Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nusskuchen (Walnut Cake)

Fritz's grandmother in Germany had a garden with three wonderful walnut trees. When she passed away, the garden was rented out, with the condition that the walnuts would not be disturbed and would be left for Fritz's family to collect.

Every year that we lived in Germany, I looked forward to walnut season. Fritz's mother did most of the collecting, but I was always willing to sit and crack nuts for as long as need be. Oh, how I miss lovely, soft, fresh-from-the-tree walnuts. A few weeks ago when some blogger (?) mentioned in a post that walnuts were falling on the roof of her house and waking her up at night, I actually had to wipe the drool off my chin. I've contemplated planting walnut trees, but here in Colorado walnut trees are under attack from the incurable Thousand Canker Disease. In my darker moments, I glumly imagine a world without walnuts.

In the meantime, there's still Walnut Cake to be savored on the weekends when we have Kaffee und Kuchen (Coffee and Cake). This recipe is from Fritz's mother in Germany. I think of it as less-sweet alternative to Pecan Pie. Instead of melting sugar in sugar corn syrup,  the walnuts are mixed with cream and amaretto. Yum!  I'm giving the weight measurements as opposed to cups. If you are in the States, you can think of this as a special opportunity to dig out your kitchen scale. Also, I never wrote down the order in which to mix ingredients. (I'm not sure that even my MIL ever knew that information.) I imagine a more serious baker could figure it out by looking at the ingredients. For me, the cake still tastes delicious, even with my half-baked procedure. Okay, ready? Here we go:

Walnut Cake (Pie?)

1 egg
70 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
125 grams butter
1 pinch salt
150 grams of flour

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix bottom/crust ingredients together.
- Cover the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper.
- Use fingers to spread dough over the bottom of the springform pan. Push dough up about 1" around the side of the springform pan. This dough will be the crust that holds the walnut filling, so make sure there are no holes in it. Otherwise, don't worry too much about this part: the crust is clearly NOT the highlight of this cake.

Walnut Filling:
250 grams of walnut
100 grams of sugar
2 egg yolks
150 grams crème fraîche*
1/4 liter amaretto

- Grind the walnuts. I use a blender to grind them up 1/3 cup at a time. They don't have to be perfectly ground, but the more consistent the size the better.
- Mix all filling ingredients.
- Pour into the prepared springform pan with dough already spread out.

- Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees F. When the top of the walnut filling solidifies and begins to turn golden brown, it's done.


*This is like sour creme, but not as sour and with a higher fat content. I've occasionally found it with the fancy cheese at our local supermarket, but I've also been forced to go to Whole Foods for it.


Simply Bike said...

Oh man, I definintely need to make this! This post has made me super nostalgic for Germany. Do you guys really have Kaffee und Kuchen on weekends? Like, regularly? Maybe one day I can work that into my life on a regular basis, like a standing date with all of my best girl friends.

Thanks for sharing this recipe with us, I'll let you know how it turns out :)

Ann Wyse said...

I think as a date with your girlfriends, Kaffee und Kuchen sounds superb! We don't manage to do Kaffee und Kuchen every weekend - *maybe* once a month. But I do love the excuse to make a cake and share with friends. We usually end up skipping dinner that night. ;-)

Katie said...

I love stories and recipes like this. I also love that your family keeps up with traditions and has coffee and cake on the weekends. :)

Anonymous said...

Did you know WE have a walnut tree at our new place? Our landlord grew up in that house and the tree is very special to her. We can collect the nuts, though - and that tree is huge. I wish I could send you some...

Ann Wyse said...

I think this is all pointing to a AUTUMN trip to Germany the next time we go....

Pregnantly Plump said...

Sounds delicious. My grandmother has pecan trees and I love to pick up pecans when we go for walks around the yard and garden. They do taste good when I'm able to crack them while walking.