A few nights ago, my boyfriend started a fun game of “would you rather", but with a foodie twist. While some of the scenarios were a bit tricky and took some thought to answer (for instance, would you rather never have pizza or pasta again?), the one that I answered almost immediately was: cookies or cake? As much as I really, really love cookies, I could never give up cake. My boyfriend, who is one of the few people on the planet who is rather meh about cake, was in shock. He was sure I would say cookies, given my never-ending obsession for testing chocolate chip cookie recipes, but to me, this question was a no brainer. Cake trumps all other baked treats (the only instance where I’d have to think about cake is if the scenario was cake vs. ice cream—that seems impossible to answer).
For the past few weeks, I’ve been craving cake. And I mean, really, really, really craving it. It wasn’t a very specific craving. I didn’t know what I was in the mood for, but every time I opened my email and saw cake in some form featured in an email from either Bon Appétit, The Kitchn, Food 52, King Arthur, or from one of the multitude of bloggers I follow, cake was all I could think about. Pound cakes, fancy cakes, glazed cakes, Bundt, loaf, or traditional round cakes—I wanted them all. So when I decided that it was high time I go about satisfying my craving by baking up my own cake, I was at a loss on where to start. While all the cakes recipes sitting in my inbox would have probably been good starting points and certainly cured me of my need for cake, none of them really screamed, “Make me!” I was in a tough spot. With a pantry full of the basic ingredients I needed—flour, sugar, butter, and eggs—I knew that actually baking up the cake I wanted to eat wouldn’t be that difficult. Deciding the flavor and mix in’s and style of cake to make was a whole other story.
Ultimately though, after much thought and research, I settled on a loaf cake. At the end of the day, a plain and simple cake is really all I want. Though I consider myself a purist in terms of loving cakes plain and unadorned (glazes, frostings, sprinkles, and ganache are nice, but not necessary), I did want to do a little something special to this to-be-determined loaf cake—a glaze seemed like a good option. And so I searched and searched until I found the cake that called my name.
This walnut cake may seem a little modest and plain, but it's really anything but. I think I was drawn to it by the nuts, actually. I don't usually put nuts in my cakes, as I really love the soft, fluffy texture of a plain cake. But for whatever reason, this nut-filled version seemed like a good idea. And since I already happened to have a bag of walnuts in my pantry (something that almost never happens!), it seemed like I was destined to make this particular cake. It was a breeze to mix up, as any simple loaf cake should be. Just a few quick steps and the cake was in the oven. I substituted a little low fat milk and sour cream for the whole milk in the original recipe, because it's what I had on hand, and it worked perfectly. The cake batter itself tasted amazingly, so I knew that this would be a good cake once fully baked. But can we talk about the glaze now?
Who would have guessed that the glaze would end up being my favorite component of the cake? The original recipe had the cake glazed in a vibrantly pink beet-tinted glaze, which was so striking that I had to replicate it somehow with ingredients I already had in my kitchen. Frozen blueberries from last summer solved that problem, and I couldn't take my eyes off the beautiful magenta glaze dripping off the sides of the cake. The cake was dense and richly flavored, like a banana bread without the banana, if that makes sense, and the sweet glaze added a welcome hint of brightness. It was the perfect way to get my cake fix!
Walnut Cake with Blueberry Glaze
Cake recipe adapted slightly from Apt. 2B Baking Co
For the Cake
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted walnut halves, chopped finely
18 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Glaze
4 ounces frozen blueberries
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2-4 tablespoons milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and walnuts in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing until just incorporated after each addition.
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream, milk, and vanilla until combined. Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the mixer, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, in 3 additions. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl with a rubber spatula as needed to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool the cake on a cooling rack for 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, combine the frozen blueberries with 1 tablespoon of water. Cook the berries until they burst and become thick and syrupy, about 8-10 minutes. Set a sieve over a large bowl and strain the blueberries, letting the syrup pour into the bowl. Discard the solids. Add the powdered sugar and lemon juice to the syrup, and whisk to combine. Gradually add the milk, one tablespoon at a time, until a thick, yet pourable glaze forms.
Once the cake has cooled completely, drizzle the glaze all over the top. Allow the glaze to set for 30 minutes before slicing.
Makes 1 loaf cake