The Joy of Finding a Long-Lost Recipe

Reader Contribution by Renea Winchester

If you have read my books or follow my blog, you already know that I write about heritage. I have fond memories of Sunday suppers at Grandma’s, fishing with my dad, and a time much slower than the one in which we live today. So it is with great joy that I share the recipe for Black Walnut Apple Cake and how I found it.

I had searched for the walnut-apple cake recipe for many years, primarily because of the memory it triggered: Standing beside Granny watching her slowly spoon caramelized butter and sugar over the still-warm cake.

Of course, it goes without saying that my job was pot scrapper and spoon-licker. Granny made this recipe in a tube cake pan (which I do not have, I had to use a Bundt cake pan). I remember her sliding a knife around the edges of the cake, placing a plate atop the pan and with a quick flip and a couple licks on the bottom of the pan, it was time to make the frosting.

The search for this recipe was long, years actually. Granny had loaned out her recipe book to one of her children who accidently placed it on a still-hot stove eye thus ending any hope of me ever recreating the cake. Until … a visit with a friend.

Linda and I were sitting in her kitchen, going over her new cabinetry design when I glanced down at her notes and wouldn’t ya know, there it was. The recipe! Don’t anyone move! Linda had never tried the cake, just thought that the ingredients sounded like it would make something worth trying. I couldn’t contain my joy. This was the long-lost recipe, sitting on the counter of a dear friend. But enough about the journey, let’s bake the cake.

Black Walnut Apple Cake
Total Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Baking Time: 75 minutes

2 cups sugar
1  1/2 cups canola oil
3 eggs
3 cups plain all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup nuts (prefer black walnut, but pecans will do)
3 cups finely chopped apples
1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup cream (I use evaporated milk)
1 cup brown sugar (packed in measuring cup)

Preheat oven 350 F. Peel and chop apples and set aside.

Mix sugar and oil.

Add eggs, flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Mix well. Batter will be thicker than regular cake batter.

Stir in nuts, apples and vanilla. Mixture will be very thick. Use spatula to scrape sides of bowl.

Spray the tube pan and sprinkle with flour. This will help prevent cake from sticking.

Spoon batter into pan (pan will be very heavy when filled).

Bake approximately 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Do not over bake.

Remove cake from oven and let it rest five minutes still in the pan. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, place a plate on top of the pan, invert, and make frosting.

The Frosting Process:

Melt butter on medium-high temperature

Stir in brown sugar and evaporated milk.

Stir until mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat and frost cake.

You will need to slowly spoon the frosting on the cake and allow the cake to absorb the frosting.

As you can see, this cake is beautiful. I can’t wait for you to taste it. My first bite tasted like Sunday’s at Grandma’s.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, a book that contains delicious recipes such as the one you read here. Farming was the chosen No. 1 New Gardening Book Release by Amazon in October 2014.

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Renea’s other books: Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia;A Hardscrabble Christmas; and In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes, her first book, which earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

  • Published on Dec 18, 2014
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