Children, adults, grandpas and grandmas, who doesn't like to devour a cake? Be it a loaf cake, a layered cake, a basic and simple sponge cake or even a fruit cake, every type of cake has it's fan following. I in particular, am fond of all types of cakes, just one condition though...they need to taste good.
When it comes to flavors, a nut or a fruit cake has just that teeny bit of advantage. Why? Because it has nuts! which is healthy and delicious and it keeps longer than other cakes, see? so many advantages. On this healthy note, here's a recipe for a Walnut Cake with American Frosting.
This walnut cake is a two layer cake sandwiched with buttercream. You can have it as it is or you can go a step further and ice it with an American Frosting, making it an ideal dessert for special occasions. American Frosting is an icing made of egg whites and sugar syrup that is whipped and cooked over low heat using the double boiler method. It's a tricky frosting to make and you might not get it right the first time. It took me 3 attempts to judge the right consistency of the icing. So don't fret if you encounter a failure.
There are two stages where you can go wrong. First is while making the sugar syrup which needs to be of a single thread consistency. If the syrup hasn't reached this stage and you use it, your icing won't thicken up.
Second is the consistency of the icing when it's cooked. The first two times when I made this frosting, I thought it was cooked, but when I started icing the cake, I figured out it was still runny. When you cook the icing, you'll know it's done when the icing forms peaks and is not of a pourable consistency any more. Also, you need to work pretty quickly once the icing is cooked, since it sets up quite soon.
One last point, when you start icing the cake, have a close look at it. The frosting should look grainy. If it doesn't, then most likely the icing won't set. The reason could be that the sugar syrup was undercooked. Don't worry, it would still taste good, just take care of this the next time you make this frosting.
Now let's get on to make the Walnut Cake!
Recipe Source: Rachel Allen's TV show Bake
Makes one 8 inch / 20 cms two-layered cake
For the Cake
200 grams / 7 ounces plain or all purpose flour
A pinch of salt
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
100 grams / 3.5 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
225 grams / 8 ounces superfine or caster sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs separated and at room temperature
50 grams / 2 ounces shelled walnuts chopped
100 ml / 3.4fl oz milk at room temperature
60 grams / 2.1 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
85 grams / 3 ounces icing sugar or powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the American Frosting
380 grams / 13.4 ounces caster or superfine or granulated sugar
90 ml / 3fl oz water
2 large egg whites at room temperature
For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 360 degrees F. Grease and line two 8 inches / 20 cms loose bottom or regular cake tins and dust with flour. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. Mix thoroughly with a hand held whisk to distribute all the ingredients. In a separate small bowl, dust the walnuts with a tablespoon of the flour mixture and mix.
In a bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light, pale and fluffy about 3 to 4 minutes.
Add vanilla and mix. Add the egg yolks and beat until well mixed. Add the walnuts and mix.
Reduce the mixer speed to minimum. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches alternating with 2 batches of milk, thus starting and ending with flour.
Using your hands and with a spatula, fold in a quarter of the egg whites to the cake mixture to lighten it. Now fold in the rest of the egg whites mixture.
Divide the mixture equally among the two lined tins and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out with a few dry crumbs attached to it.
Place the tins on the wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the tins and place them on the wire rack to cool completely.
For the Buttercream Icing
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand held electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter. Add the icing sugar and mix until the icing sugar has blended completely into the butter. Add the vanilla extract and mix.
Place one of the cakes on a turn table or a serving platter. Spread the buttercream icing over it. Place the second cake on top of the icing and press slightly to sandwich both the cakes.
For the American Frosting
Place a pan with some water on a low flame to simmer.
In a separate pan, mix the sugar and water. Heat the mixture on a low flame stirring until the sugar melts. Turn up the heat and don't stir once the mixture starts to boil. Cook the mixture until it reaches the single thread stage, wherein once you pick the spoon from the mixture and tilt it, the last few drops form a thick single thread.
Meanwhile, whisk the two egg whites until frothy. Pour the boiling sugar syrup in the egg whites in a thin stream while continuously beating the egg whites mixture.
Place the egg whites-sugar syrup mixture over the pan of simmering water taking care that the water does not touch the bowl with the egg whites mixture with your other hand.
Keep whisking the mixture until you get peaks and the mixture is no longer of pouring consistency.
Immediately remove the bowl from the pan and spoon out the frosting over the cake. Spread the frosting over the cake top and the sides as quickly as possible since this frosting starts setting up pretty quickly.
Decorate the cake with walnut halves or in whichever way you like.
Storage Suggestions: This cake can be stored in the refrigerator in an air tight container for 2 to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before eating.