This honey walnut cake is a loving tribute to Maria Helm Sinskey’s Alsatian mother, and the honey so beloved in her home. Toasted walnuts, walnut flour, orange zest, and lots of honey give this cake a tender crumb and delicate flavor.
Nothing expresses a region’s character more than a spoonful of wildflower honey. The flavor varies depending on what flowers are indigenous to the area. A hive full of bees did a lot of hard work only to have their cache robbed, so every spoonful consumed should be appreciated. Alsatians are fiercely proud of their honey. It shows up in their cakes and pastries and gets drizzled on cheese. –Maria Helm Sinskey
WHAT MAKES WILDFLOWER HONEY DIFFERENT?
The most common honey is clover, with wildflower coming pretty far behind. The reason? Clover honey tastes mild and honey-like, so people know what to expect. It’s basic honey–lovely and almost always the same. Wildflower honey comes from bees that visit various wildflowers, rather than clover. The floral taste of wildflower honey can range from mild to quite noticeable, depending on the time of year, the location of the beehive, the pollen collected, and the number of bees working in the hives.
This recipe can be made with clover honey but the use of wildflower honey will come through and accentuate the orange and walnut flavors.
☞ Table of Contents
Honey Walnut Cake
- 1 1/2 cups walnut pieces plus more walnut halves for garnish
- 1 cup all-purpose flour plus more for the pan
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the pan
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
- Spread the walnuts on a sheet pan and toast in the preheated oven for 6 minutes. Dump onto a plate to cool slightly. Rub the nuts in a towel to remove the loose skins.
- Grind the nuts in a food processor with 1/2 cup of the flour until very fine. In a medium bowl, combine the ground nuts, remaining flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter with the honey and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly with the orange zest and vanilla. Add it in thirds to the butter mixture. Beat well to incorporate after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
- Spread the batter evenly in the prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, toast about 10 walnut halves on a sheet pan for 8 minutes. While they are still warm rub the nuts in a towel to remove the excess skin and place them in a small bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons of honey and stir until the walnuts are coated. Reserve the walnut halves at room temperature to garnish the cake when it is finished.
- Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn it out onto a cake rack to cool. Garnish the edge of the cake with the walnut halves before slicing it into wedges.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This cake is not overly sweet, perfect for when you want dessert but not something too sugary. It’s even in the category of not-too-sweet that allows it to be consumed for breakfast without judgment. I loved the flavor of the walnuts and how the orange zest enhanced the other flavors without making it a definitive orange cake. It had a texture that reminded me almost of a soft cornbread—a thin, slightly crisp outer crust with a moist and tender crumb inside.
Oh my. This cake was so simple to make and truly was delectable. If you love baklava, this is the cake version of that traditional dessert. Each and every bite of this cake oozes with honey flavor and has the moistest crumb. The finishing touch of honey-coated toasted walnuts really tops everything off wonderfully! I also served this cake with a dollop of cinnamon-scented whipped cream.
I adore the idea of making a toasted walnut flour for the base of the cake; I wonder if you subbed in gluten-free flour for the AP flour, if this would still have the same moist crumb but be a gluten-free version of the cake? My cake was perfectly cooked at 30 minutes in a 350ºF oven, so my only suggestion is to check the cake a touch earlier than stated just in case your oven runs on the warmer side.
This cake is absolutely divine. The combination of walnuts, honey, and orange peel mingle together making this moist cake spectacular. Whether you serve it with or without whipped cream, it’s sure to satisfy.
Originally published July 15, 2003