Monthly Archives: August 2010

The perfect pick-me-up

I came home on Friday rather tired after one of Those weeks at work (luckily they are very rare, but this week was one of them – office politics, idiots on the phone, that sort of thing). So naturally I decided to bake something to make myself feel better, and what better than some little coffee cakes?

I used the recipe from the Primrose Bakery cookbook, tweaking a bit so I could use the espresso machine.

I love our espresso machine. It’s not the sort of thing we’d buy but it was a hand-me-down from Henry’s parents. I’m sure I drink a lot more coffee with it though, as it’s way too easy when all you have to do is press a button. And the little espresso cups are so cute!
I wanted to make small cakes too, the sort of thing you could have with a cup of tea after dinner and not feel stuffed, or that you could eat just before dinner and not spoil your appetite (but you didn’t hear that from me). So I used the little fairy cake cases, rather than the muffin cases that I use for serious cupcakes, and halved the recipe.

***
Little espresso cakes
Makes 12 small cakes
55g butter, at room temperature
55g demerara sugar
60g light brown soft sugar
1 egg
60g plain flour
60g self-raising flour
small espresso, or 1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
60ml milk, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 160C (fan oven) or 180C/350F.
Line a cake tray with fairy cake papers.
Cream the butter and sugars until pale and smooth, then mix in the egg.
Combine the flours in a separate bowl, and the milk and espresso in a jug.
Add 1/3 of the flours and beat well, then 1/3 of the liquid and beat. Repeat until all have been mixed in.
Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling to about 2/3 full.
Bake for 20 minutes until raised and golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Coffee buttercream
75g butter, at room temperature
175g icing sugar
1 small espresso (or 1 tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water)
1/2 tbsp milk, at room temperature
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, milk, coffee and half the icing sugar until smooth. Add the rest of the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
Ice your cakes them top with chocolate covered coffee beans or dark chocolate drops.
***

All in all they were pretty good, though next time I think I’d add more coffee.

I was most glad of them today. Today we went canoeing with work to raise money for charity (I know, I have one of Those weeks then get up at 7.30 on a Sunday to go and spend the day with work people…)

It was all rather lovely, until we had a bit of canoe-rivalry with Henry’s canoe and ended up in the river. Well, it was fine – the water wasn’t that cold, and it was shallow where we’d capsized. So after tipping the water from the canoe and putting my socks on the front to dry, we were off again. About an hour later, after we’d just been drifting along enjoying the peacefulness of it all, we ran into rapids, and also a tree. Stabilising a Canadian canoe is hard when the water is fast and you’re desperately trying not to be beheaded, so we all fell in again. I managed to grab my shoes and skirt, and even my water bottle, but my socks were sacrificed to the river. Luckily the stones weren’t too sharp as I was barefoot and we had to go a little way down the river before we could right the canoe. (I say “we” – in reality as I was at the front of the canoe and was the lightest of its occupants, and more concerned with grabbing my clothes and oar than the canoe itself, I was a fair way downstream and played no part in righting the canoe. In fact I was rescued by some kindly strangers, who helped me into their boat and dropped me off at a nearby bank. I’m sure the water was colder second time around, so I changed into a spare top as I was getting rather chilly.

Foolish idea of course as we had barely set out again when we met more rapids, or more like a single bump in the river, which we completely failed to navigate and of course ended up in the water for a third time. At this point the water was deeper and faster, so once again having grabbed my clothes/shoes/bottle, I had no choice but to float down the river a way until I could get my footing. The other two made the executive decision to float down with the canoe until there was a good place to stop. Not willing to get on board with this idea as I was now freezing, I was saved by one of my colleagues, who had her two teenage sons on board, and was actually competent at canoeing. So for the last stretch before lunch I was sitting in the bottom of their canoe in an ever-growing puddle, holding onto my clothes for dear life. Oh, and did I mention I stripped to my bra to put on a dry fleece that my colleague kindly lent me? Well, I was shivering and my teeth were chattering.

I did pretty well at putting a brave face on it I think, but I was seriously cold and just wanted to go and hunch under a hand-dryer at the pub (in fact, the pub didn’t have hand dryers – probably on purpose or their electricity costs would be through the roof with novices such as myself attempting to dry off a little). Anyway, I managed to find a dry t-shirt, and put my waterproof on over the top for warmth, and wrap my towel around myself for a skirt – trying to lead a flanneling revival, don’t you know – have some food then get a lift home with Henry’s mum, who had met us for the picnic. I was certainly not about to set off down the river in that ill-fated boat for the second leg (and a good thing too, as I hear they all went in again – clearly it was not just me cursing the damn thing).

My tale of woe does not end there though. Henry had the house keys locked in the car, so we went back to get a spare set from his parents’ house… only we couldn’t find the spare set. So I decided to try and break into my own flat, as I’d left one of the windows open a little so Betty would have some fresh air. Good thing we live on the ground floor, really. Our windows are sash windows that we recently had put in to replace the old ones. They have little button things that pop out when you unlock them, so that the windows only open about 4 inches, meaning you can happily go canoeing with your windows open and know that nobody can break in.

Unless they have two sticks from your garden, that is. I couldn’t reach the buttons with my hands, but with the help of two sticks I managed to eventually press down both buttons at once and slide the window open. Success! Shall definitely keep those two sticks handy, in case of future situations where I may need to break into my own house.

Anyway, the point of all that was that finally (soaked, dried and soaked again, slightly bruised from my desperate attempts to housebreak and basically wanting nothing more than a nap), when I’d located a dry towel, made a cup of tea and was running a hot bubbly bath, one of these little cakes was just the pick-me-up I needed – only next time, sod ruining my appetite before dinner, sod feeling stuffed after dinner, I’m putting four times as much espresso in, making them twice as big, and knowing that should any sort of dire situation arise, all I’ll need to deal with it is one of these and a nice cup of tea. Or, if the situation is so dire that all I’m capable of doing is pressing a button, these cakes would go beautifully with an espresso.