Orange Scented Walnut Cake


Here is a recipe that was inspired by a recipe for Pistachio Tea Cake that I have used for many years as a celebration cake. It is from a cookbook titled “Fifty Ways to Cook Most Everything” by Andrew Schloss and Ken Bookman. An old friend gave me this book some twenty years ago and I still reference it for basic recipes. It  is essentially  a study of recipes each changed up a dozen or so different ways. I don’t think there is a complicated one in the entire book. The very nature of the book sort of beckons you to take liberties with the recipes that more serious cookbooks do not.

Part of my inspiration was found at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago. I wanted to make the pistachio version, which by the way I have frankly always found to be on the dry side,  and stopped in to get the necessary ingredients at which point I stumbled onto an interesting package of oils extracted from Pistachios, Walnuts and Hazelnuts.  I added a good half a cup of the Pistachio oil to the Pistachio cake recipe and it cured the dryness leaving it moist and even richer in Pistachio flavor.

These oils are really great great quality. I remember several years ago picking up a bottle of pistachio oil in Paris and yes it was excellent quality and full of flavor; same goes for these! Anyway with the success of the pistachio version I couldn’t help but think of using the Walnut oil in the same way and replacing the Pistachios with toasted Walnuts. To brighten up the flavors I added a bit of citrus by way of orange zest. In all it has turned out to be a delicious alternative to the pistachios. The deep earthy flavor from the roasted Walnuts and the walnut oil lightened up a bit with the scent of the orange zest is pretty nice!

Orange Scented Walnut Cake

1/2 Pound Butter

2 Tsp. of Vanilla Extract

1 Cup of Sugar

4 Eggs

1 1/3 Cups of Flour

1 Tsp. of Baking Powder

1/4 Pound Toasted Walnuts (Finely Ground)

Zest From 2 Oranges


  1.  With an electric mixer beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until fluffy.
  2. Add one egg at a time scraping the mixing bowl down to keep the batter smooth.
  3. Sift in the flour and baking powder in three intervals.
  4. Stir in the finely ground Walnuts and the Orange zest.
  5. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9″x 5″ loaf pan and place in a 350° oven for 1 hour 10 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.


Cake: Chocolate and Chartreuse


Almost every year for Christmas, without exception, I make a chocolate cake  heavily doused with Chartreuse, that wonderful liqueur made in France by the Chartreux monks. The recipe is one I found in In Madeleine’s Kitchen by Madeleine Kamman, page 52.  It is actually a charlotte of sorts and does not have cake like layers but is made predominately with a chocolate mousse that sets up to a very dense but silky consistency. As it would happen last year proved to be one of those rare exceptions. Due to the amount of travel we engaged in during both Christmas and New Years there was simply no time to make the traditional Christmas Cake.  So one month later and a new year, I took this as an opportunity to break with tradition a bit by creating a new recipe that still takes advantage of the great combination of chocolate and Chartreuse. The inspiration here comes from a recipe from Daniel My French Cuisine by Daniel Boulud.  In Daniel’s recipe it is a real chocolate layered cake or bombe with a chocolate ganache frosting decorated with chocolate shavings. His recipe calls for a chocolate syrup that moistens each of the layers of the cake. In this version I have replaced  the syrup  with the Chartreuse to moisten the layers recapturing the combination of chocolate and Chartreuse. Daniel’s recipe uses a classic genoise style cake but here I have made it with a traditional chocolate cake baked in a 3 quart stainless steel bowl for a nod to Daniel’s original recipe, Cocoa-Dusted Dark Chocolate Bombe.  I my version I have used only the ganache as the frosting.

Chocolate Cake Recipe

• 1 1/2 cups white sugar
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Ghirardelli 100% Pure Cocoa Powder recommended
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 cup boiling water
• Chartreuse (about ½ cup)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 3 quart stainless steel bowl.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared bowl.

Ready To Bake

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in for 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. When cake is cool enough to handle slice into three equal layers.
5. Use a pastry brush to soak both sides of the bottom two layers with the Chartreuse.

6. Frost the bottom two layers with enough ganache to equal the thickness of the individual layers.

7. Stack the layers back together and frost the cake.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

3 ¼ cups heavy cream
2 ¼ cups sugar
12 oz. unsweetened baker’s chocolate chopped, Ghirardelli 100% unsweetened cocoa bar recommended


1. In a medium saucepan heat the heavy cream and the sugar an allow to simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Chop the chocolate into medium to small pieces and place in a heat proof bowl.
3. Pour the heated cream/sugar combination over the chopped chocolate and allow to sit for one minute.
4. Stir to blend the melted chocolate with the cream until smooth and transfer to a shallow baking dish. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and allow to cool at room temperature.

Apple Cake – Roman Style

Cakes are popular here in Italy. I am not sure I realized the few times we had come to Italy that they held such high esteem in the culinary rubric. But they are a mainstay at most cafes; usually perched on one end of the bar or even tucked behind the counter where only those in the know can ask for a slice.  These are not typically layered cakes.   They are most often baked in a decorative mold or a simple spring form pan.  I have most often seen them with no icing though occasionally one turns up with a light glaze of some sort. They also tend to be less sweet than what we are accustomed to in the States.  A particular favorite of mine is the Apple cake.  Certainly this time of the year is the optimal season to make it.  Here is one such recipe that I that I have adapted, through some trial and error, from a recently purchased cookbook, Roma in Cucina.  Enjoy!

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