Tag Archives: espresso

Freshly brewed cake

I am finally in England, and I finally have my degree! Could that be any more exciting?

Brace yourself

Winter is certainly not coming, it is most definitely here. Feel it! It is wonderful. Before I tell you anything about the most perfect cake in my life right now, I need to give you some advice, especially if you are not from a cold country. Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean you need to be cold too! I arrived with my South African winter coats, bracing myself against the cold. I expected the cold, and I was ready to deal with it. Little did I know that you can actually wear a genuinely warm jacket, and you don’t have to feel the cold at all. You can also get really stylish jackets too (fancy that…), so there is no excuse! This revelation has saved me, and I look forward for my next few weeks in this bitter yet beautiful city.

Another great thing about being here in the big city is all the new coffee opportunities. I can continue to hone my skills in the brewed art, however finding a good cup of coffee has been surprisingly difficult thus far. And my English Granny complains about the coffee in SA? She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about. One coffee that does not fail, however, is this delicious and delectable coffee cake.

This espresso sponge cake with mocha buttercream frosting is truly the best cake recipe I have stumbled upon yet

This espresso sponge cake with mocha buttercream frosting is truly the best cake recipe I have stumbled upon yet

As I must have mentioned before, this blog is largely about me learning to cook and bake, and become a better food photographer. You are joining me on my learning experience, my delicious food-journey, venturing into the unknown as I experiment with new foods and techniques. Obviously, this learning takes some proactivity, so I started an online cooking course, which turned out to be super handy and educational! It was kind of basic, but there were definitely a few technical tips in there that I picked up and they did have some great recipes that you had to complete as part of the course before you could move on. That includes this amazing coffee cake, which has literally become my favourite cake recipe ever thus far, and some amazingly simple sugar/butter cookies that are easier and simpler than mine.

Pam agreed with me on the coffee cake and on the biscuits. Hi Pam

Pam agreed with me on the coffee cake and on the biscuits – delicious. Hi Pam

The coffee sponge is so light and fluffy, with just enough coffee that it’s not overpowering but that you still get sufficient coffee flavour. The instruction video describes the ‘beautiful caramel coloured cake batter’ but I thought it looked basically the same as normal cake batter. It was still a very tasty cake batter (had to make sure there was enough coffee in there of course… There was).

It was literally the largest cake tin I have baked in - it was unnecessarily large, and I ended up with a single layer cake, contrary to instruction

It was literally the largest cake tin I have baked in – it was unnecessarily large, and I ended up with a single layer cake, contrary to instruction

I made this cake during my final exams, and it certainly kept me going for a portion of my studying. Unfortunately, it sat beside me, smelling wonderful, and it didn’t keep me company for long enough. Made for a good study snack of course at least.

Make sure to let your cake cool...

Make sure to let your cake cool…

The other problem with a single layer cake was that there was just too much icing for it, but there would have been just too little for a double layer one. I topped the cake with toasted walnuts the first time, but was disappointed by their flavour (which I was pretty new to), so I used pecan nuts the second time. I need to find a way to use pistachios, those are amazing (and addictive…).

The walnuts looked pretty good on this single layer espresso cake, but I do prefer the pecan nuts, as I used earlier in this post

The walnuts looked pretty good on this single layer espresso cake, but I do prefer the pecan nuts, as I used earlier in this post

The cookie recipe is one for the books; or one for your mental recipe book, as it is that easy to remember and execute. They use a really basic 3-ingredient cookie recipe, that works according to a ratio, and can be adapted to your tastes. In these, you add a dash of lemon zest, which gives them a perfect dash of flavour. The cookies are straightforward and reliable, as a genuine cookie should be.

Christmas sugar/butter lemon cookies

Christmas sugar/butter lemon cookies

Happy Christmas indeed!

The recipes are both from my favourite online shopping site, and they can be found here and here. Enjoy!

Sisa the Barista

“I did a course and then I fell in love with this once I started go into roastary; the fragrance took me and I fell in love with everything about coffee.”

Sisa likes to experiment. These were a sample of a particularly interesting test involving mint and vanilla (among other secret things...)

Sisa likes to experiment. These were a sample of a particularly interesting test involving mint and vanilla (among other secret things…)

Three years ago, Sisa Mapetu started a journey that he probably never saw leading to a new life in Grahamstown. From initially working as a waiter, to potentially working for a logistics company, to ending up as the friendliest barista on our little campus in Grahamstown, his journey sounds like one of true love.

Since he did his barista course three years ago, Sisa has been developing his skills and competing in barrister competitions. The competitions involve demonstrating a thorough knowledge of coffee and its subtle flavours, as well as a demonstration of your coffee skills, requiring competitors to produce 12 espresso drinks in 15 minutes.

