Monday, 25 March 2013

a coffee review, a coffee cake and the viking

... as a food blogger of some repute (eh?) I get sent some lovely things from some lovely PR people, busy representing their brands... regular readers will know that rather than a straight up review I like to include whatever i'm sent as an ingredient in something i'm going to cook... i find this the fairest way to review a product and it also makes this more interesting for the reader I feel, as review after review on blogs can be so dull if it's just done under the 'look what I got, isn't it pretty' context... however, sometimes the stars align in such a way that this simply isn't possible which happened to me this week when three coffee brands sent me their products...

... now, i'm a coffee drinker and fresh ground coffee is not cheap, especially if you're keen to purchase fairtrade products, so it's actually a delight to receive coffee... but The Viking is a coffee lover... a real aficionado... in fact for someone who dislikes the ritual of food so much, what he doesn't know about coffee is, well, very little... so for us this is the ultimate prize for all the hard-work i've put into blogging over the years... something that The Viking can actually enjoy that I get sent for free... you have no idea how much this has put a smile on his face this past week...

... so in a moment of madness I have decided to do a full 'review and compare' with the three coffee brands and ask The Viking to be the Simon Cowel to my Sharon Osborne...

the three coffees i've been sent to review are a selection of Puro Fairtrade coffees made by a Belgian company called Miko who have been roasting coffee for 212 years... a selection of Douwe Egberts  coffees along with a fab hassle-free Oxo Groundskeeper French Press... and a pack of Aromo Espresso ground coffee made by a British based company who are keen on making good coffee for ordinary people...

douwe egberts and the oxo groundskeeper french press
the first to arrive at Belleau Cottage, probably the best known coffee brand and most likely the one that many of us have tried before although i'd never heard of their Fired Up blend which packs a 6 when it comes to strength and boy did it pack a punch in both the aroma and taste department... The Viking drinks coffee so thick you could stand a spoon up in it but even this took his breath away... a little too intense for me, whilst their regular Cafe Milano was a fair tasting Italian style blend that we'd both be happy to drink on a regular basis... but what was most wonderful about this delivery was the Oxo French Press with revolutionary Groundskeeper ladle that sits in the bottom of the carafe so that once used you simply lift the coffee grinds away and throw out onto your flowerbeds... you cannot imagine the rigmarole we go through every morning chucking our coffee grinds, so this really is a huge bonus and has now replaced our regular cafetiere for our morning coffee...

puro fairtrade coffee
many coffee companies wax lyrically about their environmentally friendly work ethics and this seems particularly prevalent in this politically friendly hot-house environment... but the good people at puro fairtrade coffees seem to have the leading edge on this with their very reason for existing as a company to help protect the people and land from where the coffee comes... they even have a rainforest reserve named after them... I was sent 3 blends; the fuerte which as the name suggests was a deeper richer roast and quite intensely drinkable, the organic, my favourite of the three as it had some delightful citrus overtones and the noble, which i'm afraid we really didn't like at all... it was bitter and un-palatable... never thrown coffee away before but did with this one, which is a shame. They did send me some fairtrade drinking chocolate which i'm sure will make up for it and I very much look forward to trying, so watch this space...

aromo coffee
i'd never heard of aromo coffee before I was sent some to try and they offered to send me their ese coffee pods for which I think they are best known but I don't have a machine to take them so plumped for the ground coffee instead... what arrived was a pack of intensely rich espresso coffee that both The Viking and I have been enjoying for three mornings now... it may be the simplicity of the flavours but it really worked for us with The Viking commenting this morning that 'it really grows on you this one, doesn't it?'... i must say i'm not a huge fan of their brand style... lots of women lurching at the camera with cheesy grins but I guess it's a successful marketing tool for them and it clearly works... most importantly the coffee was great and that, surely is what matters most...

italian blend coffee and walnut cake
so you can imagine that I was keen to make something from all this coffee, something that would help bring out that incredibly intense coffee flavour and I trawled my cookbooks and internet sites for an innovative recipe but every time I kept coming back to this... the humble coffee cake... there are french-press loads of recipes out there but a firm favourite has to be this one by Nigel Slater who includes the walnut pieces in the cake batter not just as an afterthought on top of the icing... it's quite a delightful cake which I photographed and then gave directly to my neighbour Tracey for her birthday, so she can tell you how good it tastes... as you can see by the amount of icing i've used in pictures the cake seriously sank in the middle, something that hasn't happened to me in ages so I am clueless as to why it happened this time, although I'm sure it won't effect the taste in any way...

