New year, new cake – Coffee and pecan loaf (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan option)

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Coffee and pecan loaf cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I had planned that my first recipe post of the year would be a recipe bursting with nutrition and vitality – new year, fresh start, etc. However, it’s been so cold these past few days, when it came to it, I simply couldn’t face anything too healthy. Instead, I’ve been in the kitchen keeping warm by baking, and thus, my first recipe of 2018 is one of my favourite cakes.

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Sun-up on a frosty January morning. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I took this shot of the garden from an open window about 9am yesterday morning, just as the sun was rising. The image below is the window adjacent to the one I opened – the beautiful ice pattern is on the inside!

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Window pane iced-up on the inside. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So, in my books, cold weather is enough justification for cake, and I start my new year blog posts with one of my “desert island” cakes: a coffee one.

I’ve been using a heritage brand of coffee and chicory essence as a coffee flavouring in baking for as long as I can remember. It was our “turn to” flavouring long before decent barista-style instant coffee and espresso shots came to British shores. Sadly, the glass bottle packaging of old has been replaced by a plastic version (making it look less authentic), but the old-fashioned label is practically unchanged in design and the product within tastes just as good as always. I haven’t found anything that comes close to the concentrated flavour it offers in baking. In summer, I use it to make a base for a deliciously smooth and well-rounded iced coffee, ice-creams and chilled custards.

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My favourite coffee flavouring, and finely ground pecan nuts. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The sweet, nutty flavour of pecans goes particularly well with coffee. You can use walnuts if you prefer, but I find them a bit overpowering if you really want the taste  of coffee to dominate your bake. For this recipe, grind up some of the pecans very finely to make a “flour” for a better formed cake crumb, and then add the remainder as finely chopped pieces for extra nutty texture. I add a little arrowroot to help bind the mixture but you can leave it out if you prefer. I hope you enjoy the flavours as much as I do 🙂

Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 225g pecan halves
  • 125g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 8g arrowroot
  • 2 level teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 3 large eggs (or, for a vegan cake, use 180g silken tofu)
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 4 tsp Camp coffee essence or similar
  • 50g Demerara sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Put 125g pecans in a blender or food processor and blitz until very finely ground. Chop the remaining pecan nuts finely.
  2. Sift the flour and arrowroot into a bowl and stir in both lots of pecans along with the sugar. Beat the eggs (or tofu) with the oil until well blended, and then thoroughly mix into the dry ingredients.
  3. Transfer to the prepared tin. Smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray. Scatter the top of the cake with the Demerara sugar. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes until risen, lightly cracked, and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake is cooked. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and store for 24 hours for better flavour and texture.
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    Dense, moist textured coffee and pecan loaf cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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    Coffee and pecan loaf cake, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins