“Torta alle noci (walnut cake) is another of my family’s classics: it uses mostly winter cupboard staples, so it is ideal to brighten up a cold and rainy afternoon,” says Giuseppe Dell’Anno, who won The Great British Bake Off in 2021.
“The flavour is unmistakably walnut: nuts are partly ground in the flour mix, partly chopped into larger pieces to add a pleasant crunch.”
Torta alle noci – walnut cake
(Serves up to 12)
For the sponge:
100g sultanas or raisins
50g Marsala or other sweet wine
200g walnut pieces
180g soft wheat 00 flour or plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2tsp baking powder
100g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
200g egg (about 4 medium eggs), at room temperature
180g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla bean paste
Zest of 1 unwaxed organic lemon
For the coating:
30g clear honey
40g Marsala wine
200g golden icing sugar
6 walnut halves, to decorate
1. Set the shelf in the lowest position of the oven and preheat it to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Grease the tin with butter and dust it with flour, tapping off the excess.
2. Put the sultanas in a small microwave-safe bowl with the Marsala. Heat in the microwave until just warm to the touch: 30 seconds should be enough. Stir, cover with a plate and set aside to soak.
3. Meanwhile, put half the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor, add the flour and baking powder and blitz until the mixture has the texture of fine sand. Set aside. Roughly chop the remaining walnuts with a sharp knife into pea-sized pieces and set aside. Put the butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and melt it: 40 seconds in the microwave should be enough. Set aside to cool. Put the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in a bowl large enough to accommodate all the ingredients and whisk at high speed with a handheld electric whisk (or use a stand mixer) for five minutes, until the mixture has doubled in volume and is pale and fluffy. Still whisking, slowly trickle in the melted butter then whisk for a further minute to incorporate it fully.
4. Add the walnut and flour mixture to the bowl, add the lemon zest, and fold them in with a silicone spatula. Add the sultanas with the Marsala to the batter, followed by the chopped walnuts, and fold them in gently. Pour the batter into the tin, level the surface with the spatula and bake for 33–35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the deepest part of the cake comes out clean.
5. Leave the cake in the tin to cool for a few minutes, then turn it onto a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the coating. Put the honey and Marsala in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds. Add the icing sugar and stir until homogeneous. Set the wire rack over a tray and pour the warm syrup slowly over the top of the cake, coating it completely. Allow the excess to drip off into the tray below. While the coating is still warm, arrange the walnut halves around the cake top. Let the coating set, then transfer the cake to a serving plate. Torta alle noci keeps for up to a week under a cake dome.
Giuseppe’s Easy Bakes by Giuseppe Dell’Anno is published by Quadrille, priced £24. Photography by Matt Russell. Available now.