Inspired by community member Emiko’s Calabrian Walnut Cake, this recipe has three ingredients: pecans, brown sugar, and eggs, plus a generous pinch of salt for balance. You can add a shake-shake-shake of confectioners’ sugar, or serve the cake with sweetened sour cream. Or double the recipe to create a layer cake frosted with your favorite buttercream (vanilla would be great here). But, of all the times we ate this cake at the office, our favorite serving style ended up being: plain, with hot coffee alongside.
A note on planning: This cake is best if you refrigerate it for at least 8 hours in advance of serving—this helps yield the cleanest slice. If you're pressed for time, just refrigerate for however long you can; it'll still be delicious, but may crumble slightly. —Emma Laperruque
Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment, then butter the parchment.
Add the egg yolks to a large mixing bowl. Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk, staring at low and gradually increasing the speed to medium-high, until stiff peaks form.
While the whites are whisking, add the brown sugar and salt to the egg yolks. Stir until very smooth and liquidy.
Pulse the pecans in a food processor until a fine meal forms, but not so long that they turn into pecan butter—it should look like sand. Stir the ground pecans into the egg yolk mixture until completely combined.
By now, your egg whites are probably whipped. Gently fold them into the pecan mixture, taking care to not deflate the egg whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is browned and mostly firm to the touch, and the center no longer wobbles.
Cool completely before removing from the pan. Ideally: Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 or more hours before slicing and serving (this helps yield a cleaner slice). You can remove the cake from the fridge an hour before serving if you want it at room temperature, or not. If you're pressed for time, just refrigerate for however long you can; it'll still be delicious, but may crumble slightly.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.