When I am in the mood, I can spend the entire day in the kitchen testing out new recipes and recreating old family favorites. It isn’t unusual for me to visit an outdoor market first thing in the morning, and then head to the kitchen with my bounty where I’ll work right up until dinner. On these days I will prepare a few vegetable dishes, create some type of pasta dish, often bake a loaf of bread or two, and usually bake a couple of sweets to have on hand for visiting guests. When baking, I prefer whole grains or nut based options so that there is at least some nutritional value to whatever it is I am making. I also like to include seasonal fruits in my baked goods whenever possible. I have baked some nut cakes in the past, and although very tasty, they can be a little dense at times. I came across a recipe for Torta di Nocciole, or Hazelnut Cake from Domenica Marchetti a few months ago, that uses beaten egg whites to lighten the cake. This step makes perfect sense, so I decided to give it a try recently. I had walnuts on hand instead of hazelnuts and didn’t have any walnut oil, so I used all butter. I also included some ground cinnamon in my version, since I like the flavor combination of cinnamon and walnuts and substituted white farro flour in place of the all-purpose flour.
This cake is moist and flavorful and needs no fancy glaze or icing. A dusting of powdered sugar finishes the cake off beautifully, and although I served my cake with fresh berries, a slice of cake on its own was perfect the next morning with my latte macchiato. If serving this cake for guests, it would also be delicious topped with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit. Toasting the nuts may seem an unnecessary step, but it does enhance the nutty flavor. Simply preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and spreads the nuts out onto a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts are fragrant and just beginning to brown.
Deborah Mele 2015
- 8 Tablespoons (1 Stick or 1/2 Cup) Unsalted Butter, Melted
- 2 1/2 Cups Lightly Toasted Walnuts (See Notes Above)
- 1/2 Cup White Farro or Spelt Flour
- 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- 4 Large Eggs At Room Temperature, Separated
- 1 Cup Sugar
- Pinch of Salt
- Powdered Sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and spray a 9 inch springform pan with baking spray.
- Place the toasted nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
- Transfer the nuts to a mixing bowl along with the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.
- Slowly drizzle in the melted butter, whisking continuously.
- Dump the nut mixture into the bowl with the wet ingredients and use a wooden spoon to mix well.
- In a small bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Spoon the whites into the bowl with the batter and gently fold the whites in to lighten the batter, being careful not to over mix.
- Dump the batter into the prepared pan, and then bake for 45 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool the cake 15 minutes, then remove the sides and cool to room temperature.
- Transfer the cake to a plate, and dust with powdered sugar before serving.