This walnut cake is really delicious; It has a thin crispy exterior but is extremely moist on the inside. Its texture reminds me of the typical French dessert called dacquoise. Dacquoise is a baked meringue mixed with different types of nuts. This cake has a subtle nutty flavor that pairs amazingly with dulce de leche.
Most of the walnut cakes I have tried were usually topped with Italian or Swiss meringue. Even if I love the idea of combining this cake with a silky meringue, I thought it would be interesting to use Chantilly cream for the topping, to balance the sweetness of the dulce de leche and add freshness.
To give the cake more style, I decided to go one step further by making a quick walnut praline to decorate the top. That caramel crunch from the praline gave the cake extra texture and yumminess. Either way, this step is optional.
Another great benefit of this recipe is that it is completely gluten-free. Hence, this is one of my all-time go-to recipes when making a dessert for a gluten-free friendly crowd.
How do you make a walnut dulce de leche cake?
To make this cake, it’s important to make a “mise en place”, meaning prepping all of our ingredients and utensils before mixing the batter. This is because the batter tends to sink if left unattended. The cake will be ready in 3 steps, or 4 if we decide to make the praline.
Mix the batter
First, preheat the oven and grease the mold. Usually, I line the base of my cake pan with parchment paper and grease it with butter. You can also butter and flour your cake pan if you feel more confident doing so. The next step is to blend the walnuts into a coarse flour. This step can be done with a food processor or a blender. It is important not to over-process the nuts because it releases the oil and turns the nuts into a paste. Set the flour aside as we separate the eggs.
Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and set them aside as we will whisk them last. In another bowl, place the yolks together with the sugar. Mix with a stand mixer with a whisk attachment at medium speed until creating a pale yellow and creamy batter.
After mixing the yolks, start whisking the whites. Keep in mind that if you use the same whisk and bowl, they must be washed and dried well to ensure that the whites rise. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Now it’s time to bring everything together.
First, gently fold the walnut flour into the yolk mixture with a rubber or silicone spatula, until combined. Then, add the egg whites in three parts, folding in slowly until completely combined.
Bake the cake
Pour the batter into the mold and place it in the preheated oven. Start testing doneness at 35 to 40 minutes by inserting a knife into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s ready.
It’s best to let the cake rest for 10-15 minutes before unmolding, that way we make sure that it will not fall apart when doing so. At the same time, it’s not ideal to let it cool down fully inside the mold since there is the risk of sticking. Unmold directly on the plate where it is going to be served and let cool.
Garnish and serve
To make the Chantilly cream, place the bowl and the whisk attachment in the fridge for 15 or 20 minutes. Remove from the fridge, pour the heavy cream into the bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. You can also add a couple of tablespoons of sugar if you prefer the cream to have some sweetness to it.
To assemble the cake, spread the dulce de leche on top of the cake. I used confectioners (or thick) dulce de leche so that it stays firmer. This step can be done with a piping bag or with a spatula.
Finally, place the whipped cream on top of the dulce de leche, make some swirls with a spatula, and garnish with walnut praline or chopped walnuts.
Making praline doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. The secret lays in going slow when making the caramel and then acting fast when mixing in the nuts.
Before starting the caramel, toast the walnuts in the oven until fragrant. Set aside.
For the caramel, place the sugar in a thin layer in a medium-sized saucepan. Choose the size of the pan so that you can fit all of the walnuts later. Warm the saucepan on a low heat and wait for the sugar to become liquid. Once that happens, stir the sugar gently with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon. The secret is to make the caramel on a low heat and turn it off as soon as you notice that the sugar has completely dissolved and the caramel has turned to a light amber color.
As soon as the caramel is ready, add the toasted walnuts all at once. Mix quickly until all the nuts are coated in caramel and then place them on a silicone mat or parchment paper. Have the silicon mat ready to go as the caramel hardens really fast. What helps a lot when chopping the praline is to separate the walnuts as much as possible one from another before the caramel sets. For this task, use a silicone spatula, a wooden spoon, or heat-resistant gloves. Once cold, transfer the praline to a chopping board and chop to get small praline pieces.
1) This cake can be made with other nut flours, for example, almond flour or hazelnut flour. You can also use a combination of different nuts.
2) Although it is possible to whip up the egg whites before the yolks, I do not recommend it, since whipped egg whites could start leaking and losing its structure if left unattended.
3) Remember not to over-process the nuts because they can turn into a paste!
4) Keep this cake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
5) If you would rather keep this dessert at room temperature you could substitute the whipped cream for Italian or Swiss meringue. In this case, I recommend avoiding the dulce de leche or using just a little so that you don’t make it super sweet.
Walnut Dulce de Leche Cake with Chantilly Cream
- 4 Eggs
- 180 g White granulated sugar
- 220 g Walnuts
- 300 g Confectioners dulce de leche thick
- 300 g Heavy cream
- 120 g Walnuts
- 60 g White granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 160°C or 320°F. Butter and flour a 20cm or an 8-inch cake pan. To ensure unmolding, line the base with parchment paper.
- Blend the walnuts until you have a coarse flour. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, mix the yolks with the sugar until a thick pale yellowish batter forms.
- In another bowl, with a clean whisk attachment whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Add the walnut flour to the yolk mixture. Incorporate gently with a spatula.
- Add the egg whites to the batter, in three steps, folding in gently so that we don’t lose air in the mixture.
- Immediately pour the batter into the greased pan and place in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the cake, comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Wait 10 minutes and unmold. Let cool before decorating.
- Place the dulce de leche on top of the cake with a spatula or a piping bag.
- Whip the cream to stiff peaks. If you prefer it a little sweet, add 2 tablespoons of sugar before whipping it. Place the Chantilly cream on top of the dulce de leche and garnish the cake with the walnut praline or chopped walnuts.
- On a clean baking tray, place the walnuts and bake at 180°C or 355°F for 8-10 minutes, until toasted and fragrant.
- In a medium saucepan, place the sugar and bring it to low heat. Wait for the sugar to start getting liquid. At that moment, stir with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant spatula, to prevent the caramel from burning. When a light-colored caramel has formed and there are no sugar lumps left, remove from the heat and add the nuts at once. Mix quickly until all the nuts are covered with caramel.
- Dump the walnuts on a silicone mat or parchment paper. Separate them a little from each other with the same spoon.
- Once the praline is cold, chop it to the desired size and it is ready to decorate our cake.