Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Walnut Cake

I learned a few lessons from making this cake. The first is that if I wait to take pictures until the light is good enough, they won't get taken. Thus there's only this one picture.

Next lesson: Don't count on leftovers even with a large Bundt cake when there are a lot of hungry expat ladies around. Especially when the cake is really good, as this one appears to have been. The only taste I got was the crumbs that stuck to the pan. Delicious.
Final lesson, somewhat disturbing to me: I now have A Reputation for Cake. I brought this cake to a gathering of said expat ladies--we were gathering to learn more about how to find a job in France. Much information was shared, many stories were told. And of course there was food--an Italian buffet and a table covered with homemade cakes, one of which was this one. I was standing around eyeing the wares when my friend Gabriela pointed to the walnut cake and said, "That one's yours, right?" Guilty as charged. How did she know? "Your cakes are always so...grainy." I assume that was a compliment. Since she later confessed that there was no more cake because she had stashed a few slices in her bag, I think it was. the cake. It's just a really good pound cake, grainy with walnuts. The nutmeg and brandy give it a festive touch, and the walnuts cut the general sweetness that is a hallmark of these Maida desserts. Good stuff.

Here's the recipe. Make it when you have a lot of people to feed, or make it for yourself and enjoy the graininess.

Walnut Cake

2-1/2 c. (9 oz.) walnuts
1 cup (8 oz.) butter
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract
5 t. brandy
2 scant cups (12 oz.) sugar
5 large eggs
2 c. (8 oz.) flour (I used a bit of whole wheat)

Heat the oven to 325 (170) and get out a tube or Bundt pan. Butter the Bundt pan really well. Then grind about 1 cup of the walnuts in a food processor and pour them in the pan. Shake the pan and sprinkle the nuts around the tube, coating the pan as well as you can. Pour a few of the excess nuts into a small bowl for later. While you have the food processor out, use it to pulse the remaining walnuts until they're chopped medium-fine.
Cream the butter in the large bowl of a mixer with the baking powder, salt, and nutmeg until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, almond extract, and sugar and beat at medium-high speed for about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. After you add the last egg, beat the mixture for about a minute. On low speed, beat in the flour and then add the walnuts, either mixing by hand or very carefully with the mixer. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and then sprinkle the reserved walnuts on top.
Bake for about 1-3/4 hours (check after 1 hour, and every 10-15 minutes after that), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes, then invert on a plate. My cake did not want to come out, even after I ran a spatula around the edges, so I just let it sit upside down and eventually it came out fairly cleanly.
Let cool completely, slice relatively thinly, and get in line for a slice.

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