Portuguese walnut cake

Monday 12 December

It’s a snow day. Rather, it’s a snowy day, as two out of three schools are open. It’s magic! The city muffled, the children’s glee. The quiet. Louise was so excited when the first flakes started falling last night, she rushed outside barefoot.

This morning the snow was already wet, weighing the trees, but the blanket is persisting. It is so pretty. A fox is lolling on our garden table. Nose muzzled under its tail; sometimes, it yawns. It is dark amber and fuzzy, and, slowly — am I growning to accept it? They were cubs in the spring and tormented my patience scrupulously. Trampling, unnearthing, destroying every effort in the garden. Killing off even the indestructible anemones that have been there since before we moved in nine years ago. I cursed the cubs daily. But early this morning, I looked for their prints in the snow. And now, one is looking up at me through the window. I daren’t disturb it. I am growing an affection, maybe.

The cake was two weeks ago. Our friends brought a walnut cake for Thanksgiving, a recipe handed down from their grandmother, and, a few days later, when I asked Max what he wanted for his birthday, he chose the ‘snow’ cake. It took me a moment to understand what he meant — after a string of impractical requests in true nearly-7-year-old fashion: a frog cake, a chicken nugget cake… I thought the ‘snow cake’ was another joke. He meant the walnut cake with a powdering of icing sugar which we’d been gradually decimating, thin slice by tiny thin slice, since Thursday.

When I asked for the recipe, the answer was : ‘so simple, it’s mainly just eggs!’ (And nuts and sugar.) Which seems to be a hallmark of many Portuguese cakes and desserts in general. The simplicity, and the abundance of eggs.

Portuguese walnut cake recipe
Such a simple recipe and such a luscious, moist cake.

250g sugar
250g walnuts, ground
6 eggs
2 Tbsps flour
Pinch of salt
A sprinkling of icing sugar for decoration

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Line a 24cm (9″) cake tin with parchment paper and butter generously.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks.

Mix the ground walnuts, sugar, and flour with the egg yolks.

Beat the egg whites ‘into a castle’ (a Portuguese expression which means — quite manifestly and much more poetically— to ‘stiff peaks’) and fold them carefully into the walnut / sugar / egg yolk mixture. Mix gently until the dough is uniformly coloured.

Scrape the dough into the buttered tin, slide into the oven, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Let cool before removing from the tin and serve with whipped cream.

And that is why we were late for school …

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