Tasty and moist, this Old Fashioned Walnut Cake will bring you back to your childhood with the first bite! This cake is one of my most memorable desserts ever and that’s why I decided to present it in the blog.
Today is the birthday of my late grandma whom I loved very much and with whom I spent a big part of my early years. Same as all wonderful grandmothers around the world, mine as well was an extraordinary woman – with both her good and bad sides. She was an expert in many areas, including but not limited to: baking different types of bread, making filo pastry, knitting pullovers and killing chicken. She made the nice embroidery on the yellow cloth on the pictures here. She also made the beautiful crochet work on the photos here and here. Unfortunately I never acquired most of her skills. The only thing that I surely learned from my grandma was to make a bundt cake with lemonade. That’s a bit bizarre as my grandma was an experienced cook but not a huge expert in desserts. Unlike me, she always followed strictly the recipes of all cakes she made.
To be honest, I thought a lot about this post before starting it. Naturally, the topic of my grandma is very sentimental for me. Eventually I decided that her birthday must be a reason for joy and not for sadness. That’s why I will skip here any tearful moments and I will focus on the main star of the day: My Grandma’s Old Fashioned Walnut Cake.
I need to point out that my grandma was surely not the author of this recipe but it was given to her by some friend. Supposedly this friend also received it from someone else… The occasion for the cake was one of my birthdays which happened during the week and far away from my parents. Normally for each of my birthdays they bought me a cake made in a pastry shop but this time it wasn’t possible for them to come right away. Nevertheless my grandma decided that I still had to receive a cake on my birthday so she made it for me. I have to admit, I was very suspicious about this cake before tasting it, mainly because of the pudding she used as a frosting. At the time I hated this type of pudding, made with milk and cornstarch, due to bad memories from the kindergarten. But after trying the cake, I realised that it was delicious and the pudding had a completely different texture on a cake in comparison to when eaten directly.
And so, almost 30 years later, here I am again with the walnut cake with pudding frosting. In fact the original cake recipe which I found later, had a different kind of frosting but I wanted to recreate as much as possible the cake that I ate on that birthday. Also the pudding is relatively light because it contains only milk, sugar and flavoured cornstarch. In my view this cake would have been quite heavy with a buttery frosting.
In the original recipe the ingredients were measured by “wine glass”. I used a whiskey glass which is slightly smaller than a regular measurement cup, and then converted the volume in weight.
This cake is not at all complicated but the main challenge for me was to make it even. The warm pudding is almost liquid so it didn’t help much in levelling the layers as all the fluffy frostings normally do. Nevertheless I find that the slight unevenness makes the cake look more vintage.
Whenever my grandma is at this moment, I want to thank her for all she did for me, including that she made me that wonderful cake!
Old Fashioned Walnut Cake
For the cake layers (3 layers):
- 3 cups /240 g ground walnuts , + more for decoration
- 3 cups / 375 g self raising flour
- 3 cups / 450 g sugar
- 3 cups / 540 g plain yogurt
- 1,5 cups / 270 ml olive oil
- 1,5 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 3 eggs
For the pudding:
- 1 pack, 60 g vanilla pudding mix
- 1 pack, 60 g chocolate pudding mix
- 900 ml milk
- 6 tbs sugar
- This cake has 3 layers, 2 of which are flavoured with vanilla extract and 1 is flavoured with cocoa powder. In order to save time, you can prepare the the 2 vanilla layers as one cake and cut it afterwards. Below is the recipe for 1 layer only, using 1/3 of the above listed ingredients. Therefore if you will bake the 2 vanilla layers together, you need to double the ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Place a circle of baking paper on the bottom of a 23 cm (9 inch) cake pan. Grease well inside the pan.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together 90 ml olive oil and 150 g sugar until well combined (mixer is not mandatory, I used a hand whisk). Add 1 egg and whisk well until the mixture thickens.
- In a cup combine 180 g yogurt with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and whisk. When the mixture starts bubbling, add it to the mixing bowl. Whisk until homogeneous.
- Gradually add 125 g flour and 80 g ground walnuts and stir until just absorbed. Add the cocoa powder to the cocoa layer or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to each vanilla layer.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes (if baking the 2 vanilla layers as one cake, it would need at least 50-60 minutes). Test with a wooden skewer: if inserted in the centre it comes out just with a few crumbs, the cake is ready.
- Let the cake cool about 10 minutes in the pan before taking it out. The layers must be at room temperature before assembling them.
- Normally 60 g pudding mix is prepared with 500 ml milk, as per the instructions on the package, but I advise you to use only 450 for a thicker texture.
- In a cup combine the vanilla pudding mix with 3 tbs sugar and 30-40 ml milk. Stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pour the remaining 410-420 ml milk in a medium saucepan and bring it to boil. Once the milk starts simmering, remove from heat and add the pudding mixture. Place the pan on the heat again and whisk continuously until the pudding thickens. Remove from heat and let cool for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake.
- Using the same method, prepare the chocolate pudding.
To assemble the cake:
- In case you baked the vanilla layers as one cake, use a serrated knife to halve it horizontally. For best results refrigerate the cake in advance.
- Place one vanilla layer on a serving plate and cover it generously with warm vanilla pudding. Place the cocoa layer on top and cover it with more vanilla pudding. Place the second vanilla layer on top.
- Frost the cake all around with the remaining vanilla pudding.
- Spoon the chocolate pudding on top so that it drips around. You will not going to use it all for the cake: the remaining quantity can be distributed in ramequins and consumed directly.
- Decorate the cake with ground and whole walnuts.