There’s cake—the kind we drown in frosty buttercream, slap onto paper plates, and pass along to the person next to us—and then there’s cake. There’s the kind we prefer to smear onto other people’s faces, and the kind we wouldn’t even dare to share. It’s clear—not all cakes are created equal.
The difference between a stale sponge hiding under a mound of “frosting” and a true cake is remarkable. A dark, nutty, fragrant citrus cake has an ability to salvage one’s spirit from any dreary Middletown afternoon. It regards substance over style. It demands that we occasionally take care of ourselves, reserve an hour in between class and Olin-ing all night to slip into our kitchen, whip nuts into a batter, watch an episode of “Downton Abbey,” sip a hot latte, and enjoy a slice of pillowy goodness. (The whole package, really. You must.)
I should mention that this is a totally unfussy, yet very elegant cake. I’ve made it frantically before an impromptu birthday soiree and for no one in particular on leisurely afternoons. All the ingredients are readily available at Weshop, and the whole process takes 90 minutes tops.
This cake stores extremely well if properly covered (up to a week). I just use a sheet of plastic wrap. The crumb stays firm and the tanginess mellows out nicely.
You have no excuse now, really. The sweet aroma of orange and toasted walnuts will fill every corner of your house. Post-cake, take a deep breath and have another slice.
Orange-Walnut Cake (adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a nine-inch-diameter springform pan or standard loaf pan by rubbing oil and dusting flour.
Grind walnuts in a food processor until finely ground but not powdery. Alternatively, use a large chef’s knife. Rock your knife back and forth over walnuts, between straight and curved tip.
Combine ground walnuts, flour, nutmeg and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.
Using whisk or electric mixer, beat eggs in large bowl until frothy, about two minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until light, thick, and pale yellow, about four minutes. Gradually add walnut-flour mixture; then add orange juice, orange peel, and olive oil, beating just until blended.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet, and bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes.
Cool cake completely in pan on rack.
Release cake from pan, or cut out individual slices. Sprinkle cake with confectioners sugar and serve.