Coffee and Almond Cake was one of my first British baking successes. Although I baked a lot when I was growing up in Canada, I found it much more challenging when I arrived in England several years ago. The ovens were smaller and not only were the temperatures in Celsius, they used fan heat. It was totally different to what I was used to so baking took a lot of experimentation and success was often hard won.
For this new immigrant, dessert in England was an absolute minefield. I found it so confusing that any kind of dessert was referred to as ‘pudding’ – but the actual creamy pudding served in a bowl that I was familiar with was considered ‘nursery food’, not an acceptable dessert for adults at all. There were also a lot of people incredibly eager to ‘educate’ me in the ways of British cooking. For example, the first time I served this Coffee and Almond Cake for dessert – after a midweek dinner of roast beef – a friend’s rather scathing comment was, “Well, we don’t have roast beef during the week in England, it’s only for Sunday lunch – and cake is for tea, not for pudding!” I was playing to a tough crowd.
It was the early 1990′s and the renaissance British food experienced a few years later wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eye. Most pubs didn’t serve food at this point, gourmet restaurants were few and far between and Black Forest Cake (or Gateau as everyone insisted on calling it) was the height of sophistication. Nothing against Black Forest Cake, but seriously, it isn’t gateau unless it’s served in France.
Thankfully, things have changed. British gastronomy has scaled new heights and there are hundreds of wonderful restaurants in England. (I shared my Top Ten Favourite London Restaurants here). Not only do most pubs serve food, ‘gastropubs’ take casual dining to delicious new heights. And a plethora of cooking programmes, magazines and websites mean that so many of the hard and fast ‘rules’ of eating in Britain have been firmly pushed aside. Yes, cake is still for tea, but now it’s also perfectly acceptable to serve it as a dessert. Good thing as I never really stopped – and this Coffee and Almond Cake is far too tasty to serve only at teatime!
As I’ve adapted my Coffee and Almond Cake from a British recipe I’ve been able to provide measurements for the ingredients in both cups and ounces. Please choose one unit of measurement and stick with it. If, for example, you measure the butter in ounces and the flour in cups, the recipe is unlikely to turn out. The units of measurement are very different and converting the recipe to cup measures took me a lot of experimentation.
Self raising flour, which already contains leavening, is commonly used in the UK for baking. I’ve tried to replace it with plain flour and leavening in this recipe on several occasions without great success so I encourage you to use self-raising flour for this recipe if at all possible.
One other tip – do not use anything other than seven inch (18 cm) cake pans for this recipe. I’ve tried making it in several different size pans and it just doesn’t rise properly if you don’t use the seven inch variety.
And while this may all seem like a lot of trouble to go to, let me reassure you that this cake’s rich coffee-spiked almond gorgeousness is absolutely worth the effort!
- 1 cup (4 ounces)unsalted butter, softened
- 1¼ cups (4 ounces) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups (4 ounces) self-raising flour
- 1¼ cups (2 ounces) ground almonds
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
- For the frosting
- ½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (8 ounces) icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
- 2 tablespoons instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water (you may not need it all)
- ¼ cup (2 ounces) flaked almonds
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
- Grease two 7 inch (18 cm) cake pans and line the bottoms with greaseproof paper or parchment.
- Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- Mix together the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.
- Fold into the batter.
- Add the coffee and fold in.
- Divide the mixture between the two cake pans.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until well risen and firm to the touch.
- Remove the cake pans from the oven. Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting.
- Cream the butter until light and fluffy.
- Gradually beat in the icing sugar (to avoid an icing cloud).
- Beat in the coffee, a bit at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
- Frost the cake when it is completely cool.
- Scatter the flaked almonds over top of the cake or leave the top of the cake naked and press the almonds into the sides. I prefer the former as it's much, much easier!!
Adapted from The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook