My relationship with coffee cake is a troubled one. I consider it to be my favourite flavour – and yet I don’t think I’ve ever eaten one that I actually liked all that much. Hence, the perfect coffee cake has become something of a Holy Grail for me. This one isn’t quite there because it’s nothing like that traditional coffee cake that your Nan used to make in the eighties, but it’s still pretty darn good. For a start, it actually tastes of coffee.
This recipe is a combination of several different versions I’ve tried along my quest and uses buttermilk, brown sugar and bicarb for a moist, dark and slightly denser sponge than your traditional coffee cake. I’ve also thrown in a few spoons of Biscoff spread for good measure. If you haven’t discovered it yet, Biscoff is made from those little caramelised Lotus biscuits in the red packets that come with your coffee in Europe and is fast replacing Nutella as my eat-it-out-of-the-jar-in-a-crisis food.
If you close your eyes and concentrate really, really hard, you could almost be sipping a smooth, black Americano, overlooking the canals of Amsterdam. Sort of.
115g cooking marge
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
150g plain flour
150g caster sugar
75g soft brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g icing sugar
2 heaped tablespoons Biscoff spread
Crushed biscuits, to decorate
Makes 12, plus a couple of extras for testing and leaving one at home for your Mum (I made a slightly larger batch for the pictures).
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan. Line a muffin tray with paper cases.
Melt the margarine in the microwave or in a pan on the hob. Dissolve the coffee in 125ml of boiling water. Retain a tablespoon for the icing and mix the rest into the melted butter.
Stir the flour and sugars into the margarine and coffee mixture and leave to cool it slightly.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg and bicarb with a fork, then add to coffee mixture and mix until combined.
It is a thin batter due to the high liquid content so don’t panic if it doesn’t look like your usual Victoria sponge – it isn’t meant to.
Spoon the mixture into your cupcake cases to the usual two-thirds full and bake for 20-25 minutes (mine take 22, but ovens do vary).
When a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly in the tin, before transferring to a cooling rack. Take the butter out of the fridge to soften in the meantime.
For the icing you will need either a standalone mixer or a handheld electric beater. Cream the softened butter for a minute or two until smooth, then add the icing sugar a little at a time while mixing on low speed. Once combined, continue to beat until light and fluffy – about 4-5 minutes.
Add the Biscoff spread and beat until combined, then add the remaining dissolved coffee, a teaspoon at a time to taste. When you’re happy with the result, fit a disposable piping bag with a large star nozzle (I used a Wilton 1M) and spoon the icing into the bag, twisting and securing the top with an elastic band.
Starting at the outside of the cake, pipe swirls clockwise, pushing down and pulling away to end when you reach the middle. Sprinkle with crushed biscuits: whatever you’ve got lying around – I used amaretti – or Lotus biscuits if you’re being really authentic.
A caffeine-related warning: these may be ones to enjoy instead of your mid-morning coffee rather than with it. Unless you’re having one of those kind of days, in which case, go for it.