Murdock’s Mocha Cake

Even without a particularly sweet tooth, sometimes you can just feel like a cake, can’t you? I love coffee flavoured sweets and cakes, but I know it’s not for everyone, (and there are people I am compelled to share cake with) so I made a coffee cake (with ground almonds), with chocolate butter icing, swizzled with runny chocolate icing and scattered liberally with toasted pumpkin seeds.

As I was making it, the mixture split at the egg stage, and the curdling remained even after I added flour, so I wasn’t expecting great things. It was a nice surprise when it came out perfectly cooked and moist.

Set oven at 180 deg C (possibly 350 deg F, dunno). Weigh three or four eggs -as close to 200g as you can get. This means removing them from their shells and weighing their liquidities.

Match their weight in butter and sugar – cream these together; mix in the eggs one at a time (don’t dump them in all together and then over mix them, trying to get the lumps out!); and finally sift in the same weight of self raising flour.

I replaced about half the flour with ground almonds and added some baking powder through sheer paranoia of it not rising, (I hate the taste of baking powder but my love for almonds overpowers that).

Coffee and nuts go together so well. Not to mention chocolate and coffee, and chocolate and nuts. I know that anyway, but Nikki Segnit of The Flavour Thesaurus says so too, so it must be true. So go on, throw about 5 teaspoons of espresso powder/granules into a small cup, mix with warm water until dissolved and add to the cake mixture.

Stick it in the oven in a tin as greased and lined as you care to do. If you do both, the paper peels away more easily. Or, put another way: if you don’t grease it, the paper takes a few chunks of cake with it. Ask me how I know.

Cake pops out of the oven 35-45 mins later; mine was a bit wobbly on top, but surprisingly it didn’t sink, and when I stuck a knife in it (I’ve lost my cake skewer), it said it was done.

The chocolate butter icing is 4oz unsalted butter, soft, and 8oz icing (confectioner’s) sugar, creamed together (stick blender time!) with 4 very heaped teaspoons of cocoa powder. It isn’t shiny like the photo seems to show.

Spread it roughly on the top – be generous, go right over the edges.

Make some ordinary runny chocolate icing – so much cocoa, so much icing sugar, and enough water to make it run. The runnier, the better. Drizzle that across the top of the butter icing in lines or swirls or whatever.

I toasted a handful of pumpkin seeds on 180 deg C for about 10 mins. I thought it would have looked nicest if I could gold leaf some of the seeds, but who does that? I was after a nutty flavour to top it with, but nuts are expensive (and have you seen the price of pine nuts?!) so toasting the seeds and sprinkling them on the top (along the sticky brown icing lines) was a smart budgetary thing to do – a cheaper alternative – and gave a strong flavour to break through all that cloying icing.

The result was a rich but not over sweet cake (made with soft brown sugar, by the way), topped by an icing so rich it’s a megalomaniac, and little green nuts.

I give you … Murdock’s Mocha Cake.

If I could change anything, I would put more cocoa in the butter icing.

Murdock's Mocha Cake

*I’ve noticed my recent cakes look a bit puddingy in the photos, but honestly, they’re not, and I would admit it if they were. This one was moist, but the texture was perfectly cakey.


And this week’s Kitchen Hero is….

… the Phillips stick blender for turning my weekly buy of ground coffee (which has just gone up from £2.00 to a whopping £3+ in the Co-op) into less than half the price. Yes, coffee beans DO blend! The longer you keep blending, the finer the ‘grind’. £1.32 for the same quantity.

As the recession gets deeper, we keep being told that it is the worst ever; the worst since the 1930s; the worst since records began. Not consistent, then. What IS consistent, is that basic ingredients are going up. The three for two deals (not helpful when you live on your own or in a couple) are looking more and more lucrative, but they’re never for ingredients; only for ‘made’ goods. Bottled pasta sauce is great in an emergency, but the simplicity and the spiritual gain in making your own is the point of this blog.

The more resourceful we can be, the better.

A Lesson in Following Recipes… or, Disaster Strikes in Coffee Pudding Fiasco! is a varied food blog with a lot of different writers. It has a very American style and a good mix of people who write on it. Serious Eats is a bit more classy (has a beautiful foodporn page, too).  There are some foods and recipes on there that seem quite foreign to Magpie’s limited view and the urge to try them out grew too much this afternoon.

Alas, Magpie’s greed tends to interfere with her cooking.

The Thai Coffee Bread Pudding looks completely fabulous on the image. The imaginary mouthfeel is distinctly present at the front of the hard palate and curious to see if it would turn out, Magpie converted the quantities and halved them. (The recipe serves 8-10 people!) The temperature throughout was 160deg C which was surprising. I have been baking bread&butter pudding in too high a heat for years!

Two bread buns (oven baked, not steam – crusty bread unless a sweet one), cubed, weighed in at about 6oz. Dry them out in the 160deg C oven for about 10 mins and stick them in the baking dish you’re going to use.

Heat the required and STIPULATED quantity of coffee powder (that is, 3 tblsps) in 360ml milk (more on this later) till dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together:
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg

less than 1 teaspoon (tsp) each of cardamon and cinnamon.
120g light brown sugar

Whisk into the above mixture:
the coffee milk
200ml condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

Pour over the bread into the baking dish and leave to soak for at least 20 minutes.

Paint 2oz melted butter over the top of the pudding, sprinkle it with white sugar and place in the oven for 30-40 mins. The idea is to eat it with orange zesty chantilly cream.

Unfortunately as you’ve probably guessed, Magpie thought the coffee taste wouldn’t be strong enough (having an odious view of freeze dried coffee granules), so dumped an extra 2-4 (can’t even remember, so stupid an idea it was) tablespoons of coffee into the milk.
It may not have been the £4 espresso powder stipulated, but it sure was strong. The look on Himself’s face as he consumed the first spoonfuls was the same one you’d expect accompanying a mouthful of lemons! The overload of coffee made it bitter, despite the dish’s aspirations to be a sweet, rich pudding. What a shame.

Always encouraging, Himself allocated a score of 9 out of 10 for effort and what Magpie suspected was a very generous 4/10 for ‘taste’.

It looked really lovely though.