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Creamy Walnut Cake with Penuche Icing

Creamy Walnut Cake with Penuche Icing
Husband's paternal grandmother, Irja, was Finnish. I didn't get to meet her before she passed away, but OH what wonderful stories I've heard about her. She was sharp as a tack, a green-thumbed gardener, an avid golfer, and a gin rummy card shark. Above all, she was a fabulous cook, and always had a freshly baked wild blackberry pie or a plate of jam diagonals sitting on her counter.

This Thanksgiving, husband's Aunt Betty (hi, Aunt Betty!) and I started chatting about Irja and her wonderful desserts. Betty was kind enough to photocopy some old recipe cards with Irja's instructions for Betty's favorite--Creamy Walnut Cake with Penuche Icing.

Now, I'm no dummy when it comes to cake (as the local pastry shop will attest), but I had never heard of walnut cake with "Penuche" (pronounced puh-NOO-chee) icing before. If you haven't heard of it either, hoo-boy--you're in for a treat. It's one part maple bar, one part creamy caramel, mixed with mind-blowing insanity and sprinkled with OH MY WORD. In other words, it is the PERFECT holiday dessert to impress your coworkers, family and friends. I whipped up this recipe in under an hour and brought it to a holiday party last weekend. Result? Instant success and bragging rights for the next decade. Thanks, Aunt Betty!

To make your OWN creamy walnut cake with Penuche icing:

Sift together:
  • 2 c sifted cake flour (I cheated and used All Purpose...couldn't even tell)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c white sugar

Then add:
  • 1 c packed brown sugar (I recommend using the dark variety--this adds to the maple flavor)
  • 1/2 c shortening (actually listed in Irja's recipe as "snowdrift." Thank heavens Betty interpreted this for me.)
  • 3/4 c milk

Beat for two minutes. Then add:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1/4 tsp maple flavoring
  • 1/3 c finely cut walnuts

Beat for one minute. Pour into two greased 8" cake rounds or a greased 12" x 9" pan. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

While your cake is baking, you can either take a break, or make some fun holiday chocolate trees for decor.

  • Grab a pastry bag or freezer ziploc bag
  • Fill 1/3 full with your favorite melting chocolate (I used Wilton's baking chips. Regular chocolate chips also work well.)
  • Microwave on medium for 1-2 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to knead the bag. (Don't overheat the chocolate!)
  • Snip a tiny corner off the edge of the bag, and draw various sized chocolate trees onto a piece of wax paper.
  • Place in fridge to cool.

Take your cake out of the oven. While your cake is cooling, it's time to make your Penuche icing:

Add to a medium sauce pan:
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1 c packed brown sugar (again, recommend the dark variety for flavor)

Boil over low heat for two minutes, stirring constantly. Then add:
  • 1/4 c milk

Stir until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Then gradually add:
  • 1 3/4 c to 2 c sifted confectioners sugar

Beat until spreading consistency. Pour over the top of your cake (and use as filling if desired).  Quickly press any chocolate decor into the sides of your cake (the frosting dries quickly).  Top your cake with a dusting of coconut or walnuts.

Good luck Penuche-ing, Sisteroos!


Janaia said...

Super cute! I especially love the chocolate trees....what a great idea! Totally stealing this!!! Good job "lawyer"!

Anonymous said...

I have finnish blood in these veins, and this cake just sings to me! Thank you for posting the recipe and thank your aunt betty for sharing!

Lawyer's Husband said...

Hauskaa Joulua! As a consumer of this cake, I can confirm it was amazingly tasty! Great work Lawyer! Love you Grandma Irja!

Cynthia said...

This will make a great dessert for a christmas party im attending. Great cake!!!

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