Refrigeration time: 6 hours or overnight, plus 2 hours on the day of serving
For the custard
butter, for greasing
4 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), yolks only
40g (1½ oz) caster/white sugar (3 tbsp)
½ tsp vanilla extract
300ml (10 fl oz) single cream/half and half cream (1¼ cups)
300ml (10 fl oz) double cream/whipping or heavy cream (1¼ cups)
3 tsp instant coffee granules or coffee essence
For the topping
4 tbsp golden caster/white sugar, if using a chef’s blowtorch
100g (3½ oz) caster/white sugar (½ cup), if not using a chef’s blowtorch
You will also need 6 x 150ml (5 fl oz) heatproof ramekins
For the custard
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) (gas 3).
Lightly grease the ramekins with butter and set to one side.
Boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, line a deep-sided ovenproof dish or roasting tin/pan with a layer of kitchen paper and sit the six ramekins on the paper (this prevents them from slipping).
Next pour both creams into a pan and heat until scalding. Remove from the heat and add the coffee granules stirring until dissolved, or just stir in the coffee essence. Leave to cool a little.
While the cream is cooling, put the egg yolks and sugar into a large bowl and whisk together.
Then gradually pour the cream into the bowl, while whisking at the same time, until the cream is blended into the egg mixture. Strain the custard into a jug and then divide between the six ramekins.
Carefully pour enough of the boiling water into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes as the custard still needs to have a slight wobble to it. Remove the dish from the oven and leave the ramekins in the water until the water has cooled.
Now take the ramekins out of the water, cover them and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
For the topping, using a chef’s blowtorch
Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar evenly over the custard in each ramekin, right to the edge, so that the custard is completely covered.
Caramelize the sugar under a direct flame.
Leave to cool and then refrigerate for two hours before serving.
For the topping, without using a chef’s blowtorch
First, have a piece of parchment paper ready on the counter top. Next, put the sugar in a stainless steel pan and add just enough water to dampen the sugar. Place over a low heat and stir the sugar until completely dissolved. Then increase the heat to medium–high. Without stirring, leave the sugar to bubble fiercely. When the bubbling lessens and the sugar has turned a pale straw colour it will be ready. Carefully, pour the caramel onto the paper (it will be extremely hot) and leave it to become cold.
Now turn the grill/broiler to high and leave for 5 minutes to get really hot.
The caramel will have hardened on cooling. Break it into small pieces and blitz in a food processor or blender until there are really fine granules (finer than caster sugar). Sprinkle evenly over the custard in each ramekin, right to the edge, so that the custard is completely covered.
Put the ramekins on a baking tray as close to the heat as possible. Cook for less than a minute, not letting the sugar burn. The heat just needs to melt the sugar.
Leave to cool and then refrigerate for two hours before serving.
These little cakes are an adaptation of ones made on the Great British Bake-off. Coffee cupcakes with chopped walnuts have a coffee buttercream filling, chopped walnuts round the sides and a swirl of buttercream on the top. They really are delicious and, although each step takes a bit of time, they are not difficult and well worth the effort.
200g (7 oz) butter, softened (¾ cup + 2 tbsp, or 1¾ sticks)
2 tbsp milk
1½ tbsp coffee extract
170g (6 oz) walnuts, finely chopped (1⅓ cups)
2 × 12 hole bun/muffin trays
a piping bag fitted with a 2D star nozzle (the size used to swirl icing on the top of cupcakes)
For the cakes
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) (gas 5)
Grease 16 of the bun/muffin holes. Base line them with parchment paper or just cut out the bottom of cupcake liners which is easier. (Don’t use the whole cupcake liner as you want the sides of the cakes to remain flat and quite firm.)
Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour with each egg. Next mix in the coffee extract. Now fold in the remaining flour and baking powder. Alternatively add all the ingredients together in a food mixer and beat until well combined.
Finally gently fold in the nuts.
Divide the mixture evenly between the 16 prepared bun/muffin holes and then pop in the oven for about 18 minutes until the top of the sponge springs back when lightly pressed with the tip of the forefinger.
Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes for the cakes to become cool enough to handle. Take a small palette knife and run round the outside of the cakes to make sure they are free from the sides of the bun/muffin holes. Then carefully lift them out, peeling off the liners, and leave on a cooling rack to become cold.
For the icing and decoration
While the cakes are cooling the icing can be prepared.
Put the butter into a large bowl and then mix in half the sifted icing/powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until creamy. Then beat in the remaining icing/powdered sugar. Add in the milk and coffee extract and beat until smooth and creamy.
Once the sponges have become cold, cut them in half horizontally. Do this very carefully as the sponges will be very light in texture. Using a little less than a quarter of the buttercream, spread a layer over the bottom half of each cake and then sandwich them back together again.
Now spread a very thin layer of the buttercream around the sides of each cake. Again this needs to be done very gently, being careful not to put pressure on the top and bottom of the cakes as you do it, or they become squashed.
Now roll the sides of each cake in the chopped nuts until thickly coated.
Finally, fill the icing bag, fitted with the star nozzle, with the remaining buttercream and swirl the icing over the top of each cake.
This version of the classic sponge is filled and topped with coffee butter icing. In the U.K. this is known as coffee cake but in North America, coffee cake can be any cake meant to accompany a cup of coffee, which is why I called this one a coffee topped sponge.
2 x 18cm/7 inch sandwich tins, base-lined and greased
Preheat the oven to 160C° (325°F) (gas mark 3)
Using a free standing mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until they are creamy and pale yellow in colour.
Next beat in the eggs, one at a time, along with a tablespoon of flour. (Adding the flour prevents any curdling)
Finally, carefully fold in the rest of the flour until just combined. You want to keep as much air as possible in the mixture.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans and level the tops. Bake towards the top of the oven on the same shelf for 30–35 minutes until firm to the touch. (When pressing a finger gently on top of the cake in the middle it shouldn’t leave a depression)
Leave in the tins for 2 minutes, then carefully remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
Using an all-in-one method in a free standing mixer
The ingredients can be mixed at the same time using a free standing mixer. To make sure you get a good rise add 1½ teaspoons baking powder.
Sift the flour and baking powder together into the mixing bowl. Then add the remaining ingredients and beat for 1 minute.
For coffee buttercream
Beat the butter, then gradually beat in the icing/powdered sugar until light and creamy. (A free standing mixer does this in no time.)
Beat in the coffee essence/extract until it is well mixed in.
Once the sponges are cold, carefully invert one onto a plate and evenly spread half the buttercream over. Then place the other sponge on the top and evenly spread the remaining buttercream over the top of this.
To make a pattern, make straight lines through the buttercream using a fork. Just pull steadily through the surface of the buttercream. Then diagonally pull the fork through at intervals.
For more tips on cake baking, click on my ‘Tips’ section.
Whisk the egg whites until they are just stiff. Gradually whisk in the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking well between each addition. Add the coffee essence until well incorporated. The meringue should now be stiff and glossy.
Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Dabbing a little meringue on each corner of the baking sheets first will keep the linings in place.
Spoon the meringue into the piping bag and pipe 20 swirls of meringue on the paper. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes until the meringues are dry. Allow to cool, then remove from the paper.
For the filling
Whip the cream until it forms a soft peak and use it to sandwich the meringues together in pairs.
Sift lightly with cocoa powder using a small sieve.
These meringues are flavoured with coffee and, when cooked, a little melted chocolate is drizzled over. Serve on their own or with whipped cream or ice cream. Whatever you choose, they just melt in your mouth.
If using coffee granules, dissolve in a ½ teaspoon of hot water and set aside to cool.
Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until just stiff. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly until the mixture becomes very thick and glossy. Then whisk in the coffee.
Dab a little meringue on the corners of the baking sheets (this will prevent the parchment paper from slipping).Then line each sheet with baking parchment pressing down at the corners. Spoon 4 mounds of meringue on each baking sheet, spacing well apart. Bake for 1 hour. The meringues should feel hard to the touch and lift off the parchment paper easily. Leave to cool completely.
Break the chocolate into small pieces, put in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of just simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth, then remove from the heat and leave until the chocolate has cooled. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the meringues and leave to set for at least 15 minutes before serving.