Walnut Chocolate Cake

February 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

I love to cook. Love, love, love it. However, since moving to Big Sky my kitchen passion seems to have been pushed to the back burner. Besides those altitude sick chocolate chip cookies I made way back in December, my food experiments here in Montana have pretty much consisted of throwing whatever is in the cupboard on top of green leafy stuff.

Fortunately, my aunt’s dinner party this past Saturday gave me the perfect excuse to don my chef’s hat and get reacquainted with my favorite room in the house. I volunteered to provide dessert for the evening’s menu. And where did I go in search of an enticing, tried and true recipe? None other than smittenkitchen.com.

I love smittenkitchen.com and you should too. It is the best food blog I have managed to stumble upon so far. The pictures are to die for. If only I could take food photos as intriguing and creatively composed as Deb’s, creator of smittenkitchen.com. I have to admit that not only did her cake turn out better than mine, her pictures put mine to shame. I just didn’t get my whipped cream to form such pretty peaks as hers. At least, I have something to strive for.

Once at smittenkitchen.com I had to look no farther than the most recent post to find the perfect winter party dessert. One look at Deb’s Walnut Jam Cake and I was like, I have to make that. I mean who could pass up such a pretty little cake, especially with such an easy recipe. You just throw everything in a food processor.

I opted to switch out the jam for chocolate as Deb’s husband recommended and used her recipe for chocolate puddle topping (cream and chocolate, what can be better?). I thought this would dress it up a bit for the party.

Guess who forgot about altitude again? Fortunately, I remembered before I put my cake in the oven so I was able to make a few slight adjustments. After a quick Google search, I found a useful set of cake baking guidelines for altitude. The key adjustments for baking at higher altitudes are decreasing sugar and leavening ingredients (i.e. baking soda, baking powder) and increasing liquids and oven temperature. It was too late for me to adjust the sugar or baking powder but I was able to add a little extra liquid, in this case one tablespoon water, and raise the oven temperature by 25°F. All that was left to do was cross my fingers and hope for the best. Thankfully, these alterations seemed to do the trick or at least they did no harm. You could definitely call the finished product a cake and according to the guests a good one at that.

I do have one cautionary note. My cake browned quite a bit before the center was fully cooked, I worried that it was burning or drying out. I imagine this was due to the higher oven temperature, however, the browning had little affect on the finished product as I had both a moist and delicious cake.

Walnut Chocolate Cake
Barely adapted from smittenkitchen.com

1 1/4 cups walnuts (4 1/2 ounces or 130 grams), toasted (in a shallow baking pan at 350°F for 10 minutes) and cooled
2/3 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces or 113 grams), cut into pieces
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cold water (for altitude only, 5,000ft or above)
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces or 65 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt

Chocolate Puddle Topping

3 tablespoons heavy cream

3 ounces (85 grams) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet chocolate

2/3 cup (160 grams) chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup (60 grams) sour cream
1 teaspoon sugar (optional, I like a more tart whipped cream to counteract the sweetness of the chocolate and cake)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F (375°F if baking at altitude like me) with rack in middle. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan, or take advantage of modern making technologies like me and use all in one butter flour spray.

Combine cooled walnuts and sugar in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add butter and process until combined, then add eggs and vanilla and process until combined. (For altitude bakers add water here). Add flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse just until incorporated. Spread batter in cake pan.

Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Simmer heavy cream over medium heat until warmed. Pour over the chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is creamy. If the chocolate doesn’t completely melt add a little bit of boiling water and stir. Once the chocolate and cream are evenly combined pour over the cake starting from the center. You can spread it out from the center allowing the chocolate to drip over the edges. Allow the chocolate to cool.

Beat heavy cream with sour cream, sugar (if using), and vanilla until it holds soft peaks, then spoon over cooled chocolate topping.

Forward Planning: According to Deb, the cake topping free keeps well-wrapped at room temperature for four days. I baked mine two days in advance.


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