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Guest post: Coffee cake and memories

Happy face cupcake ©Pinch of Salt
For my first guest post, I knew it had to be someone I could trust blindly. Someone who knew me as well as I knew them. Which is why Renuka from Pinch of Salt is filling in for me today. I hope you like what you read.

Coffee cake and memories

Ruchira: (Sauntering into office) What’s in your dabba yaar Renuks?
Me: Hmmm.. I think it is utthappam and podi or something.
R: Oh yay! Give to me Renuks. I’m a hunger. No breakfast

Now that’s how almost every conversation between Ruchira and me would begin, every single day. And no, I’m not making this up. When this super-talented cook asked me to write a post for her blog, my main worry wasn’t about what to say about her but it was more to do with how I should condense all that into one blog post. Sometimes words just don’t seem enough, isn’t it?

Anyway, coming back to it. I was thinking about what to call her – are we just ex-colleagues? Friends? Foodies-in-crime? I couldn’t put my finger on it. You know how you have some of these people in your life, you don’t need to call them regularly, you don’t have to tell them every single detail of your life as it unfolds and nor do you have to meet regularly; but yet every time you connect its like nothing really ever changed. Something like that old, comfy tee you slip into every time you’re a little under the weather, this is one of those bonds. I still remember how I’d once put up a BBM status about whether I should bake apple muffins or a raisin cake and within seconds I had a recipe for apple cinnamon muffins sitting in my SMS inbox. No prizes for guessing whom it came from!

The Ruchira I know today isn’t very different from the one I worked with a couple of years ago. She’s funny, whimsical, frank and has oodles of confidence in whatever she does. But in a certain way she’s also very different from the person I’d known before; much calmer, settled, happier and thankfully, a little bit of that madness is still intact.

We went through a whole lot of options for this post and finally settled on this coffee-caramel cake with a Lindt frosting. Strangely, the recipe for this has been adapted from Pioneer woman’s site, which is something that Roochie introduced me to. And interestingly, this was made for the seventh anniversary of the same place where we both worked together. What is it that they say about karma?

This cake was special for several reasons. Yes, it was the seventh anniversary and all that but apart from that it was also a celebration of a team sticking together through near-impossible deadlines, horribly extended work hours, functioning with a skeletal few at times and still learning how to laugh despite all this. A quick poll revealed that most of the people wanted a chocolate cake and I went, “Oh no! Not another chocolate cake.” So after some amount of debating and tossing our options, we finally settled in on coffee. But I wanted that element of to be present and this was a special occasion after all, so I decided to do a Lindt frosting that went very well with this ultra-moist cake.

This coffee cake has been adapted from Pioneer Woman’s recipe, I added the caramel to it just to make sure the cake wasn’t too coffee-y or bitter. It worked well because you smelt coffee and tasted hints of caramel at the first bite and then you were left with that warm, comforting coffee feeling that only well-brewed coffee can induce.

I'm seeing stars ©Pinch of Salt

Coffee caramel cake
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp of baking soda
¼ tsp of salt
2 cups of sugar, I used demerara sugar that I then caramelized a little
¾ cup of butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
½ cup of buttermilk
2 tsp of vanilla essence
3 tbsp of instant coffee powder, which I mixed with a ¼ cup of warm water

For the frosting:
100 gms of Lindt milk chocolate
3 tbsp of milk
¼ cup of fresh cream
4 tbsp of powdered sugar
¼ tsp of vanilla essence
½ tsp of instant coffee powder
1 tbsp of cocoa powder

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together. Keep this aside. PW doesn’t call for any sifting of the flour, but then this is one step I never miss out on simply because it makes the end product so much more fluffier.  

In a saucepan melt the butter and add the coffee decoction to it. Stir well and when the mixture just begins to bubble, take it off the flame. Allow this to cool down completely before proceeding further, otherwise if you mix it into the egg mixture you will end up having scrambled coffee flavoured eggs!

In a mixing bowl put the caramelized sugar, buttermilk and vanilla together and mix well. Add the butter-coffee mixture to this and gradually add the eggs one at a time. Fold the flour mixture into this and stir gently. Using an electric beater, beat this batter for a minimum of 10 minutes until the lumps have disappeared and you’re left with a smooth, brown batter. Note: I realized the batter is a little to liquid so I was almost tempted to alter it with a little bit of this and that. But then I curbed the temptation, and thank God for that because the end product was light, fluffy and you would never guess how much butter went into it!

Pour the batter into greased baking tins/ muffin tray and bake for 40 minutes (approx) if it’s a cake and 20-25 minutes for cupcakes. Remove the cake from the oven when it is completely done, you’ll know this when a skewer/toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, and allow it to completely cool down before frosting it.

For the frosting:
Melt the chocolate in a saucepan with some milk or you can do this in a microwave. When the chocolate has completely melted, add the cocoa powder and coffee powder followed by the vanilla essence. Mix well and allow it to cool down a bit before proceeding.

Once this mixture has cooled down, add the rest of the ingredients and whisk well to make a thick mixture. Pour into an airtight container and chill in the fridge before using on the cake.

You can use chocolate curls or sugar sprinkles (like I did here) to make the cake look pretty. But a word of caution, because of the quality of chocolate used this frosting tends to melt faster than usual so its wise to chill the cake until just before you actually want to eat it. While the cakes were baking I had a lot of time on hand, so I used some emoticons from the kiddie section in a magazine, some toothpicks and glue to create those flag-like decorations.

What me worry? ©Pinch of Salt
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