1970s style coffee and walnut cake

Yesterday was my last day of gainful employment for some time. I decided to take maternity leave as early as possible with Baby Bell II in order to spend some quality time with my first born. You see, I went back to work when Charlie was only 11 weeks old. The sob story goes that as I was in labour at home, wallowing in our birthing pool, poor Mr B opened a letter that had just landed on our doormat informing him his job was at risk. Being wonderful, he said not a word. Though in hindsight the distraction might have been useful as I was generally making quite a fuss and shouting that there was clearly something ******* wrong and labour can't really be this painful.

All was fine in the end; Mr B didn't lose his job, I went back to work and my dear Mother put her hand up to look after Charlie. We couldn't have done it without her and shudder to think how anyone copes with childcare that ends abruptly at 6pm. It hasn't always been easy. I admit to feeling a stabbing sensation in my chest when he prefers to have Nanny read stories to him every morning. And sometimes his eagerness to leave the house (standing at the front door shouting 'Nanny!') without so much as a backwards glance is hard not to take personally.

But now it's my turn. As of Monday he and I are home alone. I'm a bit worried as to how I'll entertain him all day if I'm honest. My Mum is a natural with children, whereas I stopped frequenting Starbucks when they started their babychino nonsense. It simply attracted too many whimpering under 5s. I used to like my coffee served without snot. Now I just dream about coffee with caffeine as it's off the menu until October.

On to the recipe... I wanted to make a thank you cake for my Mum and frankly only one cake would do. It had to be coffee and walnut as it was one of her staples in the 80s when she was really quite into her baking. This recipe is from one of her cook books. I need to dig it out in order to attribute it.

- 170g margarine or butter
- 170g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 200g self raising flour, sieved if you have the time
- 2 tablespoons of strong black coffee (If you have a fancy coffee machine or a cafe nearby then espresso is perfect, otherwise use instant. I did.)
- 60g chopped walnuts

For the icing and topping:
- 170g butter
- 450g icing sugar, sieved
- 1 tablespoon of strong black coffee
- walnuts (about 110g but as many or as few as you prefer)

Take the butter for the icing out of the fridge and set aside to soften. If you forget you can always use the microwave being careful not to end up with a swimming mess of molten butter, which has happened to me more times than I care to admit to.

Preheat the oven to Gas 4 and take 2 x 8 inch non stick cake tins and line with baking paper. I loathe this job. So much that I purposefully bake more cupcakes than anything else. Lazy Holly. It's actually fairly easy if you follow this method. Here's a quick video I found that explains it better than I could in words: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vLmRXI-m1Q

Using either a handheld electric mixer, or a freestanding one or a wooden spoon (ouch), cream together the marg/butter and the caster sugar until it's light and fluffy. Slowly add the beaten egg, a smidgen at a time and carry on beating. Any more than a dribble and the mixture curdles. Not to worry if it does, just add a tablespoon of flour and carry on. Continue until all the egg has mixed in.

Next fold in the flour and coffee using a metal spoon, being careful not to beat the air out. Lastly fold in the chopped walnuts then spoon equally into the two cake tins and spread until smoothed to the edges and level. Pop into the middle of the oven for about 35 mins but do check after 25 if your oven is over zealous. Once cooked, remove gently from the tins and cool on a wire wrack if you have one. If not, just cool on the chopping board but open the window to minimise condensation from the cooling cake making it soggy.

Whilst the cake is rising, make the icing. Cream together the icing sugar, coffee and butter until light and fluffy. This takes about 3 mins in the Kenwood. (I'd go as far as to say the Kenwood changed my life.) Anyway, once made, set the icing aside until the cakes have cooled.

Sandwich the cakes together using the butter cream icing, then spread some on the top and decorate with nuts. I pulsed most of the walnuts in a coffee grinder so that I could write 'Thank You' in silver balls. I can't imagine this will be a popular adornment though. Oh, and don't be tempted to put the cake together until it's completely cold. I've made this mistake before and of course the butter simply melts. Ergh.
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