Walnut Layer Cake with Orange Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

The day before Thanksgiving, my dad started texting me.

"In addition to Hudson, are you bringing something tomorrow? Perhaps a delicious dessert?"

I didn't reply right away, and so another text soon followed.

"Hey! How about this Peach and Plum Cake? That looks good!"

It was evident that he was going through my blog looking for ideas...

"That's a summer cake, but don't worry," I replied. "I'll bring something delicious!"

But the truth was I had no plan and so I ended up standing around in my kitchen for a bit trying to figure out what to make.

I recently received a gift of a large bag filled with raw walnuts (out of their shells, thankfully), and had been wanting to use them in some kind of dessert.

Specifically, a fancy and festive layer cake.

I didn't want whole or even crushed nuts in the cake, but instead was picturing coarsely ground nuts that could be folded evenly throughout the batter. And I wanted to use cake flour to make sure it was tender and light. I wasn't going for some hearty stodgy teacake. I wanted something airy and lovely.

I gave it a shot and was thrilled with the results. The cake itself was so delicious--nutty and fragrant. It was almost impossible to resist eating it (although fortunately I got to snack on the part I cut off to level it).

If you make this, remember that the trick is to not grind the nuts too much. You don't want a fine nut meal--you're really looking for something a little bigger--like course bread crumbs. It makes ALL the difference.

I frosted the cake with a cream cheese frosting (my favorite) flavored with spices and a dash of orange extract, although I think a dark chocolate frosting would also work really well here.

Perfect holiday decadence. Enjoy!

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Walnut Layer Cake with Orange Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields one 8" layer cake

For the cake
2 1/2 cups raw walnuts
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup milk

For the frosting
12 oz cream cheese, softened
12 oz butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3 cups confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line two 8" round cake pans. Place walnuts in a food processor, and pulse until they resemble course breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the extracts.

Reduce speed to low, and add the flour and milk, mixing just until completely combined. Gently mix in the coarsely ground walnuts, and divide batter evenly into the two prepared pans.

Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy. Beat in the extract, and spices, then the two cups of sugar.

Once the cake is completely cool, use a knife to level off one of the cakes by cutting off the rounded part on top (yay for snacks!). Then use this as the first layer of your cake, top with a generous dollop of frosting and spread to about an inch before the edges.
Add the second layer on top (rounded part up), and press down slightly. Finish frosting the cake.
Serve immediately, or chill until serving (can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance). I like to remove it from the refrigerator about 2 hours before serving as it tastes better when it's not super cold.

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