Saturday, December 10, 2011

Black Walnut Cake

This morning was one of those peaceful mornings where it was just me and the kitchen. Yet, in a beautiful way, the room was abuzz with chatting and laughter and humming.. The racket of mixing bowls and beaters, the clinking of measuring cups and spoons. The warmth of being surrounded by family even though it was just me in a room with a recipe and a bag of black walnuts. It's a recipe with a lot of love behind it.

This is the recipe baked by my great-grandma Evelyn. As the story goes, my great-grandpa Ross loved black walnuts and almost annually, his brother Willard would send him a small bag of nut meats and Evelyn would bake the cake for him.

Well, last month, my grandpa gave me a small bag of black walnuts that he harvested from his trees in Kentucky. What an honor!

If you're not familiar with black walnuts, getting them from husk to kitchen is quite laborious, hence the pretty penny asked for them at the store. The flavor is much more complex than your regular walnut, they're the Malbec of the nut family. And good golly, are they ever a delight!

Great-Grandma Evelyn's Black Walnut Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened (original recipe calls for shortening)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/4 cups cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 cup black walnuts, chopped and toasted
Penuche Frosting:
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
Pinch salt
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups confectioners' sugar
Additional black walnuts

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition. Fold in walnuts.

Pour into two greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely.

For frosting, in a saucepan, cook the brown sugar, salt and milk over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. In a bowl, beat the caramel mixture, butter and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar until creamy. Spread between layers and over the top and sides of cake. Thin frosting with additional milk if frosting is thick. Garnish cake with additional walnuts.


  1. Wow! So wish I could take a bite out of that cake! It looks wonderful! And how fun to travel down memory lane with you. Loved the photos!!

  2. So glad you are enjoying the labor of our love...Gramps