In his first attempt three years ago, Sisa placed second. He hopes to outperform everyone in next year’s competition by developing his signature drink early on, and ensuring he does not underestimate his competition, as he has done in the past. “I just have to know that everyone is a tough competitor, I have to respect that. The guys that are competing for the first time, I must treat them as the same level as me.” From an outsider’s perspective, his drive and enthusiasm for the coffee definitely make him winner material. We shall see what the July competition holds for him.

Sisa has filled in a wonderful niche on campus. Handmade Coffees is a great little shop, perfectly positioned, but Sisa really adds a wonderful element to the cosy nook. He is friendly, always welcoming passers by, and he really seems to connect with his regulars. His appreciation of the bean is contagious.

“What gets me about it is that there’s always something new comes out, something new motivating me.” Sisa likes to experiment with new flavours, which can be quite an experience for the testers. Mint with my coffee was definitely a first…

Another test turned out like a cookies and cream iced coffee - do you get any better?  That friendly smile, and that loving touch when working on his creations really makes him a truly super local Barista.

Another test turned out like a cookies and cream iced coffee – do you get any better?
That friendly smile, and that loving touch when working on his creations really makes him a truly super local Barista.

Sisa also likes to cook, experimenting with different food flavours as well. He hopes to open his own restaurant one day. “This barrister profession is opening a lot of doors for me to achieve that, because, especially in this company, there are a lot of opportunities where I can actually expand in future.”

“What actually motivates me more, is that every time I get to work at the machine, it’s just it’s just the fragrance just (chuckles) brings me into loving it.”

His favourite coffee drink: Espresso and Macchiato.

“Those are my best because I achieve what I want very quick into it because they are quite short and then they go straight where I want them. I get bored when I drink the cappuccinos and the lattes because I only drink them half and then I’ve achieved what I want but the espressos, the combination hits the spot.

The reason I like the espresso is because I understand every coffee that I make and how it must taste. So I’m looking for those flavours of the espresso in the coffee that I’m making. If you can perfect an espresso, then you can perfect any other drink.”

His view on latte art: It’s good.

“Latte art is good, it’s a lovely cherry on top. But when you get to understand the profession you get to know that the taste is more important. Latte art is good as there, but good coffee doesn’t need good latte art. You can make a good coffee without good latte art, but it’s there to grab the attention of the drinker.”

My new love… And it can come in chocolate too!

Arabica, Ethiopian Lima, robustness, chaff, crema… these were some of the words I became a little bit more familiar with today. A few simple words, that have inspired me to pursue the career of barista! Ok, not quite. I’ll probably never be a true coffee connoisseur, but I would really love to get there eventually!

Cuppaccinos and latte art

Cuppaccinos and latte art

I want to learn how to appreciate a good roast, and to be able to identify the different blends of international farms (except I don’t think that this is quite how it works – each farm produces it’s own kind, and you blend different farms together).

Beans being swirled around and cooled

Beans being swirled around and cooled

Basically, I want more coffee in my life. This is unusual for me because I only started drinking coffee last year. When I was much younger, I had my first cup of coffee. I loved it so much that I had two cups. That night I had a nightmare that there were giants falling from the sky onto and through the deck of my pirate ship which you gained access to from the office-block-style corridors. It was a horrible nightmare that has stuck with me for many years (over 16!) and so I never drank coffee again.

Ready for purchase, gotta get me some of that!

Ready for purchase, gotta get me some of that!

I reintroduced myself with a mature open-mindedness that has lead me to try a whole host of new foods (that you will hear about in the future, I am sure). I would say that the product that sold me to coffee was the Nescafé Cappuccino sachets: the foam gets me every time, especially when coupled with a crunchy biscotti!

My writing lecturer: Gillian Rennie

My writing lecturer: Gillian Rennie

Today was the start of a journey: Homeground Coffee Roasters showed us how they roast the beans from hard green beans to aromatic, warm, brown beans.

Coffee beans still

These are then ground to be used in the machines to produce top-quality espresso coffee, which we were lucky enough to get a taster of.

Ashley Brown, a fellow writing student, savouring that little cup of goodness

Ashley Brown, a fellow writing student, savouring that little cup of goodness

 I normally take my coffee with milk and one sugar, and a cappuccino comes with milk, but I do think that adding milk to this coffee possibly didn’t do the coffee justice: the milk of my cappuccino taster seemed to detract from the richness of the flavour, which was delicious, meeting the excellent standards that Homeground seeks to maintain.

Leo, Homeground's owner, serving up some of her top quality brew

Leo, Homeground’s owner, serving up some of her top quality brew

So, today marks the beginning of a long and close friendship between coffee and me. I know it’s going to be an intimate one with many regular encounters, and I am sure that if they are anything like today, they will be exceptional.