Apple Walnut Tea Cake

By • December 11, 2013 8 Comments

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Author Notes: For this cake, the technique is to cut the fat into the flour, then gently mix in the wet ingredients. Cutting the fat into the flour creates small pockets of air in the finished tea cake as it bakes, yielding a lighter, more tender crumb. This technique is especially well suited to whole-grain or high-extraction flours, which tend to give more dense results. The goal is to offset dense texture with careful technique. The recipe also incorporates cultured dairy in the form of kefir cream or buttermilk as well as natural leaven to add additional flavor.Chad Robertson

Makes one 9 x 5-inch loaf cake, or two 5 x 3-inch miniature loaf cakes

  • 375 grams walnuts
  • 102 grams leaven
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 111 grams kefir cultured cream or crème fraîche
  • 129 gramsrated apple
  • 171 grams whole grain spelt flour
  • 146 grams sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 89 grams olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan (or two 5 x 3-inch loaf pans) and line the bottom(s) with parchment paper. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, then coarsely chop.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the leaven, egg, kefir cream, and grated apple. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Add the olive oil to the dry ingredients and, using a bench knife or pastry cutter, cut the oil into the flour until well distributed. Stir in the walnuts, then add the flour and oil mixture to the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
  3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan(s). Bake for 60 to 70 minutes (30 to 40 minutes for miniature loaves), or until the internal temperature of the cake reaches 200° F. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then use a knife to loosen the cake from the pan(s) by slicing around the edges. Unmold onto a wire rack, and let cool completely. The cake will keep at room temperature, wrapped, for up to 3 days.

More Great Recipes: Rice & Grains|Bread, Rolls & Muffins|Breakfast & Brunch|Cakes|Desserts

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Comments (8) Questions (1)


5 months ago mela

This is delicious, and healthy! The amount of walnuts is a typo - in Amazon comments about this recipe for his cookbook Tartine 3, the editor says it should have read 1/3 cup of walnuts. I read that after making it and used 1 and 1/3 cups pecans, which was good. (Walnuts would be better.) If you don't bake in grams, the grated apple is one apple. I also reduced the sugar from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, and will reduce it again next time to 1/3 cup. Will definitely be making it again.


5 months ago mela

'Leaven' is a traditional sourdough starter which has been readied for baking. See any sourdough bread cookbook for how to make it. Or Michael Pollan's chapter on breadmaking in 'Cooked'. This sounds brilliant - a sourdough quick bread!


7 months ago Grace

Do you think 102 gram of yeast is too much for 171 gram of flour? Also, why the cake no need to have yeast ferment time?


10 months ago Assonta Wagner

This sounds heavenly~ Can't wait to try this. I have a vintage recipe book with the same technique for pund cake. It's called a "Butter Crust Poundcake" It is divine.


about 1 year ago Kt4

What is "leaven"?


10 months ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.



over 1 year ago Cynthia Gallo

Would love to give this recipe a shot. Just wondering what I could use in place of the leaven?


over 1 year ago Isabel

Yes, Cynthia - that's my exact dilemma too! Chad, can you come to the rescue? Can I use fresh yeast instead? if yes, how much please? Thank you!!!