Post-holiday season in France means recovering from our fill of chocolate, but not of fêtes. After traveling to spend the holidays with friends and family, a second round of celebrations begins when we return to wherever we've decided to make our home in the hexagon and reunite with the family we've created there.
Every new year, France keeps the party going with the traditional Galette des Rois, or King's Cake, which ostensibly celebrates the Christian epiphany holiday, but is more universally regarded as an excuse to eat more cake.
Not that anyone needs an excuse to eat more cake. Cake is always a great idea. That's why I suggest expanding your winter baking repertoire beyond the galette to include this simple walnut cake, which is seasonal, delicious, and easy to make.
If you're lucky enough to live, or have access to, a wooded region with walnut trees then you can forage your own nuts for this cake, keeping an eye out for them as they fall to the forest floor, in the late autumn and winter months.
I had the good fortune of spending time at my winemaker friends' home in the Loir-et-Cher region of France this winter, pruning grapevines and enjoying seasonal meals made up of locally-sourced ingredients including wild mushrooms, ail sauvage, and different varieties of nuts.
I wanted to make this cake the minute I saw the bowl of foraged walnuts in the kitchen that Laurent had collected. Without having to bother with the puff pastry and several steps involved in making a Galette des Rois, this Walnut Cake is a fuss free option that makes a great finish to a simple, rustic winter meal. A perfect end to a cosy countryside dinner that has also found its way into many a meal in my Parisian apartment.
Forest Foraged Walnut Cake
1 stick (110 grams) softened butter
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
3 eggs, white and yolks separated
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup (40 grams) flour
1 1/2 cup (200 grams) walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
Preheat oven to 400 °F (210° C). Butter and flour an 8 inch circular cake pan. Cream together butter and sugar. Stir in in egg yolks one by one. Add vanilla and mix in. Fold flour into egg mixture, followed by walnuts. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until they begin to froth up, then add a pinch of salt and continue beating until they become fluffy with soft peaks. Mix 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter and then fold remaining egg whites in batches into the batter, until fully combined. Pour batter into cake pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake clean. Sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar and serve warm.