for the cake batter
175g butter
175g golden caster sugar
65g walnut halves
3 large free-range eggs
175g self-raising flour combined with
1 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee - cold - I used the Italian Blend by Douwe Egberts

for the icing
200g butter
400g icing sugar
2 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee - cold - I used the Italian Blend by Douwe Egberts

in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  I use a wooden spoon and some elbow grease but feel free to use an electric whisk or one of the fancy machines that takes up too much space on the counter top... one the butter is nice and light and fluffy beat in one egg at a time followed by a little flour.

once all the flour and eggs have been beaten in add the coffee and two thirds of the walnuts which you crumble in.  Mix it well in then pour into your two sandwich tins dividing it equally between the two.

bake on 180C for 20 mins or until golden and a skewer or knife comes out clean. place on a wire rack to cool

meanwhile make the icing by carefully beating the butter with the icing sugar... adding the coffee half way through will help reduce the clouds of icing sugar lining your kitchen

spread one third onto the bottom layer of the cake then place the second layer on top and spread the rest of the butter icing all over the top and sides... decorate with walnut halves.

I am of course entering this cake into two bloggers challenges that i've neglected recently... the first is the most obvious - Dish of the Month hosted by Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen and Susan from Heaven on a Plate who encourage us to cook with Nigel Slater recipes... and the second, less obvious but still legitimate is the AlphaBakes challenges hosted by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes who's alphabet letter this month is the tricky i....

eat and of course, enjoy!


  1. Coffee and walnut cake = my luxury item on Desert Island Discs, no question. A truck load of.

  2. I enjoyed your review of the coffee. I think the only thing I can get in the US is the Oxo French Press. My son Will has been after me to buy one for years. He loves a strong coffee. He is a Starbuck's Coffee junkie. The cake looks delicious.

  3. Simon Cowell to your Sharon Osborne? Oh no! You are both much prettier and nicer than that!

  4. I usually have no cravings for coffee whatsoever, but when I was in Italy last fall I had a tiny espresso every morning without fail, along with some sweet indulgence:D Your Italian walnut cake souds perfect for just such an occasion.

  5. I love the taste of coffee but not the buzz afterwards so can't take the strong stuff. A decaff espresso goes down well after a nice lunch but a slice of your gorgeous coffee and walnut cake would do for me !!

  6. I am such a plebian when it comes to coffee, so reading your reviews of these exotic-sounding coffees was a treat . My daughter enjoys French press coffee, but it is always so very strong for my tastes ... I tend toward whole bean Columbian Fair Trade imported by Green Mountain Coffees or Newman's Own Fair Trade --- not too dark a roast, a smooth flavour that takes the light cream well,and just a bit of sweetness from some sugar. With your coffee cake? Perfection! Good review, dear Dom!

  7. You always bake such appealing cakes...not a coffee fan here at all but a cake fan. Yes please! Thanks for entering. xxx

  8. This looks lovely, thanks for entering Alphabakes!

  9. Blimey, the Viking must be in coffee heaven. Are either of you sleeping? Cake looks lovely and I'v never found a sunken middle matters at all - more room for icing.

  10. Thomas Jefferson said “Coffee - the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

    All I can tell you is that I can tell the difference between good coffee and bad coffee. I do enjoy Starbucks, but I'm in love with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee! If you've never tried it - you must! It's expensive, but you can find some good prices on-line.

    Your cake looks amazing! What a nice treat with a cup o' joe!

  11. Seriously
    Would you like to enter something in our produce show?
    I will pay for the postage?
    We have a coffee cake entry ( I think)

  12. Great cake - who cares about a little central sinkage? All the more space for indulgent icing. I never thought I'd find myself saying this but these days if the coffee's not in a pod then it doesn't get through the door here. It must be a sign of old age. I've not seen the aromo branding but I like your turn of phrase - if anyone's looking for a name for their next album or their autobiography then they could do a lot worse than 'Lurching Women with Cheesy Grins'.

  13. Interesting post! The cake looks wonderful, I know what you mean about covering the kitchen with icing sugar!

  14. I so empathise with the Viking good coffee is very hard to get and when you do - well I am so glad you have put us on the right track. Love the Coffee and Walnut cake (glad you stuck to your diet and gave it away!) and oh my goodness I had a coffee set given to me exactly like that as a wedding gift many moons ago a real retro piece - just given mine to my daughter.

  15. I LOVE coffee cake Dom and yours looks like a winner! Great review for the coffee too! Karen

  16. I'm definitely with the Viking on this one - I love coffee and can't function without my morning espresso. Anyway, so glad he could enjoy his treat. Love your honest review and great coffee cake too!

  17. Funny how those products seem to come along like buses! I love coffee cake, this one looks lush. Thanks for joining us for Dish of the Month.


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