Coffee and Walnut Traybake Landscape Cake | Outlander

Time travel. Period drama. Scottish Highlands. True love that spans hundreds of years and defies all known laws of time. Count me IN, Sassenach. My Outlander coffee and walnut traybake landscape cake brings together a classic duo of flavours and is topped with a shortbread landmark. Ready to travel?

About the TV show:

Based on the highly popular novels by Diana Gabaldon, the series Outlander (2014 – present) tells the story of Claire, an English WWII nurse, who finds herself sucked back in time through the stones of Craigh na Dun, whilst on a trip around Scotland with her husband. Claire goes from 1945 Inverness to 1743 Inverness in a matter of seconds.

She finds herself two hundred years in the past, in the height of Scottish – English tensions during the 18th century. 

English soldiers, known as Red Coats, are patrolling the hills of Scotland and leaving ruin in their wake. A cohort of them are the first to find Claire in her nightgown and attempt to take full advantage. Thankfully, they are interrupted and Claire is rescued/taken hostage by highlander warriors.

The very highlanders that introduce her to the very man she is destined to fall for: Jamie Fraser.

Under the strange care of these highlanders, Claire attempts to ground herself and plan her escape back to Craigh na Dun, with the intent of somehow going back through the stones to return to her own time. Things, as happens with stories like these, do not go quite to plan.

I will say no more but I will urge any history buffs, period drama fans and admirers of romance and the Scottish landscape to watch this show!

The show boasts a whole host of talent, with Caitríona Balfe as Claire, Sam Heughan as Jamie and Tobias Menzies as Jack ‘Blackjack’ Randall/Frank Randall. They are joined by the likes of Graham McTavish, Duncan Lacroix, John Bell, Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin, Lauren Lyle and César Domboy among many others.

Though Outlander is a fictional story, it is set in a very real part of British history.

What’s fantastic about the show is that they stay as true as possible to the history and work the fiction into it and around it. It’s an incredibly interesting part of history and something I take great interest in, being half Scottish and half English myself. 

If interested, look for Jacobites and the Jacobite era. Plus, the consequences of Queen Elizabeth I’s death and what that meant for the monarchy regarding Scottish – English relations. Plus, House Stuart. The 1600s onwards is where you’ll find most of the initial context of this section of history. You’ll want to work right up to the late 1700s.

The books are wonderfully detailed and provide so much material for the Starz TV adaptation to work with. Naturally, they can’t fit absolutely everything in but they have certainly done a good job trying. Each episode of this multi-season show is packed to the brim with detailed storytelling and progressing plot threads.

They average at an hour long but are hard to stop watching, despite how tense a lot of the story is. I’ve had to actually pause between episodes and focus on taking deep breaths because of how hard-hitting a lot of it is.

No copyright infringement intended.

Nevertheless, I really think Outlander is a wonderful piece of television.

It starts in 1945 England, then 1743 Scotland and then proceeds to varying parts of the world according to the trends of the time. There is danger around every corner and constant misunderstandings. As you’d expect with the main character being from two hundred years in the future… I’ll give you four words: she is a witch?

I’m grateful to the friend of mine that first introduced me to Outlander back in my university days, and I’m looking forward to the next season!

About the bake:

This bake is the first of my ‘landscape’ cakes: a concept I came up with when I realised that I wanted to incorporate the geographical looks of certain films and TV shows. Creating landscape cakes like this one, my Hot Fuzz cake and my The Hobbit cake provides excellent scope for artistic celebration!

As Craigh na Dun is quite literally the gateway that carries Claire through time, it felt right to make this mystical set of stones the feature of my Outlander coffee and walnut traybake cake. 

With that being said, I decided to make the stones themselves out of shortbread. For those that don’t know, shortbread is a traditionally Scottish sweet treat and is utterly delicious. Usually, shortbread is shaped in rectangles or traditional designs. It’s a buttery, short biscuit which is golden in colour and goes very well with a strong cup of tea. 

