Our apologies that this article was omitted from the August issue of ECHO.

Prepare in the winter, plant in the spring, tend in the summer and win in the autumn, was what my father taught me when, instead of giving me money for the kid flicks on a snowy Saturday morning in February, he’d usher me down to plot 79. From there he would set off for the local newsagent, telling me that he would bring me back some gob stoppers, which I could have if I’d finished double-digging the bean trench by the time he got back.

So now it’s your chance to win in the autumn, for as we warned in last month’s ECHO, the Show goes on. In those far-off double-digging days the show was set up, run and judged mainly for allotmenteers. But we now live in more liberal times and everyone can enter. The Schedule and the Classes still retain their historical baggage, but there are now some gaps so that all of us can fit in. The Classes are: Vegetables, Herbs, Fruit, Dahlias, Chrysanthemums, Garden Flowers, Pot Plants, Homemade, and Giant Vegetables. In each Class the number of exhibition types varies from 29 down to 1, and altogether total around 80. But have a look for yourself – the Schedule is available to download or examine on the “earlsdongardening.com” site, or can be picked up at any allotment shop, Mooch in Earlsdon Street, or the Library. And so, with history in mind, the Earlsdon Show Committee has decided to push those without an allotment to the fore and award the top Show Prize in the Homemade Class to a cake baker – and the prize is not as you’d expect – a fortnight for 2 in the Seychelles, but, far better, a shiny, brown plastic £10 note, for baking a “Coffee and Walnut Cake Challenge”. Recipe and instructions are as follows:

Sponge Cake
175g/6oz soft margarine
175g/6oz caster sugar
175g/6oz SR flour
3 medium eggs
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 3 tsp boiling water
40g/1½ oz chopped walnuts
115g/4oz softened unsalted butter
225g/8oz sifted icing sugar
3 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 3 tsp boiling water
100g/3½ oz chopped walnuts lightly toasted then cooled
Few walnuts to decorate top

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Fan170/Gas Mark 4. Brush two 20cm/8in Victoria sandwich tins with oil and line the bases with circles of non-stick baking paper. Beat margarine and sugar until soft, gradually add eggs, beating well after each addition. Add a little flour if mixture curdles. Mix flour with baking powder, fold into mixture, add dissolved coffee and chopped nuts and fold together. Divide mixture between tins, spread level and bake for approx. 20 mins until well risen. Leave cakes to cool in tin for 5 mins then loosen edges and turn out onto wire rack. Peel off lining paper. Leave to cool.

To make buttercream, beat butter, icing sugar and dissolved coffee together until light and fluffy. Use one quarter of mix to sandwich cakes together then spread one third of remaining icing over sides of cake. Sprinkle chopped nuts over sheet of non-stick baking paper then coat sides of cake in the nuts by holding it on its side and rolling in the nuts. Transfer to plate and spread remaining buttercream over top of cake. Decorate with walnuts to your choice.