Excuses served with a slice of cake

by April on February 20, 2012

Walnut Sponge Cake

I know it’s been an unforgivably long time since I shared a recipe here, but I have some great excuses for you.

  1. I stuck with my post-Europe, gluten-free, sugar-free diet for awhile, leaving me completely and utterly confused in the kitchen. I experimented a lot and had a few wild successes (buckwheat pancakes, which I promise to share) and many more utter failures (stevia brownies with coconut flour). I still mostly eat a gluten- and sugar-free diet because I like the way it makes me feel, but a couple of times a week I’ll eat a piece of dark chocolate or a slice of bread.
  2. I developed an egg intolerance. This makes me so sad that I really don’t want to talk about it, but it’s part of the reason I’ve been less than inspired to blog. Basically, I can have small amounts of well-cooked egg (like a slice of a cake with a couple of eggs in it), but not eggs over easy or egg and potato breakfast tacos, especially not on an empty stomach. It results in hours of debilitating stomach pain, sometimes so bad that I wish I’d just feel like I’m going to pass out. I read that some people have been able to gradually reintroduce eggs into their diet, so fingers crossed this isn’t a permanent thing.

But yesterday I made this walnut sponge cake, and I feel like I got my mojo back. It came together so easily and received rave reviews. It’s super moist, nutty, and ever-so-slightly sweet. We ate it as a dessert with fresh whipped cream and berries, but after tasting it, I secretly wanted to save it for my morning cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, it was too much egg for me, which is incredibly sad because I love love love this cake. I took some Benadryl, which I later read only works for food allergies, not food intolerance, but hey, it still knocked me out, so that’s a win.

If you are lucky enough to be able to eat eggs, make this and have an extra slice for me.

Walnut sponge cake

From Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich.

You’ll need:

  • 2 1/2 cups walnut halves or pieces
  • 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • Finely grated zest of one lemon, preferably organic
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • 1 cup lightly sweetened whipped cream and 1 pint fresh berries, for serving (optional)
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and reheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a round pan with a removable bottom (or a springform pan) with parchment paper. (The recipe says an 8-inch pan, but I had a 9-inch, so I’ll give baking times for both.)
  2. In food processor, coarsely chop 1/2 cup of the walnut. Post the remaining 2 cups walnuts in a food processor, making sure the bowl is completely dry, until finely ground. Combine the nuts and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or small bowl if you’re using a hand-held mixer, combine the egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and salt. Beat at high speed using the whisk attachment until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Scrape the yolks into a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Wash the mixer bowl and whisk attachment and dry thoroughly. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar into the clean mixing bowl and beat at medium-high speed (high if using a hand-held) until soft peaks form when the beater is lifted. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, then continue beating on high until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.
  5. Pour half of the egg whites over the yolks, pour half of the nuts on top, and use a rubber spatula to fold them in until almost completely incorporated. Repeat with remaining egg whites and walnuts, folding until just incorporated, then scrape the batter into the pan and spread it evenly.
  6. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Medrich says 50 to 55 minutes when using an 8-inch pan. I used a 9-inch pan and my cake was done in 24 minutes.
  7. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake, release the sides of the pan, and let the cake cool completely on the rack. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake.
  8. Sift powdered sugar over the cake before serving, and serve plain or with whipped cream and berries.
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