I would love to be able to grow my own walnuts but the trees are just too big for an average suburban garden. Fortunately Alberton Historic House has a walnut tree in its grounds and sells bags of walnuts from its Verandah Store, so I can at least get locally grown walnuts. They provided several walnut recipes along with the bag of walnuts, one of which was this Walnut & Coffee Cake recipe – I just had to make it.
Alberton House was built in 1863 and was originally a 2 storey farmhouse in a 500 acre country estate. It is really well preserved and the Kerr Taylor family bequeathed a ‘treasure trove of original artefacts’ including in the kitchens. “Visitors today could be forgiven for thinking the family has just popped out for a while.” Alberton House is still the centre of a thriving community, hosting regular markets, artists exhibitions, musical soires, weddings and other functions, and often stars in NZ films (most recently in the adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries). The gardens are beautifully kept and, as well as the walnuts, their chickens produce eggs for sale. And although it is no longer part of the Alberton estate, part of the original farm still continues today in the heart of Auckland city in the Mt Albert Grammar School Farm. I think it is wonderful to see history stay alive in this way.
175 g butter (at room temperature)
75g walnuts, plus extra to garnish
3 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
90ml strong cold coffee*
225g icing sugar
* The recipe only has one portion of coffee but adds coffee in 3 different places. It is unclear whether you are supposed to add 1/3 in each instance – I will do this next time. I added it all in the cake (before I realised) and found the taste to be a bit strong and it was very moist – suggesting that less was intended to have been added. The Edmonds Cookbook uses 1 tbsp (=15ml) coffee essence in its Coffee Cake recipe and 1 dsp (=10ml) in its Coffee Icing recipe. The coffee essence may be stronger than ‘strong cold coffee’ so requires less.
In a food processor, blitz two-thirds of the nuts to powder. Cube, then cream the butter in a bowl with the sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs then add the blitzed walnuts and gently stir through.
Fold the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt through with a large spoon until just incorporated.
Roughly chop the rest of the walnuts and stir through the cake mixture along with the coffee. Evenly divide the mixture into 2 greased, round 22cm cake tins and bake at 180C for 20 to 25 minutes. or until lightly golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer.
Cool the cakes in the tins for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the filling, cube and put the 65g butter in an bowl. Add the icing sugar, beat until fluffy then beat in the coffee*.
For icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and beat in the coffee to make a thick smooth icing. The ingredients for this part were also missing but I decided that it would be too rich with icing as well as filling and just sprinkled the top of the cake with icing sugar.
Place one of the cakes on a plate or board and spread with the coffee filling. Top with the second cake and drizzle over the icing (or dust with icing sugar).