A naughty cake made slightly healthier! It’s that all-time British classic, a coffee and walnut sponge with the surprise addition of carrot! It’s moist, delicious, the walnut pieces offer a satisfying little crunch, the coffee a nice little hit, and the icing melts in your mouth. Coffee and walnut cake is a family favourite, invariably requested during my visits to Birmingham where young and older have dutifully participated in years of baking and testing it out. This is a slightly ‘healthier’ version with light muscovado cane sugar, olive oil, natural yoghurt and a good amount of carrot that you can’t really taste but makes this cake beautifully moist. Of course there are still walnuts, which apparently are the ultimate brain food because they’re shaped like brains! Ahem. Not sure if it’s worked for me but this coffee and walnut cake with carrot is absolutely delicious.
This recipe’s an invention and entirely my fault! Sorry, I mean my genius creation. Muahaha. Evil cake scientist laugh while waving whisk around in the air (ignore me, it’s just the coffee and sugar high). Here are a few prototypes from over the years:
With 4 layers the butter icing is better distributed amongst the sponge. With less layers (2 to 3) you can spread the icing around the sides which also gives a nice effect. Also, using two low sandwich tins (instead of one big cake tin) can give your cake straighter sides (as in the last photo). If you have more butter icing it’s easier to spread layers. Basically, you can choose the cake design, tin(s) and quantities you like best.
And carrot adds moisture. It isn’t a typical ingredient in your classic coffee and walnut cake but why not give it a try? My climbing friends (aka favourite cake testers) confirmed the coffee flavour was wonderful and they couldn’t really taste the carrot but it made the cake beautifully moist, compared to the previous delicious but slightly drier prototype. And you can see it travels quite well, in case you need a decadent picnic or hiking cake!
- Preparation: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (static oven) or 160°C/320°F (fan oven)
- Make your homemade coffee essence substitute so it can cool to room temperature. 5 tbsp instant coffee diluted in 3 tbsp just-boiled water (you could have enough with just 4 tbsp coffee in 2 and a half tbsp water). You can use shop-bought coffee extract instead but I prefer diluted Nescafé classic instant coffee granules!
- Butter your cake tin, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and flour the sides. I used a 20cm/8inch diametre and 7cm/2.7inch high springform-clip round cake tin. But the quantities given below would go well in a slightly smaller cake tin (or two low sandwich tins). Alternatively, increase quantities.
- 50g/3 and a half tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium-large free-range eggs, beaten (115-120g)
- 200g/1 cup plus a third of a cup light muscovado sugar (or soft brown sugar)
- 100g/half a cup cold-pressed mild olive oil (4%) or sunflower oil
- 45g/3 tablespoons natural greek-style yoghurt mixed with half a teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- half a teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla seeds scraped from half a vanilla pod
Dry ingredients (whisked together in a small to medium-sized bowl)
- 175g/1 cup plus 3 and a half tbsp self-raising flour (in Spain you can find this in Lidl supermarkets)
- 35g/4 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon/5g baking powder
- a quarter teaspoon baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
- 150g/about 1 cup finely grated (moist) carrots (about 3 or 4 medium-sized carrots)
- 2-3 tablespoons homemade coffee essence substitute or 1 or more tbsps strong coffee extract like Camps coffee essence or French Trablit, to taste
- 75g/three-quarters of a cup roughly chopped walnuts (nice fresh-tasting ones)
- Heat the butter in a heavy-based saucepan or frying pan till it starts to turn brown (it will smell nutty and look a bit speckly). This can take a few minutes on medium heat but you need to watch carefully – when it suddenly starts browning, stir it and take off the heat quickly. Then leave to cool. This step adds flavour and saves you time and energy because you don’t have to beat and cream the butter!
- Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl till thicker and fluffier. Add the vanilla.
- Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking till it’s combined.
- Then drizzle in the butter while whisking.
- Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl then fold in gently but well with a rubber spatula or spoon.
- When the flour mixture is almost incorporated fold in the yoghurt/lemon juice, grated carrots, chopped walnuts and coffee liquid until just combined. Don’t overwork.
- Pour the cake batter into the mould (between two-thirds and three-quarters full) get into the oven immediately.
- Bake in the middle of the oven 45-50 minutes (don’t open the oven door for the first 40 mins) till an inserted skewer comes out clean and the sponge springs back when you touch it lightly with a finger.
- Allow the cake to cool 10 minutes in the tin then unmould and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before icing. Once cool you can also wrap in clingfilm and keep in an airtight container to fill the next day.
Icing (optional – use a healthier version if you prefer)
- 150g/ softened unsalted butter
- 300g/ sifted icing sugar
- 1 and a half tablespoons homemade coffee essence substitute, to taste
- 9 or more walnut halves for the top
(For a higher icing to sponge ratio: 200g butter/400g icing sugar/2 tbsp coffee liquid)
Cream the softened butter then beat in the sugar and half the coffee till well combined. Then taste, and add more coffee little by little till you achieve your ideal flavour.
Cut your cake into as many layers as you like. Before you cut, make a mark with icing sugar or flour up the side so you can remember how to position the layers on top of each other later (so the mark lines up). For this cake I used 2 Doctor Who DVDs, one on each side of the cake to lean my serrated bread knife on, and see-sawed up and down through the cake to slice it (starting with the bottom layer, then removing it and cutting the next layer, working my way up), getting four slightly ‘rustic’ kind-of-even layers!
To spread the butter icing on the layers you can use a disposable piping bag and smallish-sized nozzle (6) to pipe thin concentric circles. Then use a butter knife or metal spatula knife to spread out lightly and evenly. This system helps achieve almost even-sized layers of icing! 🙂
Storing and eating
You can store this cake in the fridge in an airtight container up to 4 or 5 days. The flavours in this cake develop and it’s even better the second day. It stays moist even in the fridge, then when you take it out leave at room temperature 20-30 minutes before eating.
It has a fuller flavour in the background than your typical coffee and walnut cake. But the sweet buttery coffee icing marries with the deliciously moist sponge that somehow tastes healthy. Which means I could eat a quarter of my cake in one afternoon. Ahem. For research purposes. 🙂
Do please have a slice of coffee and walnut cake with carrot. And if you make this cake I’d love to know your thoughts on it too!
Nice to see you again sweet reader and hope you don’t mind these little twists and turns my baking seems to take away from the classics. Wishing you a delightful week ahead with your own little twist on life and special flavours! Happy baking and eating! 🙂 x