Piece of cake anyone? This is one of my favourites, a cardamom and espresso pecan cake with espresso icing and pecan praline. It won the cake category in the 2015 Wandworth Bakeoff, judged by Dan Lepard (master baker and judge on ‘The Great Australian Bake Off’), Marion Piffaut (Biscuiteers Boutique), and Dee Gill (Baker of the Year 2015 Farm Shop & Deli Show Awards, Dee Light Baker).
Perfect with a cup of tea or good strong espresso.
- Heat oven to 200 °C (conventional) or 180 °C (fan).
- Lightly butter two 18-cm cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
- Blitz the pecans to a fine dust in a food mixer then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Crush the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar, remove the pods, and grind the seeds to a powder. Add the ground cardamom to the ground pecans. Sift in the flour and baking powder and stir to mix.
- Reduce 100 ml of the espresso in a small saucepan to about 50 ml, then leave to cool.
- Put the remaining 50 ml espresso plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan and reduce to a syrup (about 4 tablespoons).
- Cream the butter and 150 g of the light brown sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a spoonful of the flour/pecan mixture before the second egg. Then add the flour/pecan mixture and 3 tablespoons of the reduced espresso.
- Divide the cake mixture between the two cake tins. Put in the centre of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until risen and cooked. To test, insert a skewer into the centre of the cakes, leave for 3 seconds and then remove; the skewer should come out clean when the cake is ready. Leave the cakes in the tins for 5 minutes to cool. Afterwards, run a knife around the edge and release the cake onto a cooling rack. Be careful, they will be fragile!
- Crush the remaining 75 g soft light brown sugar to remove any lumps, then beat into the mascarpone. Leave in the fridge until ready.
- Brush the coffee syrup over the bottom of the top cake and over the top of the bottom cake. Spread the mascarpone on the bottom half, and then top with the second cake.
- Mix the icing sugar with the reduced espresso to make a loose icing. Drizzle over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Keep it messy!
- Heat the caster sugar over a medium heat in a pale saucepan, without stirring.
- When the sugar has melted around the edges, give the pan a good shake and leave on the heat again until a quarter of the sugar has melted. Then stir gently with a wooden spoon until the caramel has melted. Continue cooking, stirring now and then, until the melted sugar turns to the colour of dark, runny honey, and you detect the first note of bitterness. Add the pecans, swirl to coat, and then swiftly pour the caramel and pecan mixture onto baking paper on a cutting board. Gently tease out some of the nuts to add as whole decoration. Use a fork – the mixture will be scalding hot.
- When the caramel nut mixture is cold and has hardened, set aside the whole nuts, and blitz the remaining caramelised nuts into small- to medium-sized chunks.
- Decorate the cake with the whole nuts and the crushed caramelised pecans.