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Cinnamon-Walnut Coffee Cake

The same cinnamon-walnut mixture that is swirled through this tender, fine-grained cake also serves as a crunchy topping. The cake’s light structure develops during a thorough beating of the eggs and sugar. It is hard to overmix the batter at this stage, so don’t skimp on the beating time.

Ingredients:

  • Canola or corn oil for pan 
  •   

For the filling and topping: 

  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts 
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar 
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  •   

For the cake: 

  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour 
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1 cup canola or corn oil 
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup sour cream 
  •   
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional) 
  •   

For the caramel glaze (optional): 

  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 
  • 1/8 tsp. salt 
  • 2 Tbs. corn syrup 
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream 
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Oil a 9 1/2- or 10-inch tube pan with sides at least 3 3/4 inches high. Line the bottom with parchment paper and oil the paper.

To make the filling and topping, in a bowl, stir together the walnuts, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

To make the cake, in a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

To make the batter by hand, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the oil and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Mix in the sour cream just until no white streaks remain.

To make the batter with an electric mixer, in a large bowl, combine the eggs and granulated sugar. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the oil and vanilla and beat on low speed. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Mix in the sour cream just until no white streaks remain.

Pour about two-thirds of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Set aside 1/4 cup of the walnut-cinnamon mixture to use as a topping. Sprinkle the remaining mixture evenly over the batter. Insert a small knife about halfway into the batter and gently move it through the walnut-cinnamon filling to create a swirled effect. Pour the remaining batter evenly over the filling and smooth the top with the spatula. The batter will not cover the filling completely. Sprinkle evenly with the reserved topping.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides and center tube of the pan to loosen the cake sides. Invert a wire rack on top of the pan and invert both the rack and the pan. Lift off the pan. Remove and discard the parchment. Turn the cake right side up and let cool completely on the rack.

Meanwhile, make the caramel glaze: In a large, heavy saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar, salt and corn syrup. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and vanilla. Be careful, as the mixture may bubble up. Use immediately, or let cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Warm over low heat before using.

Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the cooled cake with confectioners’ sugar or drizzle each slice with caramel glaze. The cake can be covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. Serves 12.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch, by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2007).