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Flourless walnut cake

Mon, 13 January, 2020

Walnut torte: dark in colour, light in texture. It has a satisfying layer of apricot jam and chocolate on top which alleviates the need for creamy fillings.

flourless walnut cake with apricot jam and dark chocolate

If you struggle to find a recipe for a decent, but gluten free birthday cake – search no more. This is the very thing.

Family recipe for a walnut torte

It vaguely resembles the special occasion torte that my Mum used to bake, though if you told her it was gluten free, she’d be nonplussed.

The sponge was flourless, made from walnuts processed from scratch: cracked from shells, toasted and ground in an old fashioned, manual nut and spice mill; if I’d been good, I was allowed to turn the handle.

gluten free walnut sponge with apricot filling

She’d make two different fillings for it. One was mighty weird with ground walnuts cooked in sugar syrup, set with some egg whites. It was, as far as I remember, a cross between a praline and a croquant, but soft. I definitely must try something like this one day.

The other was really gorgeous almond buttercream on a custard base. This one I liked best and could never wait to be given the bowl to scrape out.

I won’t find out what the recipe for the complete torte was, it’s one of those sad things that bereavement brings. But the walnut sponge I present here is very close to my Mum’s, and on the plus side, the frostings were unbelievably heavy and rich.

walnut torte filled with apricot jam

Apricot jam and walnut base

This is the light touch version, sans buttercreams but with a lick of apricot jam inside and out, and grated dark chocolate on top: dainty, elegant and not nearly as filling as Mum’s original.

It isn’t difficult to make although you will, like me, probably have to grind your own walnuts because for some reason they aren’t easily bought in the UK ready-ground, unlike almonds. I think it’s due to their lower popularity in baking as well as the fact that they clump and turn into paste really easily.

If you can buy powdered walnuts in your neck of woods, you’ll have the job made much easier.

gluten free walnut sponge cake

Flourless sponge

Making the batter involves separating eggs which in my books makes it a grown-up cake (as opposed to the 'beat the ingredients together and bake' kind of cake). The yolks with sugar form the base, with the nut mix beaten in, and then all of it is extremely gently folded into egg whites whisked to stiff peaks.

I personally like to bake one cake and slice it horizontally in half before filling: the rough crumb gels much better with whatever filling is spread on it. But for the ease of preparation divide the batter between two cake tins and bake them together.

The flourless sponge, by the way, has many variations. You can replace the walnuts with ground almonds, hazelnuts or even pistachios; the result will be great every time.

Flourless walnut cake

Servings: 12-14Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Rating: (1 reviews)


  • For the cake:
  • 340g (3½ cup) walnut pieces
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground almonds
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 125g (½ cup) caster sugar
  • For the filling and topping:
  • a jar of apricot jam
  • 50g (2 oz.) dark chocolate


1. Toast the walnuts in a medium oven for 10-15 minutes, until they are fragrant and darkened. Grind them to a fine powder in a food processor or a nut grinder. If they turn into a paste, don’t panic. Stir the baking powder into the ground nuts and keep to one side.

2. Butter and sprinkle with ground almonds a 23cm round cake tin; tip out excess of almond powder. Keep the tin in the fridge while you make the cake batter. Preheat the oven to 170C (no fan if available)/325F/gas 3.

3. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the walnut mix.

4. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites with a balloon whisk until stiff peaks form. Add a third of the egg whites to the nut batter to loosen it up, then fold in the rest of the egg whites taking care not to deflate it much. Transfer it to the chilled cake tin and smooth the surface.

how to make walnut sponge

5. Bake for about 55-60 minutes until the top springs back when gently pressed. Remove from the oven and invert the tin onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely upside down.

decorating walnut cake

6. When cold, unmould the cake and slice it horizontally using a wire cake cutter (an awfully nifty contraption) or a very sharp knife. Spread most of the apricot jam over the bottom half, replace the top half and press gently. Spread a thinner layer of the jam over the top and coarsely grate the chocolate over it.

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Karla - it is a rather dry sponge as it has no butter in it but it should be light and spongy. If the dryness is too much, beat the jam into cream cheese and frost it generously; or drizzle with syrup.
4 years ago
Made this per recipe, very dry. Not sure what went wrong. I checked the cake after 35 mins and it was already done at 325F.
4 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hey, yes Kat! I must do that version next. Happy New Year!
5 years ago
OR ditch the frostings etc and douse this baby in syrup like a greek girl, haha! ?? Happy New Year!
5 years ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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