Walkers’ shortbread happens to be a staple around Christmas time in my family’s house!

That’s if I’m not making any myself, of course. I also managed to find boxes of it whilst I was living in Japan. 

This shortbread is a little different as I added food colouring to change the colour to a dark grey, and I moulded it in the shapes of the stones at Craigh na Dun. Nonetheless, the core of what shortbread is is still present and is still very moreish.

I made the stones as dark as they are for my coffee and walnut traybake because the final shot of the Outlander title sequence is Craigh na Dun in silhouette form, but you can go for whatever shade you prefer. It can depend on the time of day!

The coffee and walnut traybake layers are square to give the landscape effect.

Originally, I was going to stick with just one layer instead of two (you can still do this, simply half the recipe!) but I wanted the height in the cake to make it feel more dramatic. The sponges are coffee and walnut flavour: an earthy and natural taste for a cake that represents a natural and extremely old site. If walnuts are an issue, you can leave them out and make a delicious coffee cake instead!

The buttercream is coffee flavoured and is made to look like grass on a hill – as that’s what Craigh na Dun stands on. I also added purple buttercream wildflowers but you can choose any colour if you’re adding wildflowers. They certainly grow around the actual stones and add colour to the cake!

For the grass, I used a nozzle with multiple holes – if you search for a grass piping nozzle or multi hole open tip, then you will find one. This nozzle is a great addition to your baking equipment because it can be used for other textures like animal fur.

Top Tips:

  • Be generous with the buttercream both in the centre of the cake and on the top. It’s a perfect match with the sponges and provides an extra delicate hit of coffee.
  • Allow the coffee to cool before adding to your cake mix or buttercream. You risk curdling otherwise.
  • Get yourself a multi hole open piping tip to achieve the grass effect.
  • Avoid overworking the shortbread dough. Kneading and shaping the dough too much can result in tough biscuits.
  • Lay the biscuits flat on the baking sheet to chill and bake. Do not stand them up as they will melt down and lose their shapes. Better to have a more 2D effect than biscuits that are the wrong shape.
  • The length of your buttercream grass is up to you. You can opt for an overgrown look and pipe without letting up, or you can opt for a shorter grass by squeezing and releasing as you lift up the piping bag.

The overall design of this coffee and walnut traybake is simple but has quite the mystical impact. Worthy to celebrate a show like Outlander. I hope you enjoy making this delicious cake – something for an evening in catching up on or rewatching Outlander, perhaps?

Happy baking, happy eating!

Ingredients:

Craigh na Dun shortbread:

  • 65g [2.25 oz] unsalted butter room temperature 
  • 30g [2 tbsp + 1 tsp] caster sugar
  • 100g [½ cup + 2 tbsp] plain [all-purpose] flour
  • Grey or black food colouring

Coffee and walnut traybake cake:

  • 1½ tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 2 tbsp boiling hot water
  • 400g [14 oz] unsalted butter
  • 200g [1 cup] caster sugar
  • 200g [1 cup] light brown sugar
  • 400g medium eggs (around 7 eggs)
  • 400g [2 ½ cups] self-raising flour
  • 100g [⅔ cup] walnuts roughly chopped

Decoration:

  • 100g [3.5 oz] unsalted butter  room temperature
  • 350g [2¼ cups + 2 tbsp] icing [confectioners] sugar
  • 2 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 2 tsp boiling water
  • Forest green food colouring
  • Purple (or colour of your choice) food colouring

Serves: 12+

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Chilling time: 1 hour

Baking time: 60 minutes total

Decorating time: 20 minutes

Method:

Shortbread:

  1. Line a baking sheet for your shortbread biscuits.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar to start making your shortbread. Add the food colouring until you reach your desired shade. The biscuits will darken only slightly in the oven. 
  3. Add the flour and mix in until smooth. Don’t overdo it as you need leeway for moulding.
  4. Using my pictures or photos of the real Craigh na Dun as reference, shape your biscuits into the stones. The thicker they are, the wider they will end up after baking due to the butter. This will make for a delicious biscuit though! If you plan on making them thinner to avoid this, you’ll have to keep an eye on them during baking so they don’t overbake. Try to shape your biscuits without working the dough too much as you could end up with tough biscuits.
  5. Once shaped, lay them out flat with ample space in between on the baking tray and chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge. Do not stand the biscuits as you envision doing so when decorating, they will lose their shape when baking!

