Recently, I discovered The Worlds's Best Cake -- a lovely vanilla affair with whipped cream, meringue, and almonds. It was indeed amazing, and I thank Sweet Paul for the introduction. Ever since I made this soft, chewy, crisp, crunchy, and billowy cake, I've been pondering variations on the theme. This is the Walnut Variation: coffee-flavored cake, cinnamon meringue, toasted walnuts, and maple vanilla whipped cream. The technique is Sweet Paul; the flavor variation is mine. —Aliwaks
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Aliwaks is a longtime Food52er from Philadelphia.
WHAT: A stunner of a cake -- full stop.
HOW: Bake two cakes with meringue on top of them; whip some cream; stack. Watch your dinner party go silent.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This cake is a total show-stopper. It’s dramatic and showy, and it tastes that way too: Deep from brown sugar and walnuts and lightly spiced, you’ll want to make this for every occasion, ever. We already do. —The Editors
- Makes 1 cake
1 1/2 cups
10 1/2 tablespoons
1 1/3 cups
walnuts, chopped and toasted
- The night before: Separate eggs and let egg whites sit on the counter overnight, covered with a clean cloth. Pour cream into a saucepan. Split and scrape vanilla bean into the cream and heat until just boiling. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and chill overnight.
- The next day: Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare a 9 x 12-inch cake pan with buttered parchment. (Alternatively, you can prepare two 9-inch round cake pans.)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar until creamy and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt. Add mixture to butter and sugar in 3 increments, mixing fully between additions.
- Whisk together egg yolks and milk. Add to batter in 3 increments, incorporating fully each time. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
- In a clean mixing bowl (I wipe down my bowl and whisk attachment with vinegar), whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar and cinnamon and whip to soft peaks.
- Spread the meringue over cake batter, cover with toasted walnuts and bake 35-40 minutes, until the meringue is crackly. Let cake cool completely.
- Meanwhile, remove vanilla bean from cream. Add maple syrup and whip cream to soft peaks. Cut cake in half and place one half on a cake plate, meringue side up. Cover with whipped cream. Top with remaining half, meringue side up. You will end up with a 2-layer square cake from your single-layer rectangular cake. (If you're doing this in two round cake pans, just top one with the other.) Let sit 1-2 hours.
- To go completely over-the-top, serve with a dark chocolate sauce punched up with a few dashes of walnut bitters.