Espresso bolo.Afternoon tea with history

More homely than sophisticated and dainty; If push came to shove, most of us would admit to preferring the sort of cakes our grannies might have made (if they had lived in Ambridge), those ones sold on paper plates made from a WI recipe and wrapped messily in clingfilm at the village fete, bring and buy sale or the all new event The Worlds biggest coffee morning; in short, the cakes you imagine the pious Mary Berry probably feasts on for breakfast.
If I had to pick one cake to represent England, it would have to be a Coffee and Walnut Cake. The Fullers Tea Room*  version is mentioned in both Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited and Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate. That's a good enough pedigree for me! As it turns out the original Fuller's Walnut Cake had two layers with buttercream between them, as did my mothers coffee and walnut cake of my childhood, but having lost my mothers transcript, the recipe I found was for a single layer cake. I'll definitely have to try it again. However, if you want something smaller and simpler than a layer cake, this recipe will work out just fine. It's subtly walnutty,utterly butterly and not too sweet.Delicious with a cup of tea.This is a classic tea room cake as would have been served in the aforementioned Fullers who ran the tearoom for the London Coliseum,
 The London Coliseum Tea Room - From a Postcard in 1904
staffed by ladies in black and white uniform.Another celebrated tea room, Betty´s in Harrogate, the Yorkshire institution, turned 100 this year.

Growing up, this cake was a constant on our kitchen counter. My mum made it practically every week, and I would have a giant slice with a big glass of milk. It was one of the most well worn pages from her cookbook, and it wasn´t till recently that it suddenly came back to light in my head.
Coffee and walnut cake
This is a revised, more contemporary, version of one of the original sponge cakes I remember from my childhood. Now, though, since the advent of mascarpone, the icing is a great improvement. finely chopped walnuts give it amazing texture. A little cream cheese makes it especially smooth and delicious. My version however is topped with an easy espresso-infused buttercream icing. Fie on Nigel Slater or anyone else who advocates the use of instant coffee granules. I have flavoured both cake and frosting with strong homemade espresso
  •  Cake:
  • 3/4 cup walnuts (divided)
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter (softened)
  • 1 cup sugar (granulated)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons strong espresso or very strong black coffee
  • Frosting:
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons strong espresso or very strong black coffee
Heat the oven to 350 F/180 C/Gas 4. Grease and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.With a food processor or food chopper, finely chop 1/2 cup of the walnuts. Set aside.Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; blend thoroughly and set aside.In a mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat the 1/2 cup of softened butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Blend in the vanilla.In a measuring cup, combine the milk with the 3 tablespoons of espresso or coffee.With the mixer on low speed, blend in the flour mixture into the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk and espresso mixture. Blend well.Fold in the finely chopped walnuts.Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan.Bake for 25 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched with a finger. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and cool completely

In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, blend the confectioners' sugar with the 2 tablespoons of butter and the cream cheese. Beat in the strong espresso or coffee, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the frosting is fluffy and spreadable. Add more confectioners' sugar if it becomes too thin.
Coarsely chop the remaining 1/4 cup of walnuts.
Spread frosting over the top and sides of the cooled cake.
Sprinkle the coarsely chopped walnuts over the top of the cake.
* Years ago, Fullers Tea Rooms were a familiar sight in many English towns and Fullers cakes, which came surrounded with paper straw and packed in shiny, white boxes, were a nice reminder that bought cakes could be good. Fullers Walnut Cake with its crunchy white icing was legendary. 


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