Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Baking with California Walnuts #wellnesscracked

Baking with california walnuts banner
A little while ago I was approached by California Walnuts to share with you my favourite walnut-based recipe. Not one to turn a challenge away, I accepted! It was pretty easy, a recipe jumped into my mind straight away, coffee & walnut cake (my god I love that cake!). However, I'd only made it once before and a) have no idea where that recipe is and b) I live in a different house now with a seriously rubbish oven. 

The challenge was to use no more than 5 ingredients... this is where I cheated a bit, in the sponge there's 6 (thanks to the addition of coffee), but only one over isn't bad eh? And surely the buttercream counts as a separate entity? :) It's easily adapted - if you don't like coffee flavours in food, simply skip adding that to both the sponge and buttercream, and you'll have a delicious walnut cake instead :)

A little bit about the star ingredient, the walnut! I've always known nuts are good for you, a good source of protein and certain oils and fats, but I didn't realise the walnut is a bit of a super-nut! Did you know:

* They're a good source of plant-based Omega-3? Good for vegetarians :) 
* Helps to keep your heart healthy
* Supports brain function and vision
* Helps keep tiredness at bay (surely a mum's go-to snack then!)
* Helps keep your hair and skin nourished
Plus loads more!

With that in mind, maybe I should have picked a *ahem* healthier recipe, but I figured, I'm pregnant and I want coffee & walnut cake, so that's what I'm going to make :) Just as a disclaimer, I used decaf coffee for this recipe, so it's safe for pregnant mummies :) 

Walnut closeup
First off - I tried a Mary Berry recipe (since she's pretty much my favourite baker!) on the BBC Good Food site, but it did not go well... the sponges came out about as thick as a pancake... it didn't seem like much quantity of ingredients (like 100g flour, 100g sugar etc) whereas I'm used to making a cake using 225g of everything. So after that disaster, I went in search of another recipe and found this one! It was quantities and a method I'm familiar with - here's how I did it:

Sponge ingredients
225g unsalted butter (room temp)
225g caster sugar
4 free-range eggs (room temp)
4 teaspoons of strongly made up decaf coffee (I used Dowe Egberts)
225g self-raising flour
75g smashed walnuts

Buttercream ingredients
125g unsalted butter (room temp)
200g icing sugar
4-6 teaspoons of strongly made up decaf coffee
8 walnut halves to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 180c and grease & line with baking paper, 2 x 20cm round cake tins
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light, pale and fluffy
3. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each egg (this is where it's good for everything to be room temp to help prevent splitting)
4. Add the coffee and mix well
5. Add the walnuts and stir well, and then fold in the flour
6. Spoon the mixture evenly between both tins and put in the oven for about 25 mins
7. Once cooked, allow to cool on a wire rack (I had a cup of tea at this point) :) 
8. Once cooled, start the buttercream - beat the butter and icing sugar together until pale and light
9. Add coffee to taste
10. Spread half the buttercream between the sponges (once they're fully cool) and spread the rest on top of the cake, decorate with California Walnuts

A finished coffee & walnut cake

I'm really chuffed with how it turned out! Squidge didn't like it, but hey, it's coffee flavoured :P Hubby loved it, as did I. The only thing I'd do differently next time is put more buttercream in the middle (I put less than half), so there's less on top - the top was just too sickly!

A half eaten coffee & walnut cake

It was nice having a recipe that included the walnuts in the sponge too, it added a really nice texture, and meant the cake didn't feel quite as naughty as you're having lovely bits of walnut with each mouthful of cake too :) I can't think of a better way to enjoy walnuts on a sunny day, sat in the garden with a slice of coffee & walnut cake, with a glass of iced-tea on the side. I'm definitely going to be reaching for them as a snack more often, I had no idea they were such good nuts :)

What's your favourite walnut recipe?

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