It’s that time of year, when a little bit of planning for the forthcoming fete, digging out old recipes etc works a miracle interns of stress relief.
Delia Smith’s coffee and walnut sponge cake
This is a revised, more contemporary, version of one of the original sponge cakes in Delia’s Book of Cakes. I am still very fond of it and have continued to make it regularly over the years. Now, though, since the advent of mascarpone, the icing is a great improvement.
self-raising flour 115g
baking powder 1 level tsp
spreadable butter 115g
eggs 2 large
golden caster sugar 115g
instant espresso coffee powder 1 rounded tbsp
walnuts 50g, very finely chopped
For the filling and topping:
instant espresso coffee powder 1 rounded dsp
golden caster sugar 1 tbsp
milk 1-2 tbsp
walnut halves 8
Lightly butter and line the bases of two 18cm x 4cm sponge tins. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3.
Start off by sifting the flour and baking powder into a roomy mixing bowl, holding the sieve quite high to give the flour a good airing as it goes down, then add the butter, eggs, caster sugar and coffee powder. Now, using an electric hand whisk, mix to a smooth, creamy consistency for about 1 minute. After that take a tablespoon and fold the chopped nuts into the mixture.
Next, divide the mixture between the two prepared tins, level off using the back of a tablespoon and bake near the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes. The sponges are cooked when you press lightly with your little finger and the centre springs back. Remove them from the oven and after about 30 seconds loosen the edges by sliding a palette knife all round then turn them out onto a wire cooling tray. Now carefully peel back the lining by gently pulling it back. Then lightly place a second cooling tray on top and just flip them both over so that the tops are facing upwards (this is to prevent them sticking to the cooling tray).
While the cakes are cooling, make up the filling: in a small bowl combine the mascarpone, coffee powder and caster sugar with 1 tablespoon of milk – what you need is a smooth spreadable consistency. As some mascarpones are wetter than others it’s impossible to be precise, but add a bit more milk if you think it needs it.
When the cakes are cold, spread half the filling over one, sandwich them together, then spread the rest over the top using a palette knife and making a swirling pattern. Then finish off by placing the walnuts in a circle near to the edge. Store in a polythene box in the fridge.
Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s saffron and lemon syrup cake
This makes a 24cm cake because I think it looks amazing as a large cake, but if you want, halve the recipe (and the baking time) and bake in 6 muffin tins. It is a good one for the dead of winter. The lemon rounds glow in saffron like little suns, lighting up your palate with their bright flavour.
For the syrup and topping
lemons 2, really thinly sliced
water enough to cover the lemon slices x 2, plus 400ml
caster sugar 250g
turmeric a pinch
saffron a pinch
For the cake
caster sugar 270g
ground almonds 200g
turmeric a pinch
plain flour 2 tbsp
lemon 1, juice and zest
salt a pinch
baking powder ½ tsp
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 24cm diameter cake tin with greaseproof paper.
Place the lemon slices for the syrup and topping in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil over a high heat. Drain the slices, re-cover with water and bring to the boil again. Drain for a second time (by now all the bitterness should be gone), then cover with 400ml of fresh water. Add the sugar, turmeric and saffron and bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 minutes until the peel is soft and the syrup has thickened. Remove from the heat.
Use a fork to lift the slices of lemon out of the syrup and layer them, just slightly overlapping, all over the base and a little way up the sides of the lined baking tin; the sugar will help them to stick in place. Pour over 2 tablespoons of the syrup and reserve the rest for later.
For the cake, cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer, or with a wide spoon in a bowl, until they are well combined but not fluffy, as you do not want to aerate the mixture. Stir in the eggs, ground almonds and turmeric, then fold in the semolina, flour, lemon juice and zest, salt and baking powder. Mix well and pour into the cake tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, then turn the cake around to ensure that it bakes evenly and bake for a further 10-15 minutes. The cake should be golden and firm. Remove from the oven and pour over all the remaining syrup to soak in. Allow to rest for 20 minutes before turning out.
The cake needs to be turned on its head to serve, so place a plate on top of the tin and flip it over so the bottom-side is uppermost. Gently remove the tin and the paper. Now, turn off the lights and watch it glow.