I’ve made this cake often – it's a simple cake, perfect for an afternoon tea. And it dresses up nicely with whipped cream and a fruit sauce or preserves. The recipe is adapted from an old William-Sonoma cookbook called “The Best of Taste.” One especially nice thing about this cake is that it stays moist for days. In fact, it seems to even improve on the second day.
This past weekend, I thought, how nice would a quiet family afternoon tea be. The cake was already made; I had put it in the freezer a couple weeks ago when a friend was going to come over and then had to cancel. And I still had some of the raspberry sauce from our Labor Day berry picking trip so the preparation would be easy.
In the end, it was a lovely tea. But initially, my kids grumbled loudly when they heard there were walnuts in the cake. Kids have a way of maintaining a perfect mental inventory of anything sweet in the house. Mine knew there was one piece of my mother’s apple pie left in the fridge and they started fighting over would get to eat that instead the sure-to-be awful cake. Losing hope for my picture-perfect afternoon, I barked at them to sit down and try the cake, if they didn’t like it, they could split the pie. Thankfully, they liked the cake and things quieted down. After the cake was gone, my younger daughter licked the sauce off her plate – I wish I had gotten a photo of that. And, still, they somehow managed to broker their way to the pie. In my gratitude for the momentary peace, I let my guard down. For them, it was a day when they had their cake and ate pie, too.
Preparation time: 1 hour
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
6 large eggs, separated
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
few gratings of whole nutmeg
½ pound (about 2 ¼ cups) walnuts halves and pieces, finely ground with 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
¾ cup heavy cream, whipped and lightly sweetened with 1 teaspoon sugar and flavored with ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fruit preserves (such as apricot) or sauce, such as the raspberry sauce
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 10-inch springform pan and line the bottom of it with a circle of baking parchment.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until lightened. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure the mixture is blended evenly.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, spices, and walnut mixture. Fold into egg mixture.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and salt into stiff peaks. Gently stir ¼ of the whites into the batter, then fold in the rest.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until the top of the cake is lightly browned, the edges of the cake are just beginning to separate from the pan and the cake springs back when touched in the middle, about 25-30 minutes. Let cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then unmold onto a wire rack to cool further.
- Sift confectioners sugar over cake.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream over each slice and preserves or sauce served around it. This cake can be prepared a day in advance, cooled completely, and wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. Or you can freeze for several weeks. Allow the cake to return to room temperature before serving. This cake stays moist for several days.