My Flourless Walnut Cake with Fresh Figs is a 3 ingredient gluten free cake topped with gorgeous figs and lightly sweetened whipped cream. This classic Italian cake recipe is truly special!
You read that right ~ this flourless walnut cake is made with just 3 ingredients.
Ground walnuts, eggs, and sugar make a perfectly moist, grain free dessert with a truly sophisticated flavor. It’s unusual and really delicious. It has the light/dense/moist texture of a great brownie, and it almost tastes chocolatey it’s so rich! You can see in the photos that the thin crust is crisp and shatters slightly when you slice into it…then comes the payoff: a fluffy, delicious center that is the essence of walnuts. This cake is a big discovery for me, I’m super happy with it.
Do you have a favorite nut? Walnuts are mine because the flavor is so complex. I love the hint of bitterness which plays so well in sweets and desserts.
How to make walnut ‘flour’ or meal ~
Making your own walnut flour is so easy if you’ve got a good blender or food processor. If you don’t, you can always buy it, and your best best is online, here, because most stores don’t stock this specialty item.
- Start with fresh walnuts, I like to use halves, which I think are always fresher than pieces.
- Put the walnuts into a food proceesor or high speed blender like a Vitamix and pulse the machine to break down the nuts. The transformation only takes seconds. I’ve even done this in my little mini processor, in batches.
- Note: for this job I actually think a food processor works better than my Vitamix high speed blender, which is a little too powerful and risks turning the nuts into butter too quickly. If you do use a high speed blender, watch it carefully. With the blender I’ll stop and rearrange the nuts a couple of times to get everything evenly ground.
- Don’t take it too far or you will turn the nuts into walnut butter!
- Weigh or measure your walnut flour and continue with your recipe. I recommend using this immediately, or if you need to store it, place it in a zip lock freezer bag or airtight container and keep in the refrigerator or freezer until needed. Nuts are high in fat and can spoil easily.
How to make a flourless walnut cake ~
- Butter, flour(you can use your walnut flour), and line the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper.
- Separate your eggs. Beat the yolks with sugar until pale and creamy. Beat for a full 5-7 minutes.
- Beat the whites until they hold peaks and then gently fold into the batter.
- Fill the pan and spread out evenly.
- The cake puffs up like a souffle and settles back down as it cools. You don’t want to over bake this cake, (think of it like a big brownie) it will be quite moist. The cake should appear firm and not wobbly, and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out without wet batter on it.
- Let cool for 15-20 minutes, then gently remove the cake, peel off the parchment, and then flip over onto a plate. Or, skip the whole nerve wracking flipping stuff and use a 9 inch spring form pan.
The cake puffs up like a souffle in the oven, but sinks back down as it cools, developing those beautiful crackles. The outer crust is thin and crisp thanks to the beaten egg whites, while the interior is moist and fluffy.
You could top it with figs like I did, or just do a halo of whipped cream and toasted walnuts. It makes a nice presentation for company and you’ve got any gluten free eaters automatically covered.
I couldn’t resist the jammy Tiger Striped figs with their yellow and green striped skins that are in season now in July and August, but any ripe fig would work on top of this cake. Deep purple mission figs would be just as good. Sigh, aren’t figs gorgeous??
If you want to skip the fruit you might focus your efforts on a special whipped cream…I like to whip mine with a little room temperature sour cream or mascarpone cheese to enrich it even further. Then scatter some toasted walnuts on top.
I have a nice selection of gluten free cakes and cookies on the blog if you need to cut gluten out of your diet or, if you’re like me and just love the unique texture of naturally gluten free desserts.
Types of nuts that can be ground into meal or flour and used in gluten free desserts ~
Nuts can be ground with or without their skins, and either raw, blanched, or roasted ~ and each iteration yields a different result, feel free to experiment.
- ALMONDS are probably the most common nut that is ground into flour. I use it as the base for my Flourless Tangerine Cake, my Flourless Meyer Lemon Cake, and my Gluten Free Carrot Cake. (It’s also used to make my favorite Sarah Bernhardt Cookies.)
- HAZELNUTS make a rich meal and I make good use of it in my Outrageous Chocolate Hazelnut Blondies.
- PECANS are pricy, so you don’t see pecan flour out there much, but ground pecans can be a great ingredient, especially during the holidays. They feature in my Bourbon Pecan Crackle Cookies
- COCONUTS are considered nuts as well as fruits, so let’s include it here…this Flourless Coconut Cake is a great example of how to use coconut flour.
- WALNUTS are used in many European recipes but not so common here in the states. Hopefully today’s recipe will help to fix that. I also use ground walnuts in my Dark Chocolate Walnut Cake.
Flourless Walnut Cake recipe
- 8 ounces or 228 grams ground walnuts, about 2 cups
- 9 ounces or 255 grams granulated sugar, about 1-1/4 cups
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, optional
- fresh figs, cut into wedges
- crushed walnuts
- powdered sugar
- whipped sweetened cream
- Preheat oven to 350F Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan or spring form pan. If you use a cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
- Separate the eggs, and beat the yolks with the sugar for about 7 minutes, or until pale yellow and fluffy. I do this in my stand mixer fitted with the balloon attachment.
- Fold the ground walnuts into the mixture.
- Whip the egg whites to medium peaks. I always add cream of tartar to help stabilize my egg whites, but that's optional. Note: if you re-use your stand mixer be sure to wash out the bowl and whisk really well with hot soapy water...any traces of oil or grease will prevent your egg whites from whipping well.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. I like to fold one scoop of whites into the batter, and then pour the batter into the bowl with the egg whites...it seems to blend up easier that way.
- Once your batter is smooth without large streaks or lumps of egg white remaining, turn into your pan and smooth out.
- Bake, on a baking sheet, for about 40-45 minutes or until risen and set in the middle. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out without wet batter on it.
- Let the cake cool on a rack for 15 minutes, and then gently remove the outer ring. If the cake hasn't separated from the edge of the pan naturally, run a blunt spreading knife along the edge to loosen it first.
- Let cool before decorating with the figs, walnuts, and powdered sugar.