Coffee and walnut traybake cake:

  1. While your biscuits are chilling, make your cake.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180°C [350°F] or 160°C fan. Grease and line two 8 inch square cake tins with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.
  3. Mix the coffee and boiling water together and set aside to cool.
  4. Weigh your eggs out in their shells – as close to 400g as you can. Either slightly under or slightly over is fine! You just want to weigh out everything else according to the exact weight that your eggs are.
  5. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  6. One at a time, add the eggs and beat in until combined.
  7. Add the cooled coffee and beat in until combined.
  8. Add the flour and mix in – be careful so not to knock the air out of your batter. 
  9. Finally, chop the walnuts to your desired size and fold them in gently.
  10. Split the batter equally into the two tins and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until baked through. The sponges will be ready when a cocktail stick comes out clean; the surface springs back when pressed on and you don’t hear a bubbling/crackling sound when you listen to them.
  11. Once baked, leave to cool in the tins for 10 or so minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  12. While your cakes are cooling, your biscuits should be ready to bake. At the same temperature, bake your shortbread for 15 – 20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes if they are particularly thin. They will be ready when they are slightly cracked and ‘dry’ looking on the surface.
  13. Take them out and leave them to continue baking and then cool on the tray.

Decoration:

  1. Whilst everything is cooling, make your buttercream. Mix together the coffee and boiling water and set aside to cool.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar. Add the cooled coffee mix and beat again until incorporated.
  3. Take a couple of tablespoons of the buttercream and put in a separate bowl. This will be your wildflower mix.
  4. Using the coffee buttercream, build your cake. Lay one layer and spread a good amount of the buttercream over the top of it. Place the second layer over the top and spread a thin layer of buttercream – make this more of a crumb coat as this will help you ‘grass’ stick.
  5. Add the green food colouring into the rest of the buttercream in your main bowl. Do this little by little and beat in until you achieve the green tint that you desire. 
  6. Mix the purple food colouring (or your chosen colour) into the small bowl of buttercream until you reach the tint or shade that you desire.
  7. Prepare two separate piping bags: one with the grass nozzle and one with a very small hole cut off. Fill the appropriate piping bags with each of the remaining buttercream mixes.
  8. When the biscuits are completely cool, arrange them on the top of your cake and press down gently. Shortbread can break easily so be careful!
  9. Pipe your grass all around and in between your shortbread biscuits. You can leave areas as bare patches if that’s what you want to do – you can make it a seasonal thing where some of the grass won’t have grown in. 
  10. Then, pipe your wildflowers on. I did this as simple dots as they are very small flowers – no need to complicate it!

This delicious coffee and walnut traybake cake will last for around 4 days in an airtight container and the shortbread will soften slightly over time but will also last for around 4 days in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Recipe card:

Coffee and Walnut Traybake Landscape Cake | Outlander

Laura – Flavour of the Film
Wonderfully soft and earthy coffee and walnut traybake cake in a landscape shape, decorated with American buttercream and shortbread 'stones', celebrating Outlander.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Chilling time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine British
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

Shortbread:

  • 65 g [2.25 oz] unsalted butter room temperature
  • 30 g [2 tbsp + 1 tsp] caster sugar
  • 100 g [½ cup + 2 tbsp] plain [all-purpose] flour
  • Grey or black food colouring

Coffee and walnut traybake cake:

  • tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 2 tbsp boiling hot water
  • 400 g [14 oz] unsalted butter
  • 200 g [1 cup] caster sugar
  • 200 g [1 cup] light brown sugar
  • 400 g medium eggs around 7 eggs
  • 400 g [2 ½ cups] self-raising flour
  • 100 g [⅔ cup] walnuts roughly chopped

