Monday, 12 October 2015

Walnut Cake

I absolutely love walnuts and try to use them whenever I can in my cooking and baking. As a child one of my favourite cakes was the Coffee & Walnut Cake that my grandmother often baked when guests were expected but I can’t recall ever eating a cake where walnuts were the primary ingredient and ‘star-of-the-show’!

I was determined to create a cake that showcased walnuts and after a little experimentation, this is the cake that I came up with. It is packed full of walnuts but is still surprisingly light in texture. I am thrilled with how it turned out and can see it becoming a mainstay in my baking repertoire. Even my children, who can be fussy at the best of times, loved it… and believe me that is saying something because they are the most demanding of critics!
 
Due to the inclusion of a lot of nuts (and a good amount of butter) this is a rich cake but it has a unique flavour which will have you going back for more. Whilst it is lovely served on its own, it also makes a decadent dessert when served with a poached pear, a little salted caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Ingredients:

175g walnuts
185g butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
175g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
75ml milk
To finish:
12-16 walnut halves to decorate
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 160C/Fan Oven 140C/Gas Mark 2. Grease a 20cm round spring-form tin with butter and line the base with a circle of baking parchment. Set aside.
2. Place the walnuts on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Check on them a couple of times to make sure they are not burning and give them a shake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before roughly grinding in a food processor. Do not over process the walnuts as you still want them to retain some texture.
3. Meanwhile place the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat again for another couple of minutes to ensure that they are well incorporated.
4. Add the sifted flour gradually, alternating with the milk to create a thick cake batter. Fold in the roughly ground walnuts and vanilla extract making sure that they are well distributed.
5. Using a clean bowl and whisk attachments beat the egg whites to the ‘firm peak’ stage. Add one third of the egg whites to the cake batter and mix in well. This will loosen the batter slightly and make incorporating the rest of the egg whites much easier.  Fold in the remaining egg whites using a large metal spoon. Stop once there are no large pockets of egg white remaining, but try to avoid over-mixing as this will result in a heavier cake.
6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and level the surface using the back of a metal spoon or a spatula. Decorate the top of the cake with the walnut halves and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes approximately or until a thin skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
7. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Serves 10-12.