There is something so comforting in baking a traditional chocolate and walnut cake. Perhaps because we associate such layer cakes with birthdays and other events, or perhaps because chocolate and walnuts make for a timeless dessert combination.
Like most of the fairly old-fashioned cakes, it is not lavish in the ingredients, but it is in flavour, with toasted walnuts, vanilla, chocolate, and plenty of cream. Even with a humblest decoration, it is sure to captivate the attention.
It is a very forgiving cake, somewhat similar to my first-ever made cake, and its beauty truly lies in its simplicity and deep chocolate flavour. The cake layers are spongy and soft, the filling is velvety and almost resembling fudge, and the ganache glaze ties everything together, especially embellished with a few roughly chopped walnut pieces.
And just like every indulgent dessert should be, it is best served well-chilled, with a tiny cup of espresso, or even a glass of your favourite red wine.
For the walnut cake layers
4 medium eggs, room temperature
200 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
120 grams ground toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
For the chocolate truffle filling
300 grams cooking chocolate (50%)
400 ml double cream, divided
For the Ganache glaze and decoration
100 grams dark chocolate (70%)
100 ml double cream
100 grams chopped toasted walnuts
Start by making the truffle filling – roughly chop the chocolate and place it in a large bowl. Heat up 300 ml of double cream, until it starts giving off wisps of steam, but it is not boiling or simmering, then quickly pour it over the chocolate. Gently stir until all of the chocolate is melted, then let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so, until thickened up.
For the cake layers, place the eggs into a large bowl, and beat with an electronic whisk on the highest setting, for about 2 minutes, until they become paler in colour, and the volume increases. Add in the sugar and vanilla, and continue whisking on high for another 2-3 minutes, until the batter almost doubles in size, and becomes thick. Sift in the flour and the baking powder, and tip in the walnuts, then fold everything through gently, using a spatula, being careful not to deflate the eggs. Pour the batter into three round cake tins (18 cm), lined with baking parchment, and bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven. Check them with a toothpick to make sure they are done, then remove from the oven, and let them cool in the tins.
When the cakes have cooled, and the chocolate ganache has thickened up, prepare the platter for the cake assembly and decorating. Beat the chocolate ganache with an electronic whisk on a high setting until it starts resembling buttercream, than take the reserved 100 ml of double cream, and add it into the filling in a few additions, without stopping the whisking. Once all is incorporated, the truffle filling should be velvety and smooth.
Gently remove the cooled cake layers, which will have deflated slightly by then, and that is perfectly fine, from their tins, remove the baking parchment, and place the first one on the cake platter. Place one third of the truffle filling, and gently spread it all over the cake. Place another cake layer, and repeat the process until the cake is fully filled. Use the remaining third of the truffle filling all over the top and sides of the cake, as well as for some light decorations, and while it is still freshly spread, add some roughly ground walnuts on top and on the sides of the cake, then place it in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
For the chocolate ganache, same as before, place the roughly chopped chocolate into a medium bowl, and heat up the double cream until almost boiling. Quickly pour over the chocolate, and stir until melted. Let the ganache cool down slightly, to thicken up, then take the cake out of the refrigerator, and pour the chocolate all over the chilled cake. Return the finished cake to the refrigerator for another 4 hours, and it is ready to be served. Yields 12-16 servings.
By Tina Vesić