Make Ahead

Toasted Walnut Teacake with Herbal Lemon-Honey Glaze

January  1, 2012
3 Ratings
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes one loaf cake 4-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches
Author Notes

This cake is based on a foolproof recipe for a glazed lemon cake I have been baking for years. It was published in the You Asked for It section of Gourmet Magazine sometime in the 80's as Lemon Bread Billie Holliday's Lantern Glow. The original recipe has grated lemon zest in the batter and a tart glaze. It has a moist but compact crumb. I wanted to try to replicate a wonderful simple nut cake my great-aunt in Israel used to make. She regarded herself as our surrogate grandmother and was the matriarch of the family. Unfortunately I was too young to know to ask for that wonderfully satisfying recipe. I turned to my favorite recipe for the basics, adding chunky walnuts and vanilla, eliminating the lemon zest from the batter and adding Meyer lemon juice, zest and a gently sage-infused light honey glaze. Please try it exactly as written first before succumbing to the temptation to change it--it is simply perfect as it is. (less) —creamtea


Test Kitchen Notes

I was really excited to see a teacake recipe in the walnut/sage contest. This recipe does not disappoint. Toasted walnuts are a favorite of mine and their flavor is highlighted so well in this tea cake. Simple to put together, elegant in flavor. Go heavy on the sage to really get the flavor throughout the cake. Infusing the cake with the glaze ensures a depth of flavor in every bite. Simply put, loved this little cake and will definitely be eating it again. —cgilsbach

What You'll Need
  • For the Glaze
  • 3-4 fresh small to medium sage leaves, rinsed and patted dry and sliced thinly (1 scant tablespoon, loosely packed) (the larger amount will give a more pronounced flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey such as orange-blossom or clover
  • 1-2 strips of zest from a Meyer lemon (about 1 x 3 " each)
  • juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon, seeds removed
  • For the cake
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (sifted before measuring) plus 1 tablespoon flour to coat the walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. For the Glaze
  2. Combine above ingredients in a very small nonreactive saucepan--I use a heavy-ish 1-1/2 cup stainless-steel measuring cup with a long handle. Stir to combine.
  3. Place over medium-low flame and bring just to a bare simmer. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  4. When glaze is cool, strain through a mesh tea-strainer to remove sage and lemon peel.
  1. For the cake
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375º and butter and flour a standard loaf pan (about 4-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches)
  3. Spread walnut halves on in a rimmed baking sheet lined with a sheet of aluminum foil. Place in the oven and toast 8-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until fragrant and a shade or two darker. Remove from oven, lift up foil with walnuts to remove from pan, and allow to cool. Lower oven temperature to 350º.
  4. When nuts have cooled, chop or break coarsely for a chunky texture. Toss with the one tablespoon of flour. Place nuts in a mesh strainer and shake out the excess flour.
  5. Combine the 1-1/2 c. flour with the baking powder and salt and sift onto a piece of wax paper. Set flour mixture aside.
  6. In a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter. Add the sugar and beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  7. Alternately add the flour and the milk in separate additions, beginning with 1/3 the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined, then 1/2 the milk, beating to combine; then repeat both steps. End with the flour mixture; do not over-mix. Periodically scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber or silicone spatula.
  8. Stir in the vanilla by hand until incorporated, then stir in the nuts. Scrape mixture into the loaf pan, rap the pan on the counter top to settle the batter, and run a small sharp knife lengthwise down the middle to create a seam.
  9. Place on the center rack of oven and bake 35-40 minutes, or until tester comes out with a few moist crumbs adhering. (Note: disposable aluminum pans will increase baking time). Remove to a cooling rack and quickly pierce all over the top with a bamboo skewer or toothpick, swirl the cooled glaze to combine, and spoon it all over the hot cake. Allow cake to cool on the rack in the pan for 10 minutes.
  10. Run a thin sharp blade all around the cake to separate from the pan, then invert carefully onto the rack. Quickly flip it right side up on the rack to cool completely.
  11. Serve in thin slices with a steaming hot cup of tea. It is even better the next day, when the flavors will have mellowed.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Devangi Raval
    Devangi Raval
  • creamtea
  • Sagegreen

5 Reviews

Devangi R. June 17, 2013
I want to make this tea cake desperately.. It looks absolutely delish.
creamtea June 19, 2013
Thank you!
creamtea January 3, 2012
Thank you, sdebrango! Have made 2 this week. 2 teacakes = 5 lbs. applied directly to the midsection.
Sagegreen January 19, 2012
But this looks worth the 5 lb. gain....I can only make this is I have lots of company coming, which I am now tempted to arrange!
creamtea April 24, 2012
Thanks Sagegreen (just saw this comment, or I'd have responded sooner!).