Monday, 6 February 2012

Frosted Walnut Layer Cake

Recipe Number One Hundred & Fifty Five:  Page 71.

At first glance this recipe might appear to verge on the bland side. Surely a cake containing just walnuts would be plain and uninspiring. I might have thought this, had it not been for the photograph which accompanies the recipe. The cake looks spectacular, generously smothered with sparkling white American frosting, with walnut halves dotted over the surface hinting at what lies beneath. It looked far from boring!

Before I made a start on the cake there was fun to be had outside! It had snowed the night before and we were keen to take our little boy out for a snowy adventure. We went to the park where Neil made a snowman in the hope of impressing Isaac. Neil was left feeling a little dejected when Isaac gave it a quick once-over before heading to his most favourite thing, the swings! Before heading home, we decided to make footprints in the field behind our house. We do not own a sledge, so made do with a large cardboard box and a bit of rope! Of course a 19 month old didn't mind sitting on cardboard instead of plastic or wood; he thoroughly enjoyed himself, as did we! By the time we arrived home we had pink cheeks and icy hands and feet. We all required a change of clothes, then it was time to jostle for position in front of the radiator!!!

Once I had regained the feeling in my fingers and toes it was time to crack on with the baking. I was thankful that, although I was making three layers of cake, the recipe itself was incredibly straightforward. It was essentially a Victoria Sandwich. I could cope with that! Of course, the down side was having to line THREE sandwich tins. This took some time! I'd almost lost the will to live by the time I was ready to start adding the ingredients to the bowl. I needed almost an entire packet of butter. I almost wished that the whole packet could be used, as now I was left with a tiny little sliver which would no doubt get lost at the back of the fridge and resurface in several months, by which time it would be out of date! Sugar, flour and baking powder were also added to the bowl. One of the required eggs almost managed a successful escape. After I had put the egg box away, I found an egg hiding behind my herbs and spices rack!! As I'd only just tidied up and cleaned the kitchen I knew it was fresh!!! After all the eggy confusion, it was time to add the star of the show - the walnuts. I wasn't overly impressed with my brand new packet of walnuts as they all felt rather soft. They would have to do! I broke the walnuts up into small pieces with my fingers. Not only is this more fun but I find it to be less messy. If I try to chop them with a knife they invariably shoot all over the place! Once all the walnuts were in the bowl I used my electric whisk to beat the mixture for a minute or two. I didn't bother to weigh equal quantities of cake mix into each of the three tins; they would just have to be a bit uneven. I was more worried that I didn't have much mixture to go round. Using a spatula helped get as much out of the bowl as possible. In fact it was too good at its job and there was barely anything left for me to lick out!! I placed the three cakes into the oven and left them to cook for about half an hour.

Whilst the cakes cooked I sat down to eat my lunch. Neil had bought some crumpets on a whim. I wholeheartedly approved of this whim; they went down especially well on a cold snowy day! After gorging on hot buttery crumpets and a mug of tea, I trotted back into the kitchen to collect the cakes from the oven. I had hoped they might have risen a bit more than they had; they certainly hadn't put in much effort! Whilst they cooled on wire racks I got on with the frosting.

Mary gives the recipe for her simple American frosting. I have made this once before for her Devil's Food cake. I remember getting rather stressed making it! I didn't have enough to fill and cover the cake and it set like concrete. Mary says if you have a sugar thermometer to turn to page 393 and try the more traditional American frosting. I decided I would give this recipe a go. I just couldn't face dealing with the sugar concrete again! For this version I heated a HUGE quantity of caster sugar with a modest amount of water until it reached 115 degrees. As soon as it reached this magic number I slowly poured it into some stiff egg whites, whilst continuously whisking. I had to keep beating the mixture until it stood in peaks. I couldn't believe how much the volume increased. It barely fitted in the bowl and both I and the floor got splattered with the very sticky and also hot mixture. I would need a second change of clothes and it wasn't even 2pm yet!

Even though I ended up with a large quantity of white frosting, I still felt cautious and used it sparingly to sandwich the layers of cake together. I, of course, had way too much to cover the top and sides of the cake. It was a very sticky business and I had to keep stopping to wash my hands and wipe the frosting from the plate. Unlike the quick American frosting which seemed to set instantly, I had much more time to play with using this traditional method. The cake looked rather impressive once iced. I placed some walnut halves over the top which I thought was a nice finishing touch. It lets you know what lies beneath the voluminous layer of white frosting!

I rushed to take the all important pictures as the light was fading fast. Isaac didn't help matters by running around after me trying to grab the cake. His little hands were everywhere! Finally I was able to cut a cut a slice for us all to share. I felt the frosting was too sweet for Isaac, so I scraped it off and gave him a 'naked' piece. He ‘hoovered’ his up in mere seconds, so I think he liked it! Neil and I really liked the cake as it was light and fluffy and, surprisingly, we could clearly taste the walnuts; it wasn't bland at all. As we'd been impatient, the frosting wasn't quite set. It was jaw achingly sweet and had a smooth mousse like texture. It was just too sickly for us really to enjoy and we didn't think it worked with a simple walnut cake. However, we should of course have listened to Mary and waited until the frosting had set! The frosting was completely different once it had a chance to firm up. It was crisp and powdery and tasted just like a delicious meringue. It even melted in the mouth. What more could you want?! Although still sweet, it was no longer overwhelming. So, after eating our second helping of cake, we agreed that a simple walnut cake goes exceptionally well with an American frosting – you just have to have a bit of patience!
I feel rather proud of this cake!
Icing wasn't quite set!!


  1. This looks absolutely fabulous. It would make a superb cake for a special occasion.
    I am inspired to try the frosting, having got myself a thermometer last autumn for jam making.
    Well done, it looks lovely and really professional.

  2. This looks impressive! I've never made American frosting but I have Devil's Food Cake on my to do list!!

  3. Awww thank you so much Jean for your kind words. I agree, it is perfect for a special occasion. xx

    Thank you Laura :-) Have a go at the frosting - there is some effort involved but I think it's worth it! xx

  4. That cake looks divine! And so neat too. Well done. XX