The Cake Slice Bakers strive to post their cake reveal on the 20th of each month. As a college professor, mid-December is a busy time; not only are there all of the typical December goings-on (Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, kids' holiday shows), but the end of the semester brings with it tons of papers and projects to grade and final grades to calculate. And it seems that this time every year, I get sick. It's as if my body know that the semester has come to a close, so it can finally let down its guard and welcome the bug it has been fighting off! With all of this, a December 20th cake reveal wasn't happening.
We were invited to a holiday party at the home of some of my colleague-friends, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to make my December cake - just a few days late. We had four options this month, all from Roger Pizey's World Class Cakes:
1. Coffee and Walnut Cake
2. Paul A. Young's Torta Gianduja
3. Caribbean Coconut Cake with Rum
I immediately ruled out the coconut cake, as I am not a fan of coconut. I like gingerbread, but it's not something I would go out of my way for. The torta looked delicious, but it contains hazelnuts, and that's not one of my favorite flavors. That left the coffee and walnut cake. While I love coffee, I don't tend to enjoy it in things. For example, I don't really care for coffee ice cream. My husband voted for the coffee and walnut cake, so that's what I went with.
Pizey's blurb about the recipe begins: "Every family has a recipe for this classic cake and who can blame them?" I had never heard of this cake, and I was sure my family did not have a recipe for it. I wondered if my friends' families had a go-to recipe for this confection. I did some crowdsourcing on Facebook to find out.
The comments ranged from simply "nope" to confusion about coffee cake, which is a common brunch cake, often with some sort of streusel topping. I also reached out to my friend Greg who went to pastry school and has worked in bakeries. He has never heard of this cake either. Bottom line - no one has heard of this cake nor has a family recipe for it.
So then I figured I needed to research the origins of this cake. Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson tells us, "This is a subtle cake: the coffee tempers the sweetness, and the buttery sweetness keeps it all mellow." Nigel Slater, chef, food writer, and cookbook author, declares that this cake would be his choice for his last meal. Further Googling gave me my answer: this cake's origin is the United Kingdom. And the author of World Class Cakes is a Brit. So perhaps every British family has a recipe for this cake.
I baked this cake while my kids were napping, so it was peaceful and quiet. I noted the small details in the process: the wrinkles of the walnuts, the swirl of the filling as the mascarpone and coffee combined.
The cake was easy to make and turned out nicely. I had just a bite of it at the party. As someone who is not a big fan of coffee-flavored things, this cake didn't do it for me. With that being said, it had a lovely crumb, and the frosting was not too sweet. I could distinctly taste both the coffee and walnuts. It seemed to be a hit at the party, as most of the cake was gone when I left.
By the way, no one at the party had ever heard of this cake, and none of their families had a recipe for it.
Coffee and Walnut Cake
(from World Class Cakes by Roger Pizey, Race Point Publishing, 2013)