Given my fixation with both walnuts and everyday cakes, it should come as exactly no surprise that the time between me spying this recipe and me getting it in the oven was about six days. Which is the equivalent of less than one day in If You Don’t Have An Impish Four-Month Old terms. I fell for it quickly, it came together even faster (spoiler: the whole thing can be made in a single-bowl food processor) and all of that voluptuous stuff on top — a schmear of jam and a “drift” of whipped cream that’s been tarted up with a little sour cream — are standard no-fuss ingredients. This cake is an easy win.
And yet, I must fuss. It is my way. I am 33 years old, clearly too old and entrenched to change. I found the jam a little overpowering. Now, I intentionally went out and sought a jam that would be more tart than sweet, and then I did add the optional lemon juice to further the punch. Nonetheless, when you have a subtly delightful cake — built on a flavor bed of walnuts toasted nearly to the point of caramelization) — it’s hard to find that under a pile of jam. I might halve it next time, or just spread a thin slick of it on top. Or even skip it and for once, listen to my husband who thinks that everything is better with chocolate and perhaps puddle some ganache on top instead. Or my waistline, that thinks this cake is rich enough plain? Nah, definitely the husband.
And the whipped-with-a-touch-of-sour cream, lordy, I was excited about that but wow, that sure is a lot of it. I barely even know who is talking right now, because surely this would never come out of my own mouth but maybe a little less whipped cream next time? Clearly, I’m feeling under the weather today and it shows.
Beyond my fussing, however, this is one of those cakes that I can imagine as many, many things: I could see it as a birthday layer cake. Or the kind of breakfast muffins you know are really just small cakes but look, jam! Clearly that makes them breakfast material. You could split the cake once or twice and slip the jam between the layers, if you’re feeling fancy. Pecans would be an obvious substitution, if you don’t like walnuts (but how could you not?). And I dare say that given the small amount of flour in the cake, it seems ripe for some Kosher for Passover or Gluten-Free adaptability, yes?
Go. Have fun with it. This should totally be your Just Because It’s Wednesday Night dessert.
One year ago: Crisp Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Slaw
Walnut Jam Cake
Adapted from Gourmet.com, long sigh
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
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces or 65 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
1/2 cup (150 grams) jam or preserves (apricot or raspberry are recommended; I used black currant)
2/3 cup (160 grams) chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup (60 grams) sour cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan, or hit it up with the butter-and-flour spray of your choice.
Pulse cooled walnuts and sugar in a food processor until finely chopped. Add butter and process until combined, then add eggs and vanilla and process until combined. 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.
Whisk lemon juice (if using) into jam. Spoon jam over cake.
Beat heavy cream with sour cream, sugar, and vanilla until it holds soft peaks, then spoon over jam
Do ahead: Cake (without topping) keeps, well-wrapped, at room temperature for 4 days. With topping, it has kept so far in the fridge quite nicely for over a day.