Walnut (or Hickory) Cake

Hickory cake
Walnut cake with buttercream frosting

This is a recipe from my great grandmother’s collection she cut out of one of the Chattanooga, Tennessee newspapers back in the 60s or 70s. It was submitted by a lady from Sewanee, Tennessee.

I had a few problems with it – of course.

The entire time I was making it, I kept thinking, “As long as it LOOKS good, it doesn’t have to taste good.”

The batter resembled biscuit dough at first. Hmmm. I knew that wasn’t right. I also knew I followed the recipe exactly and measured correctly. Perhaps there was a misprint in the paper. It’s happened before.

So! I added more milk. I was afraid to add too much, so the batter was still pretty thick. It also cooked faster than expected. And it didn’t rise as high as it should have. But, the batter had been thick. So again, I bet I should have added more milk.

On to the icing it called for: Honey frosting – uncooked

It was more like a glaze, and NOT very tasty. Because I had an image in my head as how I wanted to photograph the cake, I chucked the “glaze” and went with butter cream icing so I could add chopped walnuts to the top. But by this point, I was getting frustrated. So instead of measuring the exact ingredients for the buttercream frosting, I just started dumping them into the mixer. Well, that was fine until I got to the milk. Instead of measuring 2 tablespoons, I just poured in the milk.

Too much, of course. So I added more confectioners’ sugar. And then more. It never did get thick enough for frosting, so I knew it would not stay on the sides of the cake.

Great. But it turned out better because I let the frosting pour over the sides. It looked pretty cool – in most spots. Then I chopped some walnuts and sprinkled them on top; and believe it or not, the cake turned out to be very delicious. But I wouldn’t follow my instructions very closely if you want to save yourself some trouble.


2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs separated
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cups chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar. Add beaten egg yolks. Sift flour, salt and baking powder. Add alternately with vanilla and milk. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Test with a toothpick in center of cake until it comes out clean.

Honey Frosting – uncooked

1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Combine all ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes or longer until of spreading consistency. Three tablespoons of cocoa may be added for Chocolate-honey frosting.


3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream (I used milk because I did not have cream)

Combine butter and sugar in a standing mixer on a low speed until well-mixed, and then increase speed and mix for about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and cream and beat for another minute. Add more cream for spreading consistency.

Walnut cake slice
A slice of old fashioned walnut cake.

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