Sunday, March 28, 2010

Walnut Cake from The New York Times

Every time I search for a family recipe, or any other kind of recipe for that matter, I go through an old familiar box I have filled with a pile of papers. The pile which includes recipes written on the back of envelopes or old note paper in your mom or mother in law's hand for a certain cake or cookie. That box which you've taken with you with every move. That box you'd never part with or ever bother to update because once you find the recipe you're looking for, the box gets put away til the next time you need it.

You probably know what I mean because, if you're anything like me, you've been collecting recipes from here and there for years..right? How many years? Well, I guess that depends on a few things. Like, how old you are and when you first became interested in cooking or baking. For me, it's been practically my whole life..which is a really long time!

Among the pile of old, torn and often stained recipes, I have flipped past this particular recipe for Walnut Cake with Chocolate Butter Cream that I tore out of The New York Times Magazine from April of 1980! do the math! That's a long time.

So, this morning I finally decided to make this Walnut Cake. I'm not exactly sure why I chose this particular morning, 30 years later, to make it, but I did. I didn't have time to make the Butter Cream to frost it, but next time, and there will definitely be a next time, I will be making the Butter Cream Frosting.

The recipe was written by Craig Claiborne with Pierre Franey. They write that there was a small almost legendary pastry shop in the Hamptons in Long Island. They go on to write that the owner made wonderful things but nothing was equal to her walnut cake. It was a simple, honest and unforgettable American creation.
Well, the shop eventually closed and the owner retired but she would still not give out the recipe for this cake. But she did give one clue, which was that the basic cake recipe could be found on the back of a box of cake flour and the frosting was a simple chocolate butter cream. So they experimented til they came up with this "reasonable facsimile"!

The result is a light, moist loaf cake with a hint of almond ( from a little almond extract) and the wonderful crunch from the chopped walnuts. It is truly a delicious cake that I think deserves to be made into a layer cake with this Chocolate Walnut Butter Cream Frosting.
The recipe makes 2 loaves but, as usual, I halved the recipe, which was very easy to do to make one loaf.

Begin by beating the butter, adding the sugar gradually. Beat this for 10 minutes. Set your timer and just let it go. Continue on to the next step.

Sift the flour, then remeasure the amount. ( You'll be surprised that you have so much extra flour. Halving the recipe, I had almost 1/3 cup too much after sifting!). Then add the baking powder and salt.

Toss the broken walnuts with one tablespoon of flour.

Once the butter/sugar mixture has been beaten for 10 minutes, it will be nice and light.

Add the eggs, one at a time to the creamed mixture.
Combine the milk and both extracts.
Add the flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to the creamed butter mixture.

Add the floured walnuts and beat on low speed til blended.
Butter your loaf pan and spoon the cake batter into the pan.
Bake 50 minutes at 350 or til a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool 10 minutes in pan then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Frost with the chocolate walnut butter cream. Decorate with walnut halves.

Walnut Cake with Chocolate Walnut Butter Cream (from The New York Times Magazine April 1980 written by Craig Claiborne with Pierre Franey).

1 cup butter ( the original recipe does not specify but I used unsalted)
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour ( measure after sifting)
1 tbsp. unsifted flour ( to add to the walnuts)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups broken walnut meats ( I would chop the nuts more than called for next time)
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Chocolate Walnut Butter Cream ( recipe follows)
12 whole large walnut meats, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Butter 2 loaf pans measuring 9" x 5" x 3".

1. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to bowl of mixer.
2. Gradually add the sugar and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes.
3. Sift flour and remeasure. Then sift with the baking powder and salt.
4. Toss the broken ( or chopped) walnut meats with the tablespoon of flour. Set aside.
5. Add eggs, one at a time to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.
6. Combine the milk with the vanilla and almond extracts.
7. Alternately, add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the creamed mixture. Beat well after each addition.
8. Add the floured walnut meats and continue beating on low speed til well blended.
9. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
10. Bake 50 minutes or til a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Chocolate Walnut Butter Cream
1/4 pound ( 4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
2 tbsp. very strong coffee
4 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter ( I would use unsalted)
1 cup broken walnut meats
1. Set a mixing bowl over simmering water and add chocolate and coffee and heat, stirring often, til chocolate is melted and blended.
2. Combine the yolks, salt and sugar in another bowl. Set the bowl over simmering water and beat the yolk mixture rapidly with a whisk or hand held mixer. Beat til the mixture forms a "ribbon" . That is to say, til it is thickened and falls into a "ribbon" when the beater is held up.
3. Spoon and scrape the chocolate into the yolk mixture.
4. Return the bowl onto the simmering water and continue beating.
5. Gradually beat in the butter, bit by bit.
6. Remove the bowl from the heat. Continue beating in a cool place til the mixture thickens slightly and becomes spreadable.
7. Beat in the walnuts.
8. Continue beating with a wooden spoon til the chocolate cream becomes somewhat lighter. Let cool til spreadable. Spread over the cakes.


  1. I have been looking for this recipe for years!!! The cake is delicious and the icing is spectacular. Thanks so much for finding it and saving it...It's a gem. One of my all-time favorite cakes.

  2. Thank you so much! This is one of my favorite recipes and I have not been able to find it in my pile of newspaper recipes. Everyone loves this! The frosting is definitely worth the extra effort.



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