Monday, 3 February 2014


When I was at school my mum had a much-loved tradition of making my sister and I a coffee cake on the first day back in September.  It gave me the Pavlovian response of: September = you need to start working hard again = "ooh coffee cake".  Now whenever the leaves turn and there's that first autumnal chill in the air I start dreaming of my mum's perfect back to school treat.  

But it's not autumn now, it's winter (although yesterday felt thoroughly spring-like, but let's not talk about that too much - I don't want to jinx it), so I've played around with the standard coffee cake recipe slightly, introducing some chocolate sponge into the mix and adding some grated chocolate on top.  

This recipe is a bit tricky.  I'm going to warn you about that now.  But if you think about it for approximately three minutes before you start, and work out how you're going to do it in your head - you'll be fine.  The issue is that half way through the process you have to split the batter and make two different cake mixtures, but we'll do it together, it'll be easy. 

250g caster sugar 
250g softened butter (I often use "spreadable butter" like lurpack to make the mixing easier)
4 eggs
2 bowls of 125g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoon of milk

25ml of fresh brewed strong coffee

For the icing

600g icing sugar
200g unsalted butter
80ml of fresh brewed strong coffee
Couple of squares of dark chocolate

You're also going to need 2 more extra bowls to divide the batter into.

Heat oven to fan 160C or your oven's equivalent. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Do this for as long as you can stand, as this is what will make your cake light, fluffy and full of air.  Beat in the eggs one at a time adding one tablespoon of flour with each egg.  I took two tablespoons from one bowl of flour and two from the other so the amounts of flour left in each bowl were even. When the batter is properly mixed you need to weigh it. I gently poured it into a measuring jug and then poured half the mixture into one of the extra bowls and half into the other.  I had about 700ml of mixture so put 350ml in each.  

There, that's the hard part.  Now pick one bowl to be your chocolate bowl and put back two tablespoons of self raising flour into the flour bag and instead add two tablespoons of cocoa powder.  Sieve one bowl of flour into one bowl of batter and one into the other.  Add one teaspoon of baking powder to each bowl, stir each mixture in a figure of eight using a metal spoon.  Be gentle so you don't knock the air out of the batter.  You should now have two bowls of cake mixture, one plain, one chocolate.  

Add two tablespoons of milk to the chocolate mix, and 25ml of fresh coffee to the other mix.  

Take your greased and lined sandwich tins and drop one spoonful of coffee batter into each, then take another spoon and do the same with the chocolate batter.  Keep doing this so you have lots of big blobs of cake mixture on the bottom of your tin like brown and cream polka dots. Use up all the mixture and try to keep the amounts in each tin as even as possible.  

The take a spatula or spoon and smooth the surface of the batter.  The splodges of cake mix will mingle a bit with each other like below, that's a good thing!

You're supposed to put them in the oven for 25 minutes, although mine always take closer to 45 minutes.  I don't know why.  You want to keep them in there until the sponge springs back up when you press it and a knife or toothpick down the centre of the cake comes out clean.  

While they're baking, make the icing.  Mix together the butter, icing sugar and coffee.  I find it helps when the coffee is warm as the butter melts a bit.  Keep mixing till it's all smooth and gorgeous. 

When the cakes are ready take them out of the oven to cool.  My sponges had a marble effect on one side and a cow print look on the other.

Then when the cakes are cool (after about an hour) you can ice those bad boys!  Use half the icing on top and half for the middle.  When icing the bottom sponge don't worry too much about getting it to the edges as the weight of the top sponge will spread it out for you.

Finish it with some grated dark chocolate, and then eat it ALL UP.

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