Friday, April 02, 2021


Growing up, I was always slightly wary of syrupy cakes, as I perceived them as overly sweet and even soggy. To this day, I am not the greatest fan of overly saturated desserts. However, ever since I have learnt to bake, I have realised that it is possible to create desserts that will be exactly what I prefer, with just the right amounts of sugar and syrup.
And this little beauty is everything I love in desserts - walnuts, cinnamon, vanilla, camomile; the perfect flavour combination for a tender coffee cake. Furthermore, just like all olden desserts, this one, too, gives a great freedom when it comes to preferences.
Walnuts can be ground slightly coarsely to give more of a crunch, more cinnamon can be sprinkled in, or even a few more camomile flowers added while the tea is steeping. Old-fashioned desserts are the epitome of humble, everyday sweet treats that take very little time to prepare, but are so very versatile and rewarding.
My advice is to make it in the evening, let it cool down to room temperature, lightly cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and let all the flavours blend together overnight. The next day, all that it needs is a dusting of icing sugar, and it can be served. If you do feel like it, however, generously drizzle it with dark chocolate and chopped toasted walnuts, for a truly indulgent treat.

For the cinnamon walnut cake
150 grams plain flour
150 grams semolina
150 grams light brown sugar
120 grams toasted walnuts, ground
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
300 millilitres boiling water
4 tablespoons camomile flowers
For the vanilla syrup
100 grams light brown sugar
150 millilitres cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For serving
150 grams dark chocolate (60% cocoa solids)
75 grams toasted walnuts, chopped

Start by toasting the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until they become fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring them often. Remove from heat, let them cool down completely, and grind. They do not have to be finely ground. Add the semolina into a large bowl, and sift in the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder. Add in the walnuts, and whisk everything together.
Place the camomile flowers into a pot, and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, pour it over the flowers, cover, and let it steep for 5-6 minutes, then let cool. Add the vanilla to the prepared tea, add in the sugar, and mix it well, so the sugar starts to melt slowly. Pour the tea over the dry ingredients, and whisk until combined. Let the batter sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, then pour it into a small rectangle cake pan (18x18 cm), lined with baking parchment. Bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 25 minutes. Check the cake for doneness with a toothpick, to make sure it is baked through, but not dry.
While the cake is baking, make the vanilla syrup, as it will be poured hot onto the just baked cake. Pour the sugar into a medium saucepan, add the water, shake the pan gently, and place it over medium heat. Let the syrup come to a boil, and cook, uncovered and without stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sugar fully melts. Remove from heat, and whisk in the vanilla.
Once the cake is baked and still hot, slowly pour the hot syrup all over the cake, one spoonful at a time, until all of it is used. Let the cake sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Just before serving, melt the dark chocolate and drizzle it all over the cake, generously sprinkle with chopped toasted walnuts, and serve. Yields 8 servings.

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