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Flourless Walnut Cake with Fresh Figs




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gluten free walnut cake topped with figs

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!

Flourless walnut cake topped with fresh figs

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.  

A flourless walnut cake on a white platter

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.

a slice of flourless walnut cake with whipped cream

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.

flourless walnut cake topped with figs and crushed walnuts

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.

a flourless walnut cake with figs on a white platter

 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.

gluten free walnut cake topped with figs
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3.5 from 22 votes

Flourless Walnut Cake recipe

Flourless Walnut Cake with Fresh Figs is a 3 ingredient gluten free cake topped with figs and whipped cream. This classic Italian recipe is truly special!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Yield 10 servings

Ingredients

cake

  • 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

topping

  • fresh figs, cut into wedges
  • crushed walnuts
  • powdered sugar
  • whipped sweetened cream

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

If you don't use a spring form pan, be sure to use a round of parchment paper at the bottom to insure that your cake will release.
*recipe lightly adjusted from food52

 

flourless walnut cake pin

 

 

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18 Comments

    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    Laura Lajoie
    September 30, 2019 at 11:32 am

    5 stars
    Absolutely wonderful!
    Thank you for this receipe.
    Laura

  • Reply
    Amy
    September 28, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    I can hardly wait to make this! We planted the Panache Tiger Striped figs last year and had our first figs this year. OMG they were amazing! My husband was skeptical to eat them fresh off the tree but he’s converted. Can’t wait to pair the few we have left with your amazing cake!

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 29, 2019 at 8:07 am

      Sounds divine :)

  • Reply
    Monique Brown
    September 19, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    I made this yesterday and it was awesome! To make it a little more keto I substituted the sugar with 50/50 erythritol and coconut palm sugar. The crust didn’t go crispy but the flavor was out of this world. In fact, I didn’t bother with fruit or cream, it was the perfect cake to go with a cup of coffee all on its own. I think the coconut palm sugar really added to the flavor.

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 19, 2019 at 6:54 pm

      This is so great to know Monique, I’m sure a lot of folks will be interested. I have to say the flavor blew me away too, I can’t wait to experiment with other versions of this one.

  • Reply
    ANDREA DRUIAN
    September 16, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    Can one use ground almonds instead of walnuts ground!! Hope so.

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 17, 2019 at 7:45 am

      I think so, and I’ve definitely got a variation or two coming up, I’m thinking toasted hazelnuts…

  • Reply
    Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
    September 16, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    How easy is this cake?! And those figs on top make it a total showstopper Sue!

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 16, 2019 at 3:31 pm

      It’s insanely easy for a huge payoff!

    • Reply
      Marie Veca
      September 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm

      I was on Facebook, and came across your Recipe for the Fig Cake.It looks very easy,and I can’t wait to try it!

      • Reply
        Sue
        September 16, 2019 at 5:34 pm

        Oh good Marie, I’m so glad you found it here!

  • Reply
    Vicki
    September 16, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Hi Sue, This sounds like such a great cake recipe for my gluten free friends — one of whom is also diabetic. What would you suggest to replace the sugar? She also doesn’t eat much fruit but I think figs would be welcome.

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 16, 2019 at 11:31 am

      The issue with this cake is that the sugar is one of only 3 ingredients, and it makes up a big part of the structure of the cake. I would think the best bet would be to try a substitute that is granulated, and can be subbed in at a 1 to 1 ratio.

  • Reply
    Joanne
    September 16, 2019 at 10:51 am

    Hey Sue, another winner! This cake looks fabulous and I think I’ll make it for this weekend. I could be wrong but the recipe calls for 8 oz. Walnut flour stating two cups; compared to the 9 oz granulated sugar equaling 1 1/4. It’s just a typo on the 8 oz of flour that should say 1 cup. I know, you were SO EXCITED to list this recipe and these things happen! Thanks for another easy, great one.

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 16, 2019 at 11:24 am

      No, the relative weights of the two ingredients are different and they correspond to different volumes, if that makes sense. So keep to the recipe as written!

  • Reply
    Tricia B
    September 16, 2019 at 4:33 am

    I’m so jealous of your gorgeous figs! We never get good figs here in the east. I don’t think they like to travel this far! Gorgeous cake and I love how easy it is to make. Pinning!

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 16, 2019 at 8:02 am

      Feel free to top this delicious cake with other fruit Tricia, you don’t want to miss out

    • Reply
      Leslie B
      September 16, 2019 at 8:16 am

      Try farmer’s markets or markets like Whole Foods, Wegmans, sprouts. Multiple varieties available seasonally in the ‘East’. Look for traditionally Italian neighborhoods especially. One of my favorite indulgences each year!