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Author Notes: For as long as I can remember, my mom, Valerie, has made this flourless cake--for birthdays, holidays, dinner parties, picnics. As a child, I was often recruited to grind the walnuts in a Mouli hand grinder, panting with the effort. But it was worth it!
Most times, she would serve it dusted with confectioner's sugar and accompanied with berries and a puff of schlag (whipped cream), or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. For very special times, she would make the Walnut buttercream frosting, but that's really gilding the lily; the cake is just as fabulous without it.
Unlike most flourless cakes, it's texture is light, a cousin to angel food cake (it's baked in an angel food tin); make the frosting with margarine (or go without) and the cake is appropriate for Passover.
The photo is a snapshot taken of the endpaper of one of my grandmother's cookbooks; I'd recognize her handwriting anywhere. It's half-English, half-Hungarian...so she must have made this cake as well. —Windischgirl
large eggs at room temperature, separated
cup granulated sugar
ounces walnuts, finely ground
ounces "German's Sweet" baking chocolate (2 bars, 4 ounces each) or equivalent amount of semisweet baking chocolate--use kosher chocolate if baking for Passover
- Melt and and then cool the chocolate. I typically heat it in a glass bowl or measuring cup in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirring until softened. Preheat the oven to 325F and get your angel food cake pan out of the cupboard.
- Carefully separate the eggs. Place the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer, and the whites in a large clean bowl. Set the whites aside at room temperature.
- Start beating the yolks at medium speed. Add the sugar in a stream and continue beating until the mixture is light and lemon colored.
- Stop the machine, scrape down the sides, then add in the nuts and continue beating at medium speed until well combined, up to 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff.
- To the walnut mixture: stop the machine, scrape down the sides, and on low speed, gradually pour in the melted chocolate and blend until well combined. The mixture will be thick and fudge-like. Don't despair, it will lighten as the egg whites are gradually added. Stop the machine and remove the bowl. Using a scraper spatula, gently fold the stiffly beaten egg whites, a quarter at a time, into the chocolate walnut mixture. The texture should be light and airy. A few streaks of white are fine.
- Gently spoon the batter into an UNGREASED angel food cake pan and bake at 325F for 55 minutes, then increase the heat to 350 for 10 minutes to lightly brown the cake. Using a cake tester, test for doneness. Cool the cake completely in the pan right side up, on a rack.
- Once completely cooled, the unfrosted cake can be unmolded onto a plate (run a butter knife around the edges to loosen), wrapped in plastic wrap and foil, and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. The cake can also be frozen, but it really is best fresh. Warm to room temperature before serving.
- Note: Other nuts, such as almonds or hazelnuts, can be substituted for the walnuts.
Walnut buttercream frosting (optional)
ounces Sweet butter, softened (1 stick)
cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
tablespoons light cream, as needed
tablespoons brandy, optional
ounces walnuts, finely chopped
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy and light, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add in the egg yolk and combine well.
- Beat in the confectioner's sugar, salt, vanilla until smooth. Add in cream and brandy to obtain a spreadable consistency. Stir in the nuts.
- Gently spread the room temperature frosting on the fully cooled cake. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting firms, then loosely drape with plastic wrap until serving. Frosted cake can be prepared 6-8 hours prior to serving.