Why I Love This Recipe
Sometimes I think I may have been Italian in my former life. Next to Asian cuisine, I have such a love affair with Italian cuisine. Everything from the way they take such pride and care for the foods they grow and produce, the simple preparation to allow the natural flavors shine and even the way they enjoy eating to savor every single bite... the Italians have such passion for food. I suppose you could say the same for other cuisines but there's just something about Italian cuisine that I truly love. Just as Julia Child is to introducing French cuisine to Americans, Marcella Hazan does the same with Italian cuisine. I've loved all of the recipes I've tried from Marcella's cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, including this one for Walnut Cake. Toasted walnuts make all the difference in this delicious cake, which goes perfect with a cup of tea...
You can tell this recipe is good just by looking at the ingredient list. Butter, sugar, egg, rum, lemon zest, baking powder, flour and of course walnuts. This cake is slightly dense but yet, has a tender and light crumb. The nutty flavor is balanced with a hint of lemon. It's not overly sweet but just sweet enough to enjoy with a delicate cup of tea. If you wanted to jazz this cake up, add some chocolate chips, drizzle on either chocolate icing or warm caramel, maybe even fold in finely diced apples. The cake recipe below is delicious on its own or can work just as well as a base recipe to layer on additional flavors and textures.
Ingredients You'll Need
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 pound whole walnuts
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rum
zest of 1 1/2 lemons
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
confectioner's sugar for garnish
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray; set aside.
Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven. They’re ready when you can smell them, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the walnuts out of the oven and allow to cool complete. Meanwhile, increase the heat to 350 degrees.
Transfer the walnuts into a food processor with 1 tablespoon sugar and pulse fine, but not to powder. Transfer the ground walnuts to a bowl and set aside.
Without cleaning out the food processor bowl, put in the butter with the remaining sugar and process until creamy. Add the egg, rum, lemon zest and baking powder and pulse until you have a uniform paste; transfer to another mixing bowl.
Fold the ground walnuts into the butter mixture with a spatula. Slowly sift in the flour into the batter and carefully fold it in. Once all the flour is incorporated, transfer the thick batter into the springform pan, leveling it off with a spatula.
Bake the cake in the upper third of the oven. After 45 minutes, test the center of the cake with a toothpick. If it comes out dry, the cake is done. If not, bake for an additional 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the sides of the pan; set aside to cool.
After the cake has cooled somewhat, invert it onto a plate and carefully lift off the pan base. Invert once more onto a pretty serving plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar to garnish.