I’m curious, how old is your oldest cookbook?
I don’t know exactly how old mine is, but I remember my aunt giving it to me when I was 18, and that was… well, a while ago. The book shows its age, with brownish paper, worn print and a zillion splatters and stains within its pages, but still – I love it.
It’s April, and here in Southwestern Ontario (Canada), it’s near the end of Sugarbush season. Usually, my daughter and I take a day and head out to the local sugarbush to enjoy a walk through the woods, watch the sap boil on wood fires and eat some hearty breakfast with fresh syrup. Sometimes, my husband will take a day off from the office and come with us, but for some reason we didn’t get around to doing anything like that this year.
Maybe that’s why this cake caught my eye today, while I was looking up another recipe. Well, truthfully, the giant stain that wiped out a portion of the recipe caught my eye first, but THEN I noticed the name of the cake, and I was intrigued.
The only real problem with this cake (other than, you know.. the stain that took out part of the recipe), was that it was a chiffon cake. My husband hates any cake that has egg whites separated, beaten and then added back in. It’s a texture issue for him, so as a rule I just leave those recipes alone because I can just not eat a whole cake to myself.
Whatever. I totally can, I just try not to.
I read through the recipe so I could understand the flavour profile, and then converted it to a traditional cake. I’m in love with the result, and I know I will be making this one again! The walnuts really give this cake something special, infusing the whole cake with their nutty flavour, and the simple syrup, made with real maple syrup, was a good way to add moisture and add flavour. I don’t know, I’m not always a fan of just using extract, when I can use the real thing. Right? Right.
For the walnuts, you can use a sharp knife and just chop the walnuts down until they are small bits, but I like to use my pestle and mortar for anytime I need to break down nuts. They crush up nicely, with a varied texture and they don’t go all oily and buttery like they would in an electric chopper. Fold these into the batter just before pouring it into the pans, and while the cake is baking, their flavours will be release and will permeate throughout the entire cake.
The cake is easy to put together and bakes up well, but the assembly was a little more involved than my usual cake. The end result is a really perfect, cake that you will need to take to a friends house, church potluck, or just make for yourself because you like nice things and just want to surround yourself with the best of everything, all the time.
Oh wait, that’s me. But I think if you’re still reading this and haven’t skipped all the way to the recipe by now, then you and I probably have a lot in common ;).
I hope you enjoy my take on this old recipe and let me know how it turned out for you!
Sugar Bush Walnut Cake II
- 2 cups flour, sifted
- 2.5 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup veg oil
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts, divided
- 1/8 cup maple syrup
- Caramel Cream-cheese Frosting (recipe below)
- Maple Simple Syrup (recipe below)
Preheat your oven to 325 F.
Finely chop 1 cup of almonds, or use a stone pestle and mortar, crushing them down until about 1/3 of the mixture resembles cornmeal. You could use a blender for this, but the walnuts will get oily and buttery very quickly and that is not how you want them.
Sift together the first 3 ingredients, and set aside. In the bowl of stand mixer, fitted with the paddle, add the eggs, sugar and oil. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about a minute. Alternate the milk and flour mixture until both are incorporated, and then add the extracts. Continue mixing for another minute on medium speed.
Stir in 2/3 cup of walnuts, setting the remainder aside for garnish.
Grease and line (3) 9″ round pans, and divide the batter evenly between all 3 pans. You really should line the pans with parchment, this will create a porous bottom that you’ll find useful, later.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the cakes out onto racks and let them cool before assembling.
Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 225g package of cream cheese
- 3/4 cup salted butter
- 1 8oz can of dulche de leche (Eagle brand, near the condensed milk)
- 6 cups icing sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, add all of the ingredients. Beginning on low speed, fully mix all of the ingredients and then increase to medium speed. Allow the frosting to mix for about 2 minutes, becoming thicker.
This batch should give you enough frosting for 2 8″ cakes.
Maple Simple Syrup
- 1/8 cup real maple syrup
- 1/8 cup spring water
Place the syrup and the water in a small mason jar and close the lid tightly. Vigorously shake the jar for 30 seconds, and then add the syrup to your squeeze bottle! Alternatively, you can baste the layers of the cake with a basting brush, I just prefer the squeeze bottle. I divide this amount between the 3 layers with no leftovers, but you may prefer to use less.
- Place a layer of cake onto your serving board upside down. This will expose the porous surface of the cake. Squeeze some Maple Simple Syrup onto the layer, and then add some Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting.
- Repeat for each layer.
- It is a personal preference for me to keep the sides of my cake semi-naked, but you can fully cover them if you like! I just find the icing to cake ratio changes drastically on the edges, and I don’t like that.
- Garnish liberally with the remaining chopped walnuts.