Baking, Bounty (August - October), Dairy-Free, Dessert, Evergreen (April - July), French, Gluten-Free, Mist (November - March), Vegetarian
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Flourless Walnut Cake with Coffee + Spice Versions

flourless walnut spice cake on a platter.
Flourless walnut spice cake adorned with fall fruits and flowers.
Flourless Walnut Spice Cake with Fall Fruits and Flowers

Rustic Cake at Its Very Best

In my calculus, a rustic cake has a short list of ingredients, an interesting texture, and most importantly is adorned very plainly– a straightforward glaze, scoop of ice cream or whipped cream, a smatter of nuts or seasonal fruit is all it takes. This Flourless Walnut Cake and its coffee or spice versions deliver on a promise of simplicity.

What a cake like this misses in complexity is made up with a certain honesty. It’s like the fresh rosy-cheeked girl in a calico dress that smells of clothesline sunshine.

Flourless walnut cake on a cake platter.
Flourless Coffee-Walnut Cake with Coffee Glaze and Candied Walnuts

Or, our flourless walnut cake is like filtering your way through a crowded party, and meeting a gentle-souled person standing in the corner with whom to while the evening away.

Uncomplicated joy.

Multi-tiered, colorful swooped, swirled, and filagree-frosted cakes sometimes disappoint on the part that really matters– flavor. With flourless walnut cake or its coffee or spice versions, what you see is what you get. The beauty is natural, not forced.

Making the Flourless Walnut Cake

Woman holding place with flourless walnut cake.
Flourless Coffee-Walnut Cake, fresh from the oven.

Starting with room temperature eggs, like with most baking, is imperative to the success of this recipe. Sugar simply cannot dissolve into cold yolks. Cold whites don’t whip to their lofty heights. Here you spend a good deal of time building structure by dissolving sugar into yolks and stiffening the whites, so give yourself a guaranteed win by setting your eggs out in advance. (When I forget, I help the eggs warm up by placing them on a bowl of lukewarm water, changing it for more when it goes cold. Never try this with hot water or you make crack open a semi-cooked egg!)

Traditional recipes for this type of cake ask you to whip all of the whites into firm peaks at once. Here, I have you whip them to medium peaks at first, then add only a third of them to the yolk/sugar/nut mixture to lighten the batter. Then, you’ll go back and whip the remaining two-thirds of the whites into firm stand-up-at-attention peaks before gently folding them into the batter. I have found this greatly increases the structure of the cake, resulting in a taller cake with less shrinkage when it comes out of the oven. Even though our dear little flourless walnut cakes are humble, they still like to make a good first impression.

If you chose, top either version with a pile of candied walnut halves, made the same way Sarah at Sustainable Cooks makes her pecans. The only difference is that I add 1 tablespoon water to the skillet along with the sugar. Make extra! Candied walnuts are great in salads or on a cheese platter, too.

Both versions-- coffee-walnut and walnut spice cakes together on a table.
Choose plain walnut, walnut spice or coffee-walnut variations with this one simple recipe.

More Rustic Cake Recipes

Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake + Blueberry Compote (gluten-free)

Zingy Lemon Ginger Zucchini Cake

Flourless walnut cake on a cake platter.

Flourless Walnut Cake with Coffee + Spice Versions

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: autumn dessert, coffee desserts, nut desserts, spice cake
Season: Bounty (August – October), Evergreen (April – July), Mist (November – March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Preparation: Baking
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 12
Author: Pam Spettel
Flourless Walnut cake is tender and delicious just as written, but the addition of coffee or baking spices takes it next level– One recipe with three variations– plain, Coffee, or Spice– to suit your mood. Three primary ingredients, a few simple steps, and you'll have beautiful dessert cakes all winter.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups walnuts, ground (instructions below) 8 ounces
  • 7 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Flavoring Options

Coffee Glaze, Optional

  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground coffee beans
  • 5 Tablespoons warm or hot strong brewed coffee
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Flourless Walnut Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Generously butter and flour (or use very finely ground walnuts) a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the bottom of the pan with foil to catch any butter that melts out in the oven.
  • In a food processor, finely grind the walnuts. This will likely take only 8 -10 pulses. Stop just as they begin to clump. (Any further and you'll make walnut batter, not quite what we are after). Set the ground walnuts aside.
  • Seperate the eggs, placing the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whip attachment. Beat the yolks with the sugar and salt 6-8 minutes until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow. (You'll be glad you let your eggs come to room temperature for this– the sugar more readily dissolves in eggs that are not cold.)
  • If you are making a plain flourless walnut cake, move on to step five. If you are making either a walnut-spice cake or a coffee flavored cake, add the spice mix or the finely ground coffee beans now and mix in thoroughly.
  • Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer and with a silicone or rubber spatula, fold the ground walnuts into the yolk mixture.
  • In a separate clean bowl free of any oils or grease, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla to medium peaks. (The cream of tartar helps stabilize the whipped egg whites.) Gently fold about a third of the egg whites into the walnut mixture. Then, whip the remaining egg whites once again until they just reach firm peaks. Fold them gently into the walnut mixture in two batches, folding until no more white streaks remain.
  • Place the cake batter into the prepared pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the cake is puffed, set (not jiggly) in the middle, and a cake tester (I use a bamboo skewer for this) inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pan about 20 minutes before removing the springform ring. The cake will have sunk in the center and formed charming cracks and crags, perfectly normal for this rustic meringue-style cake.
  • Decorate with seasonal fruits, a dusting a powdered sugar, or the coffee glaze below. Seve with whipped cream.

Coffee Glaze

  • Place the sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and coffee, tablespoon at a time, and whisk until a glaze forms. It should cling to the whisk and drip off in thick long ribbons. Adjust by adding more powdered sugar or water to make it thicker or thinner. Drizzle the glaze from the whisk around the edges of the cake, allowing some to flow toward the center of the cake and some to drip off the edges. Allow the glaze to set for an hour before covering or serving.

Notes

To make the Coffee Glaze a Spice Glaze, replace the ground coffee with one teaspoon of the same spice blend you use in the cake, and replace the brewed coffee with warm or hot water.
Garnish the spice cake with fresh fig halves, lightly roasted (6 minutes at 350, just to soften) plum prunes, tiny grape clusters, and/or unsprayed organic food-safe flowers or flower petals.  

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1 Comment

  1. Nancy S. says

    I will be curious to see how light/ dense this actually turns out to be. Also interested to find out for myself how hard it is to whip those egg whites. Looks like a quiet crowd pleaser, maybe even appropriate as a quick slice for breakfast. Always an adventure to read your column. Thanks for the suggestion on bringing eggs to room temperature.

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