Walnut cake is one of the only things in a Greek pastry shop that I actually like to eat, so I tend to eat them in Greece and then forget about them back in California. And then sometimes, maybe every few years, especially if I haven’t been in Greece for a while, I’ll decide to make one. Karidopita is a little different from an American- or European-style cake, dense and deep with the flavors of walnuts, cinnamon, and cloves, unfrosted but moist and luscious from the cinnamon syrup that is poured over it after baking. Lovely with coffee any time of year, walnut cake makes a good dessert for a fall or winter meal.
I first made this cake from Eva Zane’s cookbook, now out of print, which used flour, and since then have always made it using flour, but just for your information, there’s a whole other school of Greek walnut cake bakers who use bread crumbs instead, and recipes abound. I hope you’ll like this version with flour.
I like the sweetness of the cake, but if you want to tame it down, you can halve the syrup or just pass on it completely and dust the top with powdered sugar. And, as this recipe makes a large cake, serving at least twelve, feel free to cut the recipe in half and bake it in a smaller pan.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cloves (ground)
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 strip of lemon peel
- Preheat the oven to 325 and butter and flour a large rectangular Pyrex baking dish.
- Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices into a bowl and stir them well with a fork or whisk.
- In another large bowl, beat the butter for a moment to soften; then add the sugar and beat until the mixture is creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, and then add the crème fraîche and optional brandy, beating just until it’s blended.
- Add the flour mixture in half-cup increments, blending in each addition thoroughly before adding the next. After all of the flour is incorporated, stir in the walnuts by hand, distributing them evenly.
- Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted into the center.
- Cool the cake completely before adding the syrup. While the cake is cooling, make the syrup:
Put all of the syrup ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.Turn the heat down and simmer the syrup until the syrup has reduced a little and thickened, about five to ten minutes.
- Remove the syrup from the heat, remove the cinnamon stick, and let the syrup cool to lukewarm.
- Pour the syrup evenly over the cake and let it absorb completely before serving.
Traditionally this cake is served cut into diamond shapes.
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