“The native American black walnut is an untamed recluse, lurking inside a tough husk, clinging to its shell like a limpet to a rock,” writes Raymond Sokolov in "Fading Feast, A Compendium of Disappearing American Regional Foods" (Farrar Strauss Giroux 1979). He describes some methods of extricating the nut from its husk: attack with a hammer, drive over in a car. Black walnuts are available commercially and are an acquired taste.
This recipe is adapted from one in Fading Feast attributed to Mrs. Viola Bricker.
- ½ cup (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup cold water
- 5 ounces black walnuts
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 recipe icing
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
Grease two 8-inch cake pans.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Cream butter, gradually beating in sugar. Beat until smooth.
Sift together baking powder and flour. Stir into sugar-butter mixture with the cold water.
Chop all but ½ ounce walnuts and add to cake batter. Reserve unchopped nuts.
Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter.
Pour equal amounts of batter into prepared layer pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cakes spring back to touch
Cool cakes on rack.
To make icing, with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add melted butter, beating until it is completely absorbed. Add vanilla and sugar, beating well after each addition so the icing is smooth.
Unmold cake layers. Set one on a serving plate. Ice top sparingly. Set other layer on top of it. Ice top and sides of cake. Decorate with reserved walnuts.