Tasty and moist, this Old Fashioned Walnut Cake will bring you back to your childhood with the first bite! It is one of my most memorable desserts ever and that’s why I decided to present it in the blog.
The current post is a bit more personal, hence if you are just interested in the recipe, please feel free to jump directly to it (through the “Recipe” button above).
About my grandma
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.
Why do I love this 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.
About the measurements
In the original recipe the ingredients were measured by “wine glass” which is smaller than a US cup. I tried to convert the measurements both in grams and cups, following as much as possible the original ones.
Is this recipe easy
This cake is not at all complicated. It requires a bit time though, especially if you bake the layers separately.
Otherwise the only challenge for me was to make it even. The warm pudding is almost liquid so it doesn’t help much levelling the layers as 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!
I really hope you like this cake as it is very special for me! If you made it, let me know in the comments how it went!
Old Fashioned Walnut Cake
- 9 inch/ 23 cm pan
For the cake layers (3 layers):
For the pudding:
- ½ cup/ 1 pack/ 60 g vanilla pudding mix, for cooking
- ½ cup/ 1 pack/ 60 g chocolate pudding mix, for cooking
- 4 cups/ 900 ml milk
- 6 tablespoon sugar, if the pudding is not sweetened
- This cake contains 3 layers, 2 of which are flavoured with vanilla extract and 1 is flavoured with cocoa powder. In order to save baking time, you can prepare the 2 vanilla layers in one pan and slice the resulting base afterwards. Below is the recipe for 1 layer only, using ⅓ of the above listed ingredients. Therefore if you plan to bake the 2 vanilla layers together, use double quantity ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C /350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 23 cm (9 inch) cake pan with a circle of parchment paper. Grease well the pan inside.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together ⅓ cup(90 g) olive oil and ¾ cup (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 ¾ cup (180 g) yogurt with ½ teaspoon baking soda and whisk. When the mixture starts bubbling, add it to the mixing bowl. Whisk until homogeneous.
- Gradually add 1 cup (125 g) flour and 1 cup (80 g) ground walnuts and stir until just absorbed.
- If this is a cocoa layer: add the cocoa powder and mix. If this is a vanilla layer: add the vanilla and mix.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes (if baking the 2 vanilla layers together, you would need 20 minutes more). Test with a wooden skewer: if inserted in the centre it comes out just with a few crumbs and the top is golden brown, the cake is ready.
- Let the layer cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before taking it out. The layers must be at room temperature before assembling the cake.
- Each kind of pudding requires half of the milk (2 cups/ 450 ml).
- In a cup combine the vanilla pudding mix with 3 tbs sugar and 3-4 tablespoon milk. Stir until the starch is completely dissolved. Pour the remaining 1 ⅔ cups (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. Whisk very well until smooth.
- 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. Don't leave it longer because it would thicken too much!
- Using the same method, prepare the second kind of pudding with the rest 2 cups milk.
To assemble the cake:
- In case you baked the vanilla layers as one base, use a serrated knife to halve it horizontally. For best results refrigerate the base 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 may not be using it all for the cake: the remaining quantity can be poured in ramequins and consumed separately.
- Decorate the cake with ground and whole walnuts.
- The pudding used in this recipe is practically flavoured cornstarch or potato starch. Alternatively you can use just plain cornstarch (about the same quantity) and add cocoa powder and vanilla extract to it.
- Store the cake 2-3 days in the fridge.