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Orange-Walnut Cake with Brown Sugar Rum Syrup

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From the book Sweet! by Mani Niall and submitted by Wholesome Sweeteners

Makes 12 servings.

Walnut lovers will thank you for making this cake, loaded as it is with two and a half cups of protein-rich nuts, not to mention walnut oil, which is high in omega–3, and helps to balance cholesterol. The caramel notes in the brown sugar glaze accents the toasted nut flavor.

Orange-Walnut Cake

2 1/2 cups toasted walnuts 
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 large orange
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup amber honey
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
11/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
11/2 cups boiling water

Brown Sugar–Rum Syrup Ingredients
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup dark rum
1/3 cup fresh orange juice


  • Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour a 10-to-12 cup fluted tube pan and tap out the flour.
  • To make the cake, combine the walnuts, 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, and the orange zest in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade. Pulse about six times until the walnuts are very finely chopped, but not a powder.
  • Whisk the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar with the eggs, oil, and honey in a bowl until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in the egg mixture and whisk, adding the boiling water as you whisk. (Do not pour the boiling water directly onto the egg mixture, or the eggs may curdle.) Stir in 2 cups of the chopped walnut mixture, reserving the remaining chopped walnuts. Spread in the pan.
  • Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. (If using a cast-iron cake pan with a dark surface, bake for 5 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 325°F, and start testing for doneness after 40 minutes of total baking time.) Let cool on a wire cake rack for 20 minutes. Invert and unmold onto the cake rack.
  • Meanwhile, make the brown sugar–rum syrup. Bring the brown sugar, rum, and orange juice just to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring often to help the sugar dissolve. Cook at a low boil until slightly reduced, about 8 minutes.
  • Place the warm cake on the cake rack over a rimmed baking sheet. In three applications, allowing about 5 minutes between each for the cake to absorb the syrup, brush the warm cake with the syrup. Pour any glaze in the baking sheet back into the saucepan, and brush over the cake. Place the cake on the rack over a clean plate and press handfuls of the reserved chopped walnut mixture evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Gather up any walnuts that fall onto the plate, and press onto the cake. Let cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve. (The cake can be stored in an airtight container, or wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 5 days).

Tip from a Pro

Decorative tube pans or Bundt pans, in shapes of everything from roses to castles, are an easy way to make simple unfrosted cakes (which can otherwise be on the plain side) more attractive. But take note of your pan's construction. Pans that are made from cast iron with dark surfaces soak up the oven heat more efficiently than do thin metal pans with shiny surfaces, and it is easy to overbake the cake at the average oven temperature of 350°F. (An overbaked cake will be dry with a bitter, overly browned exterior). If you have such a heavy, dark pan, bake the cake for 5 minutes at 350°F to help warm the batter and activate the baking powder, then turn the oven heat down to 325°F. Continue baking until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Start testing for doneness about 10 minutes before the estimated baking time of the original recipe.

From the book Sweet! by Mani Niall. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Press (www.dacapopress.com <outbind://10/www.dacapopress.com> ), a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright (c) 2008.