changing-sleeping routine that risks turning one’s life into a constant monotony. This newfound bustle of social activity has not been a bad thing, just unexpected and keeping us busy in a different way.
So with guests frequently popping by to have a peek and cuddle with our baby, mostly during afternoon tea, I have often resorted to recipes which have required minimal effort but looked and tasted (I hope) a bit fancy.
In some countries, there exists what is called a coffee cake which actually does not contain any coffee but it is called such because it is intended to be eaten with a cup of coffee. This particular cake is actually a coffee cake, in that it is heady with coffee flavour in both the sponge and frosting.
Walnut & Coffee Cake is a familiar sight from my childhood, it being a regular feature in my parents’ bakery. Despite it’s familiarity and, hence, nostalgic memory, I must confess that coffee-flavoured cakes were not my favourite as a child. In fact, I’m not sure I even liked drinking coffee until well into my late twenties. Up until then, it was more a case of having coffee with my milk and sugar than it being the other way around. These days, I will happily knock back a strong espresso after a meal without even a flinch.
For me, what is unusual about this recipe is that the walnut component is not simply for decoration; a good quantity is ground into a fine powder for use in the sponge, thereby lending the cake a tender and moist texture.
Unlike most coffee cake recipes, I suppose, Nigella’s recipe uses instant espresso powder instead of the more subtle and plain instant coffee. Fearing that the cake would be too strong, and bearing in mind the caffeine considerations of breastfeeding mothers and young children, I used instant coffee for just that hint of coffee taste.
This is a really lovely cake, both to look at and to eat. Next time around, I think I will up the coffee flavour and use instant espresso powder as per the original recipe. You may as well go all the way.
Walnut & Coffee Cake
Recipe adapted from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson
Makes 1 cake
The original recipe calls for 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder which is added directly in the second step of the recipe in place of the coffee mixture.