Walnut Cake with Sherry and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
I got this idea from Albin Michel’s book, Olympe, Ma Cuisine de A à Z, which celebrates Dominique Versini’s restaurant in Paris, Casa Olympe. My husband and I knew her restaurant, then simply called Olympe, when it first opened in the fifteenth arrondissment in the 1970’s. Then she was a young cuisinière making fresh food in the nouvelle style to the critics’ delight. Diners, including us, flocked to her door. She closed the restaurant in the late 1980’s looking for a simpler life. After a short hiatus from behind the stove, she re-opened her restaurant, now called Casa Olympe, in the ninth arrondissment, focusing more on her native Corsican fare.
I have made some changes in her recipe, including swapping extra-virgin olive oil for butter.
Serve the cake as is, with a light dusting of powdered sugar, or with a dollop of whipped cream flavored with Nocino liquor if you have some.
One 9-inch cake
Position a rack on the middle shelf of the oven and pre-heat it to 350°F (325°F convection).
Line the bottom of a 9-by-3-inch pan with a disk of parchment paper.
2 ounces (¼ cup) oloroso sherry
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) mild honey
4 ounces (1 cup) walnut pieces, coarsely chopped
8 ounces (about 1 2/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
7 ounces (1 cup) granulated cane sugar
5 liquid ounces nutty medium or robust extra-virgin olive oil with muted bitterness and astringency
powdered sugar for dusting
whipped cream for serving (optional)
Heat the sherry and honey in a small saucepan, stirring a few times, until the honey liquefies. Add the nuts. Stir the nuts for about 30 seconds to coat them with the liquid. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
Put the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat them with the paddle on medium speed until the yolks and whites are homogenous. Gradually add the sugar. Turn the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture increases somewhat in volume and becomes paler and slightly thicker, about 2 minutes.
Turn the mixer speed to low. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the olive oil in 2 additions. (Start and finish with the dry ingredients.) Fold the nuts into the batter with a spatula.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the top is puffed and browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool the cake on a rack. Run a table knife around the edge to loosen the cake then remove it from the pan. Remove the parchment paper. Put the cake, right side up, on a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.