Decoration:

  • 100 g [3.5 oz] unsalted butter room temperature
  • 350 g [2¼ cups + 2 tbsp] icing [confectioners] sugar
  • 2 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 2 tsp boiling water
  • Forest green food colouring
  • Purple or colour of your choice food colouring

Instructions
 

  • Line a baking sheet for your shortbread biscuits.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar to start making your shortbread. Add the food colouring until you reach your desired shade. The biscuits will darken only slightly in the oven.
  • Add the flour and mix in until smooth. Don’t overdo it as you need leeway for moulding.
  • Using my pictures or photos of the real Craigh na Dun as reference, shape your biscuits into the stones. The thicker they are, the wider they will end up after baking due to the butter. This will make for a delicious biscuit though! If you plan on making them thinner to avoid this, you’ll have to keep an eye on them during baking so they don’t overbake. Try to shape your biscuits without working the dough too much as you could end up with tough biscuits.
  • Once shaped, lay them out flat with ample space in between on the baking tray and chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge. Do not stand the biscuits as you envision doing so when decorating, they will lose their shape when baking!
  • While your biscuits are chilling, make your cake.
  • Preheat your oven to 180°C [350°F] or 160°C fan. Grease and line two 8 inch square cake tins with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.
  • Mix the coffee and boiling water together and set aside to cool.
  • Weigh your eggs out in their shells – as close to 400g as you can. Either slightly under or slightly over is fine! You just want to weigh out everything else according to the exact weight that your eggs are.
  • Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  • One at a time, add the eggs and beat in until combined.
  • Add the cooled coffee and beat in until combined.
  • Add the flour and mix in – be careful so not to knock the air out of your batter.
  • Finally, chop the walnuts to your desired size and fold them in gently.
  • Split the batter equally into the two tins and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until baked through. The sponges will be ready when a cocktail stick comes out clean; the surface springs back when pressed on and you don’t hear a bubbling/crackling sound when you listen to them.
  • Once baked, leave to cool in the tins for 10 or so minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • While your cakes are cooling, your biscuits should be ready to bake. At the same temperature, bake your shortbread for 15 – 20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes if they are particularly thin. They will be ready when they are slightly cracked and ‘dry’ looking on the surface.
  • Take them out and leave them to continue baking and then cool on the tray.
  • Whilst everything is cooling, make your buttercream. Mix together the coffee and boiling water and set aside to cool.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar. Add the cooled coffee mix and beat again until incorporated.
  • Take a couple of tablespoons of the buttercream and put in a separate bowl. This will be your wildflower mix.
  • Using the coffee buttercream, build your cake. Lay one layer and spread a good amount of the buttercream over the top of it. Place the second layer over the top and spread a thin layer of buttercream – make this more of a crumb coat as this will help you ‘grass’ stick.
  • Add the green food colouring into the rest of the buttercream in your main bowl. Do this little by little and beat in until you achieve the green tint that you desire.
  • Mix the purple food colouring (or your chosen colour) into the small bowl of buttercream until you reach the tint or shade that you desire.
  • Prepare two separate piping bags: one with the grass nozzle and one with a very small hole cut off. Fill the appropriate piping bags with each of the remaining buttercream mixes.
  • When the biscuits are completely cool, arrange them on the top of your cake and press down gently. Shortbread can break easily so be careful!
  • Pipe your grass all around and in between your shortbread biscuits. You can leave areas as bare patches if that’s what you want to do – you can make it a seasonal thing where some of the grass won’t have grown in.
  • Then, pipe your wildflowers on. I did this as simple dots as they are very small flowers – no need to complicate it!

Notes

This delicious cake will last for around 4 days in an airtight container and the shortbread will soften slightly over time but will also last for around 4 days in an airtight container. Enjoy!
Keyword american buttercream, coffee and walnut cake, coffee and walnut traybake, landscape cake, outlander, starz

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