Walnut cake with American frosting

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By: Rachel Allen From: Rachel Allen: Bake!

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This recipe is classed as intermediate

Rating 3.39 / 5 (219 votes)

Prep time:
45 min
Cook time:
45 min

Rachel Allen bakes a spectacular version of her own wedding cake, which is perfect for any special occasion.


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Brush two 20cm (or three 18cm) cake tins with melted butter and dust with flour. Line the base of each with greaseproof or parchment paper.

2. Sift the flour with the salt and baking powder. Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer until soft.

3. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks and then stir in the chopped walnuts.

4. Fold in a quarter of the flour and milk into the mixture, alternating each, until they are incorporated.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff. Stir a quarter into the cake mixture and then gently fold in the rest.

6. Divide the mixture between the tins, making a slight hollow in the centre of each so that the cake rises evenly rather than forming a peak.

7. Bake in the oven for about 16-20 minutes, or until firm to the touch or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the filling.

8. For the vanilla buttercream filling: Cream the butter until very soft, then beat in the icing sugar and the vanilla extract. When the cake is cold, sandwich the layers together with the filling.

9. For the American frosting: : bring to the boil a saucepan of water large enough to hold a heatproof bowl. Place the egg whites in the bowl and whisk with a hand-held electric beater until very stiff.

10. In a separate saucepan over a medium–high heat, dissolve the sugar in the water and boil for 5–10 minutes until the liquid is thick and syrupy and has reached the ‘thread’ stage – when the last few drops that fall from a metal spoon dipped into the syrup come off in one long, quite thick and syrupy thread

11. Pour the boiling syrup over the stiffly beaten egg whites, whisking all the time with the hand-held beater. Place the bowl in the saucepan of simmering water. Continue to whisk over the water for 10–15 minutes until the icing is snow white, very thick and meringue-like.

12. Spread quickly over the cake with a palette knife, regularly dipping the knife into a jug of boiling water to help spread the icing. It sets very quickly at this stage, so speed is essential.

13. Scatter with rose petals, if using, or arrange the walnut halves around the top of the cake, and allow the icing to set until it feels dry on the surface.

Adapted from Rachel Allen, Bake (Collins)


  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 pinches salt
  • 1 generous tsp baking powder
  • 100 g butter, softened
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 100 g shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 100 ml milk

For the vanilla buttercream filling:

  • 75 g butter, softened
  • 125 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • rose petals, or 8 walnut halves, to decorate

For the American frosting

  • 2 eggs, whites only
  • 425 g caster sugar, or granulated sugar
  • 100 ml water

Tips and suggestions

The American icing is a little tricky to make, so follow the instructions exactly. Quick and accurate decisions are necessary in judging when the icing is ready and then it must be applied to the cake immediately. If the icing is not cooked enough, it will still taste good, but will not dry out properly on the outside. If cooked too much, it will be difficult to spread over the cake.

Make sure that the walnuts you use for this cake are fresh.

Any leftover walnuts will keep best in the freezer. Like many cakes with nuts in, this cake keeps very well if properly stored in an airtight container, for a couple of weeks.

Comments & Ratings

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Latest Comment


thank you ill try again but this time i will not use as much sugar cake was lovely but to sweet

Margaret K870 Margaret K870  Posted 29 Nov 2012 12:33 PM

Hi Margaret, thanks for your comment - I thought it might be useful for you to watch Rachel Allen's tips for getting your cake to rise [link] - it could be that you need to beat your mixture for longer until it is light and fluffy, or it could be that your baking powder has been in the cupboard too long and isn't working properly any more. Another important tip is not to open your oven when your cake is baking.

Good luck for next time!


Anna -Good Food Anna -Good Food  Posted 26 Nov 2012 10:37 AM

i made this today and could only get two tins and they came out very thin ?

Margaret K870 Margaret K870  Posted 23 Nov 2012 10:42 AM

I have just read your recipe, & I cant wait to try it out. my Mother used to make a walnut cake with american frosting in the 60,s she had the recipe from a womens magazine, which I dont have,I remember her doing the frosting in a bowl, mixing it over boiling water, & have so wanted to eat that wonderful cake again it seems as if this might be the same, yum yum

SuzanneP94757 SuzanneP94757 Posted 12 Jan 2012 5:46 PM

I'm sure you meant your comment as some sort of barb. I think R WG7672 you better get your facts straight about what your talking about before you say them. "American frosting" is a buttercream frosting. You were half right. But it's made with butter, powder sugar, a pinch of salt, a little milk and whatever flaoring your using. Like lemon,vanillia,orange extract {essence} or coco powder etc. It is NOT made from plant shorting {Crisco}. And is far from be a "diabolical concoction". Which i find funny coming from a country with a history of the worst food on the planet!

