You can’t have too much of a good thing, right? Apparently not correct; sponge cake may be good but coffee sponge cake gets the thumbs down from my family. Continuing my efforts to bake everything in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, cover to cover, I moved on to cake no. 3, which is a coffee sponge. Despite the fact that it contained buttercream (and after the last sponge cake, you will realise that this is considered essential to a good sponge cake in our house), I still got “nil points”, because it was coffee-flavoured.
Coffee-flavoured items do seem to divide people, rather like marmite. For me, it’s only about whether it’s flavoured with coffee and not some synthetic coffee flavouring. I did therefore veer off the recipe a little, because Mme Berry recommends instant coffee granules in the cake itself and coffee essence in the buttercream. With all due respect to her opinion, I just don’t think you can beat real coffee and anyway, I don’t have coffee essence, or granules for that matter.
When I was little, one could buy something called Camp’s coffee essence, but back then, in the good old, bad old days, no-one really drank coffee in this country – it was one of those strange, exotic, foreign things. Coffee granules were truly disgusting and it was much safer to stick to a good cup of tea. After all, it had seen us through the Blitz. We may have lived through a coffee revolution since and all know the difference between a latte and a macchiato etc, but I’m still not convinced by instant coffee. I therefore made some good strong, black coffee, fairly-traded you’ll be pleased to know, with my much-loved coffee machine. I used a couple of tablespoons in the cake mixture and then about another tablespoon and a half to flavour the buttercream. I thought the results were pretty good really, although I did ice it a little too soon while it was still warm, so the buttercream ran a little. Still, baking doesn’t get any fresher than that!
I moved on quickly to the chocolate sponge cake, item no. 4 in the book, to appease the coffee despisers. Chocolate flavoured and with buttercream too; what could go wrong? Nothing it would seem. It was a success.
Now when I have made chocolate sponges before, I have always done as I was taught by Mum and substituted about half an ounce of flour for the same amount of cocoa powder, adding a little milk so that the mixture is not too dry. The recipe stipulated mixing a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder with hot water to make a paste and adding that to the ingredients of an ordinary sponge mixture. It worked very well and is probably worth the ever so slightly greater effort. (Fairly-traded cocoa is easy to get hold of too and very good quality.) Still, that was enough following recipes for one day, so I veered off course again and so I added some vanilla bean paste to the buttercream for a better flavour and then sandwiched the cake with both buttercream and Nutella. It was decorated with some grated chocolate. Other chocolate spreads are available including fairly-traded ones, but B&B prefer Nutella.
Both sponge cakes came out light and fluffy, just as they should be. The chocolate cake in particular is not going to have chance to go stale, so I will see you very soon when I move on to the next section, Swiss rolls, plain, followed by lemon and then chocolate.