Dark Chocolate Walnut Cake

This Dark Chocolate Walnut Cake has a sophisticated European vibe with ground walnuts and dark chocolate, it’s moist, not too sweet, and super delicious!

rich dark chocolate walnut cake

I have a definite contrary streak in me, a tendency to go against the grain, swim upstream, go rogue.  So while everyone is talking about pumpkin pies and yams and drippings, I’m thinking chocolate cake.  One daughter arrives home from college today, I’ll have this on the counter waiting for her.  It’s ok that there’s a slice missing.  She’ll understand.

chocolate walnut cake

This Dark Chocolate Walnut Cake is moist, dense and sweet but not too sweet.  I made a few changes to the recipe…I substituted bittersweet chocolate for unsweetened, and added some cocoa powder to up the chocolate factor.  I’ve used buttermilk and vanilla in the frosting.  The original recipe calls for two layers, I like it better as one.

dark chocolate walnut cake

This cake goes right to the top of my favorite cakes list, alongside the TANGERINE POPPY SEED CAKE from a few weeks ago.  The deep dense chocolate goes really well with the strong walnut presence since both have slight bitter undertones.  The frosting is richly chocolate but fluffy from the creaming process.  A nice contrast in texture.

chocolate walnut cake recipe

I favor cakes that can be eaten at breakfast, or as a snack at tea time.  Except for rare occasions like birthdays and holidays I don’t see the point of making anything specifically for the end of a meal.  This cake qualifies for both, so its a real hero of a cake.  But whenever you serve it, make sure to set a strong cup of black coffee down beside it.

It’s raining quite hard today, and my daughter will be driving home with a friend.  That’s a first— we usually pick her up or she gets the college bus to Boston.  The mountain roads are tricky in the rain.  I’m glad I have this cake to distract me.  I’m sure it’ll be ok if there are 2 slices missing.

Dark Chocolate Walnut Cake

Dark Chocolate Walnut Cake


  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup ground walnuts (measure them after grinding, not before)
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • a few Tablespoons buttermilk, as needed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ground walnuts for garnish


  1. Set oven to 350F
  2. Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.
  3. Melt the chocolate on the defrost setting, or 50% power of your microwave. (Or over a bowl of simmering water)
  4. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a small bowl along with the ground walnuts.
  5. Cream the butter using a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  6. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy.
  7. Beat in eggs 1 at a time.
  8. Beat in vanilla, then melted chocolate.
  9. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions each, beating just until blended after each addition.
  10. Spread the batter into the pan and bake until a tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack.
  11. For the icing, melt the chocolate as above and set aside. In a large bowl cream the butter and add in the sugar and cocoa powder, beating until smooth. Beat in 2 tablespoons of buttermilk and the vanilla. Beat in the melted chocolate. Thin with buttermilk if it's too stiff to spread nicely. This makes enough frosting to cover the cake with a thick layer, but I like it just on top.


~~adapted from Bon Apetit 1995


 Make it your own ~

  • I think it would be fairly easy to make this cake gluten free, either with a good gluten free baking mix in place of the all purpose flour, or maybe even almond flour.  If you eat gluten free you’ll also love my AMAZING QUINOA CHOCOLATE CAKE!



don’t forget to pin this Dark Chocolate and Walnut Cake!

This Dark Chocolate Walnut Cake has a sophisticated European vibe with ground walnuts and dark chocolate, it's moist, not too sweet, and super delicious! #cake #chocolate #bestchocolatecake #walnuts #glutenfree #easycake #dessert #darkchocolate

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Leave a Reply


  • Reply
    Trudy Hammell
    February 22, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    Followed recipe and cake turned out dry. My oven might be to blame. Is your cake usually moist? Otherwise, it was delicious.

    • Reply
      February 22, 2018 at 5:24 pm

      It’s an older recipe, Trudy, but I remember loving it. As I recall it’s not super moist, but shouldn’t be at all dry, either. If you suspect your oven is not accurate I highly recommend getting an inexpensive oven thermometer ~ I’ve never had an oven yet that was spot on!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    I found that 35″ made a dry cake, even with a gas oven. Also, I used salted butter instead of (reply suggested) salt.

  • Reply
    January 8, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    SO. I don’t even like cake, ESPECIALLY not chocolate cake. BUT. I made this chocolate walnut cake for a friend’s birthday….anyhow, when I tried it SUDDENLY THE WHOLE WORLD STOPPED and the only thing that existed was me and this cake and I almost even cried a little because I knew that no matter what else I do in like it will never measure up to making this cake. And I took a few minutes to bask in its glory.
    And I NEVER LEAVE BLOG COMMENTS but I had to make an exception because. This cake changed my life. I know I’m exaggerating but I’m also NOT EVEN.

    • Reply
      January 8, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      Haha, I’m grinning from ear to ear :)

      • Reply
        May 3, 2017 at 8:22 am

        My grandma use to make us a Black walnut chocolate cake so if you like the bitter black walnuts are the way to go in my opinion.

        • Reply
          May 3, 2017 at 8:46 am

          I have only found black walnuts once, I wish they were more readily available, the flavor is amazing!

  • Reply
    October 13, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    ps–I also added 1/4 tsp. salt which I think the cake needed.

  • Reply
    October 13, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    This is such an intriguing cake thanks to the hint of bitterness from the walnuts–Made it yesterday and fwiw, i needed about 1 /1/2 cups of whole walnuts to create 3/4 cup “flour” plus I still had some left to garnish the cake–I made all the frosting which I amped up with about a tbs. more cocoa, plus more melted chocolate and a bit of instant espresso dissolved in the buttermilk. I wound up not needing it all but am sure I will put it to good use! Since I can’t stand overly sweet anything, I especially loved the idea of using buttermilk as the liquid for the frosting! My cake was a bit crumbly; I think I may had added a bit too much walnut flour which almost turned to nut butter on me and I think it became too compact–so watch out for that if you decide to make this delcious cake!

    • Reply
      October 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Yael!

  • Reply
    July 30, 2012 at 12:49 am

    Made this for my Dad’s 50th birthday yesterday. It was LOVED by all. The perfect amount of chocolate without being too sweet! Delicious. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply
    Susanne Freeborn
    January 31, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I made this cake for my husband’s birthday. It was wonderful and all the guests loved it. I also made the Tangerine Poppyseed substituting Tangelos since I couldn’t find any good Tangerine. It was all so good! Thanks for sharing your recipes!

  • Reply
    Dr. S
    January 31, 2012 at 11:09 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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