Chocolate Cake with Sugared Walnuts

One of my favorite recipes to make during the winter holidays is sugared walnuts.  This week, for some reason I was craving them.  Perhaps it was the snow that appeared all of a sudden threatening a return to winter even though we have already been enjoying several days of beautiful spring weather.  

Of course any dessert becomes even better when it involves chocolate, so I decided to pair the walnuts with a new chocolate cake recipe I have been experimenting with.

The cinnamon crunch of the sugared walnuts on top of ganache followed by a spoonful of chocolate cake is extremely satisfying - just about any time of the year.  

The walnuts are also good on their own.  Be warned, they may disappear so fast you won't have enough to serve with the cake.  Enjoy!

RECIPE #8 (from 10 Pounds of Chocolate Chips)  

Sugared Walnuts
3 cups toasted walnut halves
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Begin by making the sugared walnuts.  Place walnuts on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 6 minutes.  They should be crunchy, but not brown.

In a pan mix together the sugar, water, cinnamon and salt.  Cook over meeting heat without stirring until it reaches 236 degrees (soft ball stage). Remove from the heat and add toasted walnuts and vanilla.  Stir to coat. As you continue to stir, the mixture will cool and the sugar coating will thicken.

Spoon sugared nuts onto parchment paper to cool.  Separate the large pieces.

Chocolate Cake
1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk

Melt chocolate chips with the butter.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.

Whisk sugar and vanilla into the melted butter and chocolate.  Stir in eggs and milk.  Mix well.  Add dry ingredients.  Pour batter into a parchment lined 9-inch round cake pan.

Bake 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool.

NOTE:  If you do not have a 9-inch round cake pan, a smaller pan will work if the sides are high.  The batter in the pan should have room to expand.  The pan should be about 3/4 full of cake batter.  Anything more than that could create a messy overflow in the oven.

1/2 cup heavy cream (light can work as well)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling.  Pour the cream over the chocolate chips.  Allow to sit for a few minutes until the chocolate melts.  Stir well to combine.  Pour over the cake and spread onto the sides of the cake with a spatula. (It works well to place the cake on a cooling rack with a pan underneath to catch the excess ganache as it drips from the cake.)  Arrange a few of the sugared walnuts on top.  Place the cake in the refrigerator to set. Once set, transfer the cake to a large plate.

To serve.  Slice the cake and then top with additional sugared walnuts.  I like to crush the walnuts slightly and allow the excess to fall onto the plate.