Thursday, January 17, 2013

British Film and British Baking: Cast a Dark Shadow and Coffee and Walnut Cake

Coffee and Walnut Cake

In Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), Dirk Bogarde plays a widower with a big problem--his first wife, whom he married (and murdered) for her money, was on the verge of leaving him all her assets but she died before she could sign a new will, leaving everything but the house to a sister in Jamaica. So, Bogarde goes off to Brighton to do some wealthy-widow hunting and catches Margaret Lockwood. In a departure from her usual roles, brassy Margaret Lockwood proves a match for Bogarde when she refuses to give him control over her money. Cast a Dark Shadow isn't available on DVD, so be sure to catch it on TCM this Tuesday.

Delicious Coffee and Walnut Cake, photographed in front of the Houses of Parliament page in This Is London (1959), is just the sort of thing I imagine tea shops in Brighton would have served in 1955.

Coffee and Walnut Cake

1/2 lb salted butter, very soft
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon very strong coffee*, cooled
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350˚ Fahrenheit. Grease two 8"-round cake tins and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, then add the eggs and beat well. Stir in the coffee.

In a smaller mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add in a couple of additions to the butter mixture, stirring well to combine. Stir in the walnuts and divide between the two baking tins.

Bake in the middle of the oven about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and springy. A cake tester inserted in the middle of each layer should come out clean.

Cool layers in their pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then turn out to cool completely before frosting.

6 ounces very soft salted butter
2 tablespoons very strong coffee*, cooled
2 cups powdered sugar (you may need more)
Walnuts, to decorate

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the coffee. Beat in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it's at a consistency that will spread easily.

Spread half of frosting on one layer, top with next layer then spread rest of frosting over top of cake. If you have walnut halves, arrange them around the outside edge of the cake. If your walnuts are chopped or broken, pile some in the middle of the cake or place around the edges for decoration.

Serves 12

*I brewed three tablespoons of coffee for four minutes in just enough boiling water to cover the grounds. Then, I strained the coffee and set it aside to cool. I then measured out the tablespoons for my cake from that. You could use a shot of espresso or some very strong instant coffee instead.

Adapted from Jane Brocket's Vintage Cakes, p. 45

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  1. This looks delicious and I love how you combined the idea of food and movie!

  2. WANT THIS CAKE!!! This should be my birthday cake! And the movie sounds just beyond delightfully awesome :)

    1. Do you think the cake would survive a trip through the mail? :-)

    2. I'd be willing to give it a whirl!!!!!!!! ha ha. maybe someday we can eat this cake in person together :)

  3. This sounds really good with the coffee in the cake and frosting. Pretty picture!

    1. And it's a very light coffee flavor--I'm sure you'd love it.

  4. Oh my, this one brings back memories! I think this was one of the four things my mum used to make. It's so retro, but I do love it!

    1. Nothing wrong with retro if it's yummy! Coffee and Walnut cake has got to be one of the best flavor combinations ever.

  5. Ditto londoneats - this SO reminds me of the coffee and walnut cake my mum used to make. She used Camp Coffee in hers which I think is a peculiarly English thing. I've got some at the back of my cooking cupboard so might rustle one of these up at the weekend...


    1. Camp Coffee is something I've never seen here in the United States. We definitely have more of a prejudice against instant coffee here. When Paul and I were in England there were instant coffee granules everywhere--I think he even developed a taste for Waitrose's instant coffee! In Wichita at least there's really only Nexscafé and, last time I checked, it was on the "Hispanic Foods" aisle. Which is weird.

  6. I love the flavors in this cake and yes I can also imagine it being served in Brighton years ago. I have to put this movie on my list.

  7. I'm not familiar with this movie - sounds like a fun romp! And I love the thought of coffee and walnuts together in a cake. Marvelous cake photo!


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