JohnL40750 JohnL40750 Posted 04 Jan 2012 12:57 PM

With all due respect to Ms. Allen... The Frosting recipe giving is an Italian Meringue. American icing, or frosting, is a diabolical concoction of hydrogenated plant fat, confectionery sugar & just a touch of milk with the smallest amount of vanilla.

R WG7672 R WG7672 Posted 16 Nov 2011 2:45 PM

This is such a great recipe. The cake itself is unbelievably light, I guess because you have to whisk the egg whites separately which I've never come across for a cake recipe before.

I didn't make the american frosting but I had some of the buttercream filling left over which I spread on the top. I think that with the american frosting it could make it too heavy and detract from how light the cake is.

I also added some partly ground walnuts to the vanilla buttercream filling which added to the walnut-ty taste.

Delicious for afternoon tea time!

ChristinaD93025 ChristinaD93025 Posted 06 Mar 2011 2:38 PM

I made this as a birthday cake for my wife and although the frosting didn't quite set it went down a treat, thanks

StephenR58967 StephenR58967 Posted 16 Jan 2011 11:48 AM

i like the look of the cake but ther is no recipe can you email me it

OWENK76330 OWENK76330 Posted 03 Dec 2010 3:59 PM

i want to try and make a birthday cake for my granddaughter can i put anything else in this cake instead of walnuts ps this is the first time i have made a birthday cake any ideas please

rosie160 rosie160 Posted 17 Oct 2010 7:04 PM

This cake is fantastic, it looks so special with the american frosting. I was worried that i wont be able to succeed with the frosting but it all came out lovely. I used sour cream in the cake base instead of milk[very brave, i know] and dont have a electric wisk so...... yup, hard work with my old fasioned hand whisk.

KikaS12933 KikaS12933 Posted 04 Sep 2010 1:17 PM

First time I made this cake. I didn't make the American Frosting because I've never made it & was a bit scared! The cake was delicious & I will definately make it again.

netty pooh netty pooh Posted 01 Sep 2010 3:40 PM

love this cake!

Wellywood Wellywood Posted 29 Aug 2010 4:50 PM

love this cake!

Wellywood Wellywood Posted 29 Aug 2010 4:49 PM

I would really like to try this recipe, but do not want to take the time to change from the metric system. Wish they could state both so it would be easier.

annetteS35660 annetteS35660 Posted 05 Aug 2010 4:53 PM

just watched the video and am going to bake this for a charity fete. wish me luck!

marionR80553 marionR80553 Posted 01 Apr 2010 2:30 PM

Used this recipe for the frosting but the frosting didn't work. Went grainy and lumpy so threw it away. This is the second time I've tried to make American frosting, think I'll give up!

ChantalS2289 ChantalS2289 Posted 05 Dec 2009 9:37 PM

male, never attempted a cake before and it came out as good as i hoped

tonyK94212 tonyK94212 Posted 09 Oct 2009 9:38 PM

I disagree with the comments below - the american frosting is good! It is a real pain to make though! As soon as i took it off the heat it started to set so I would recommend to take the pan/bowl off the heat but keep the bowl on the pan when spreading the frosting on.

Really good cake!!

ElizabethC64320 ElizabethC64320 Posted 25 Aug 2009 6:02 PM

I made this with the frosting as per the recipe. The walnut cake is fantastic. The frosting is just too sweet and too much. I will make it again....but minus the frosting.

sallly sallly Posted 08 Jul 2009 3:44 PM

yeah i made it without the frosting because i thought it would be too sweet. i just dusted some icing sugar over it. it was delicious!

sahrishR73757 sahrishR73757 Posted 21 Mar 2009 11:25 PM

I made it without the american frosting as didnt have time, and just made up some icing and dripped it over the top and finished with some walnuts, everybody loved it, when i tried with the american frosting it was too sickly and messy, much better without.

Tari1 Tari1 Posted 12 Mar 2009 12:54 PM

can i make this without the american frosting?

sahrishR73757 sahrishR73757 Posted 21 Jan 2009 10:12 AM