Chocolate Dessert Favorites

Dark Chocolate Walnut Cake

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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.

A slice of dark 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 topped with crushed walnuts

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 being sliced

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.

Chocolate Walnut Cake on parchment paper

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.

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3.22 from 83 votes

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


  • Set oven to 350F
  • Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.
  • Melt the chocolate on the defrost setting, or 50% power of your microwave. (Or over a bowl of simmering water)
  • Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a small bowl along with the ground walnuts.
  • Cream the butter using a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Add both sugars and beat until fluffy.
  • Beat in eggs 1 at a time.
  • Beat in vanilla, then melted chocolate.
  • Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions each, beating just until blended after each addition.
  • 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.
  • 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!




Thanks for pinning this Dark Chocolate and Walnut Cake!

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Susan Kabir
    May 2, 2020 at 10:35 am

    5 stars
    Forgot to rate it!

  • Reply
    Susan Kabir
    May 2, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Made this cake as written, though used unsweetened chocolate, no icing (not a fan of sweet). Delicious! Not too sweet, velvety texture, deep chocolate flavor. Definitely going into my repertoire! Thank you for this wonderful recipe.

  • Reply
    Amanda Goins
    November 3, 2018 at 11:50 am

    I’m considering using black walnut extract instead of vanilla for both the cake and frosting. Bad idea or delicious for a black walnut lover?

    • Reply
      November 3, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      Hmmm, sounds pretty delicious to me, but then again, I’ve never had black walnut extract. I need to get some to try, I love the bitterness of walnuts 🙂

      • Reply
        Amanda Goins
        November 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm

        Thanks for the quick response! I decided to make a German Chocolate cake with black walnuts instead of pecans and black walnut extract in place of the vanilla. I will let you know how it turns out.

        • Reply
          November 4, 2018 at 8:47 am

          sounds really good to me 🙂

  • 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.

  • Reply
    [email protected] Girl Kitchen
    November 28, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Sue, I just read through a bunch of your posts – I’m new to your blog and love it already! This cake would tempt me any time of day…

  • Reply
    Susan Lindquist
    November 27, 2011 at 2:27 am

    This cake is just so beautiful to look at! I’m betting the chocolate buzz factor was pretty great too! Wow!

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    using ground nuts in cake is marvelous; i often wonder why it’s not done more often!

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 7:48 am

    It’s dark and rainy here too.

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    November 24, 2011 at 10:45 am

    There’s nothing wrong with cake for breakfast – they are lots of good things in there to keep you going through the morning. Love chocolate!

  • Reply
    November 24, 2011 at 7:32 am

    gorgeous!!!!! the perfect thing to come home to! xx

  • Reply
    November 24, 2011 at 11:45 am

    That cake does look SO elegant and I’m sure your daughter adored coming home to find it waiting for her!

    I’m debating whether or not to cut into my Thanksgiving desserts before I leave to photograph them…I’m thinking YES.

  • Reply
    November 24, 2011 at 1:19 am

    I love dark chocolate cakes! I bet your college girl is excited to see what treat is waiting for her this time. I just thought that I’d enjoy the times I spend with my 2 year old while she messes up with my ingredients in the kitchen counter…In a few, she’ll get to go to school, university…and I’ll be just like you I’d need cakes like this to keep me from missing her. Ah! I am shaking the thoughts away, am not ready yet. Meantime, I’ll keep bookmarking cake recipes so I can be prepared when that time comes. Great post! Happy Holidays! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    That is one beautiful cake!

  • Reply
    hobby baker
    November 24, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Oh M’Gosh that looks absobloominglutely marvelous! I could never make it unless I had company to save me from eating it all myself…

  • Reply
    November 23, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Looks rich and decadent. I think your daughter will understand if a slice is missing, its part of quality control:)

  • Reply
    November 23, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Now THAT looks decadent.

  • Reply
    Kitchen Belleicious
    November 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    it looks like perfection. Simply perfection. the frosting, the dark chocolate and nuts. I love chocolate and nuts together. This might have to push the pecan pie off the map!

  • Reply
    A Bigger Closet
    November 23, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Two things I can’t say no to, a sale at J.Crew and chocolate cake – at any time of day. 🙂 Thanks for another delicious recipe Sue, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Lovely. Too lovely, actually. Makes me want a slice. Right now. *sigh* 🙂

  • Reply
    A Trifle Rushed
    November 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I agree, cake for breakfast, lunch and tea!
    Happy Thanksgiving. Jude x

  • Reply
    Sue/the view from great island
    November 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Tabitha and Rose—honestly my husband has lost 20 pounds since I’ve started blogging…I think focusing on better food has made a difference, we’re not desperate to eat more than we need or in between meals…we know there’s something good in our future. I do wish my girls were around full time, though, I have to throw out quite a bit of the sweet stuff.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    If I start gaining pounds I will be blaming you, Sue! All these recipes are delicious!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Sue, why aren’t you the size of a house? Tell me!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    What a lovely cake. Your girl will never stray far from home if you always have such treats for her. I love the changes you’ve made to the original recipe. Have a wonderful holiday. Blessings…Mary