Hello Koala fans…
Things have been going reasonably well down here on the coast. My new place of work has been wonderfully supportive and I feel happy and comfortable here. Bournemouth seems to be a better fit for me than living in London was, although each has their merits. London has good shopping and better public transport while Bournemouth has breathable air, for example.
Every so often I need to pop back home to keep in touch with the folks and generally catch up on things and last weekend was one of those times. I was toying with the idea of making a cake for my new workmates too. However, things didn’t quite go according to plan…
On the night before I had to head down to Bournemouth, I had a very strange dream. I dreamt that there was a blue whale sitting on my chest and that it was grumbling because I wasn’t very comfortable.
The Koala was rather annoyed with me. I’d been back for a couple of days and while I’d gotten the ingredients together to make the cake, I hadn’t actually started yet. In my defence though, my bed was huge and soft and warm and zzzzz…..
The other reason I was slow getting started was that I wasn’t sure what to make. Originally, I wanted to do something vaguely festive, what with Christmas just around the corner. However, after looking through yet another page of mince pie recipes and even worse jokes, I settled on a mocha cake. I’m not a huge coffee drinker but every so often I’ll take the time to make a good filter coffee, especially if I have a blog entry to write and haven’t properly woken up yet. Mocha is one of those weird middle ground things that can’t quite make up its mind what it wants to be. Translating it into a cake would be an interesting challenge.
The recipe I used for this one came from my Clandestine Cake Club book, so unfortunately I haven’t been able to get an online version of it yet. The idea of the cake is similar to the marble cake I made for my friend’s leaving do all those months ago, except with more coffee.
By the time I started it was getting well into the afternoon and I could feel the impending deadline of my train departure looming. This is where things started to go wrong. As regular readers will know, I’ve made quite a lot of sponge cakes on here before, both in large and cupcake sized versions. I’d done it many times before – absolutely nothing would go wrong because it’s familiar ground. Right?
I’m writing this up from my iPad while laying on my bed in Bournemouth. It’s a considerably more comfortable way to write an entry but unfortunately my location is about 100 miles away from my recipe book. As a result, my memory of the amounts used is a little fuzzy. I do remember that the first stage in making the cake was 170g of caster sugar combined with 170g of butter.
As usual, the first step involves beating the sugar and butter together. The smoother you can make it, the more evenly the cake will rise. You can either do this by hand or with an electric whisk.
Next, I added three eggs, one at a time and whisking gently after each. Then it was just a matter of folding in the self raising flour and the basic batter was ready. I then divided it between two bowls, in order to add the coffee mixture and cocoa mixture to each half separately. The coffee mixture was 1 tbsp of instant coffee with 1 tbsp of boiling water. For the cocoa, the ratio was 1 tbsp of cocoa to 2 tbsp of water. This made sense given the relative densities of them.
As you may have spotted, there’s a cupcake tray lurking just behind the Koala and the Twins. My first plan was to convert the recipe into mocha style cupcakes with coffee icing on top. As I began to gauge the amount of cake mix I had and my remaining time, I chose to play it safe and stick with the book recipe. This would result in two 18cm round sponges stacked on one another.
With the coffee and cocoa batters, I added them to the tin, swirled them with a knife and popped them in the oven for about 25 minutes. It came out fairly well in terms of texture but…
A rather more pressing issue was that of the amount of cake mix I had. I had followed the recipe carefully, as always, but I found myself rather short.
By now, I was really running short of time and I still hadn’t started on the icing. Luckily, I still had enough ingredients to make a second sponge, so in what was possibly a new record time, I put another one together and slammed it in the oven.
By now I was really starting to wonder about this recipe, especially when it came to doing the icing. The coffee buttercream needed the same 1:1 coffee mix that I used for the sponge but it also asked for 2 tbsp of milk. Mum popped in to the kitchen at this point to gently remind me* about my train but also to see if she could help. Immediately she spotted that the cream was not very thick and added some extra icing sugar.
At this point things were spiralling into chaos. The second sponge was out but still too warm to set on the cream, the centre seemed a little undercooked and the koalas were holding an impromptu Highland Games.
I had to take a gamble at this point. Even though it wasn’t quite ready, I began assembling the cake…and the top sponge started coming apart. My mum is a veteran of baking though and she had a brainwave. We hollowed out the centre of the cake and topped it off with the remaining coffee cream.
We’d managed to salvage the cake. The slice I tried was pretty good too. However, it wasn’t up to the standards I usually set before sharing my cakes with others, especially given that this was going to be a first impression. To my new workmates in Bournemouth – I’ll try again soon with a simpler recipe and hopefully things will be better!