Then there was the Loire Valley Cake Club that I formed and ran for several years until it evolved into something more like a lunch club.
I have enjoyed making cakes for various other events in France over the years, but all of these opportunities to indulge in baking seem to have dried up due to the pandemic and other things. So, when I discovered that my dad's assisted housing unit was holding a coffee morning in aid of the Macmillan cancer charity, (albeit in the afternoon) I thought I would bake them a couple of cakes.
Thinking that it would probably be mostly the elderly residents themselves attending I decided to go traditional and went for a ginger cake using the Be-Ro book recipe (see here) and a coffee cake. Also thinking that I didn’t want to be responsible for mishaps with anyone’s dentures I went for a recipe I had had my eye on for a while that contained no hidden chopped nuts! The only nuts were the pecans decorating the top which were clearly visible! It comes from the W.I. book "Cakes" by Liz Herbert.
The ladies in the office seemed thrilled when I presented them with the cakes. As I breezed through the lobby later in the afternoon the place was joyfully ringing with the sound of tinkling teacups and laughter. My two cakes seemed to be the only home made ones on display and Jo from the office beamed as she showed me that they were almost sold out already. Hmmmmm…..put a home made cake next to a pack of shop bought offerings and there's no contest!
I was disappointed that my dad didn't want to attend. When I went upstairs to his flat to get him he said "do I have to?" and that was that. Looking after the needs of a very old person is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life I think. All that fun going on downstairs and he prefers to doze in front of yet another repeat of Dad's Army all by himself. Tragic. Oh well, whatever makes him happy.
I didn’t get to try the cake myself but it did look good so I made it again for visitors at home the next week, this time decorating it with some of last year’s crop of windfall walnuts brought with us from France. It was a delicious cake! Very simple to make and the coffee glacé icing looked very chic as an alternative to my usual slathering of buttercream!
Just out of interest.........for ages I wondered why so many American recipes for coffee cake contained no coffee at all. Well, it seems that "coffee cake" is the American term for any sort of cake that you would have with your coffee. Simple !!
For the cake
175g soft margarine or baking spread
175g soft light brown sugar
175g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
2tsp instant coffee granules or powder dissolved in 1 tbslp boiling water
For the buttercream*
40g softened butter (I used Sainsbury's Buttersoft)
80g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp instant coffee granules or powder dissolved in 1 tsp boiling water
For the glacé icing*
115g icing sugar, sifted
1½ tsp instant coffee granules or powder, dissolved in 1½ tblsp hot water
walnut or pecan halves to decorate (optional)
Butter and line two 20cm sandwich tins. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 160° fan / gas mk 4.
Put all the cake ingredients except for the coffee liquid into a large bowl and whisk or beat together until smooth and well combined. Add the coffee and mix well until incorporated.
Divide the mixture between the two tins, level the top and bake for 25 minutes until done. Cool in the tins then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the buttercream, beat the butter until light and smooth, gradually beat in the icing sugar then the coffee liquid.
To make the glacé icing, place the icing sugar in a small bowl, make a well in the centre and gradually beat in enough of the coffee liquid to give a smooth, spreadable consistency.
When the cakes are cool, place one on a plate or stand and spread the top with the buttercream. Place the other cake on top, spoon the glacé icing into the middle and, using a spatula, knife or back of a spoon, gently spread outwards almost to the edge. Decorate with the halved walnuts or pecans.
*I amended the amount of water used to dissolve the coffee granules compared to that in Liz Herbert's original recipe.
Cuts into 8-10 slices.