Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Chocolate Cake

A classic chocolate cake, moist and earthy, studded with black walnuts. This is "the" chocolate cake in my husband's family and like most-things family, it comes with a story.

Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Chocolate Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, here with with Maple Ice Cream, moist and earthy, studded with black walnuts.


A Family Reunion, of Sorts.

First came the story. Careful Kitchen Parade readers just might recognize this column's story about the Missouri woman and her black walnut tree.

You see, the story was published just a couple of months back along with the recipe for Black Walnut Bread. The story is one of my (now) husband's favorites. At family gatherings, I'd heard him laugh how his mother lost her walnut tree, passing along the story to younger generations. (We were a new couple back in 2009 when this all happened.)

Then came the recipe. My husband's sister called with big news, "I've got the chocolate cake recipe that matches that story about Mom's walnut tree." Thank you, Vera, for entrusting me with the recipe for your mother's "Lady Betty Cake"!

The story and the recipe are reunited. I like to think that Vera's and my husband's mother is beaming from heaven, pleased to know that her legacy for all her children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren now also includes the family's long-time favorite walnut chocolate cake.

Here's the story ... and the recipe that belongs to it.

A Widow and Her Walnut Tree

On My Mind ♥ KitchenParade.com, a widow and her black walnut tree.

It was a hard-scrabble place, that farm, but to a Missouri widow and her four children in the 1940s and 50s, it was home.

Out front was a black walnut tree with a trunk larger than a grown man’s arms' outstretched. Its upper boughs furnished welcome shade during Missouri's hot, humid summers.

Come fall, as the walnuts ripened and dropped, the green-colored husks were mounded in the sun to dry. Then all four kids settled onto the house’s rock steps for the real work, cracking the husks with hammers, hands turning sticky-black; breaking the shells; and finally, with great precision, extracting the walnut nutmeat with nutpicks.

It required real effort, harvesting black walnuts, but to the widow and her four children, it was just the way it was — the reward a chocolate cake studded with smoky-strong, slightly musty black walnuts.

In later years, the widow worried that the aged tree would fall onto the farmhouse. She consulted her then-grown children about taking it down. “No, no,” they said. “That tree is our childhood, our heritage. We love that tree.”

One day, the tree was gone. The widow explained to her children, “The nicest man stopped by and offered to take it down, said he wouldn’t charge me, either.”

There was no resurrecting the walnut tree, nor was there telling the widow that the nice man had harvested black walnut wood worth about $15,000 — more than $100,000 in 2009 dollars, more than $130,000 in 2020 dollars.

It was just the way it was.

First, It Was Lady Betty Cake

Lady Betty Cake, the original recipe for Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Chocolate Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com

This is the cake my husband remembers so fondly, the one cake his mother made again and again.

I've upped the chocolate and omit the chocolate icing. I do love to serve it with Maple Ice Cream, my adaptation of Buttered Pecan Ice Cream.

And Then It Was a Bundt Cake.

Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Chocolate Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, here with with Maple Ice Cream, moist and earthy, studded with black walnuts.

And Now? Mini Tea Cakes!

Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Chocolate Cake in Mini Tea Cakes ♥ KitchenParade.com, a classic chocolate cake, moist and earthy, studded with black walnuts.

This family recipe shows up at many family events. Some times a big Bundt-style cake makes sense, other times, like for a recent baby shower with several desserts, these bite-size mini cakes work out really well.

I usually mix a full batch of batter, then use half for 24 mini cakes and half for a half-size Bundt pan. Often that means mini cakes to carry and a small Bundt cake for home! Double win!

A half recipe makes about 24 mini cakes. Be sure to spray the mini muffin pans well, fill the cups almost to the top, then bake for 10-15 minutes, cool well and then gently remove and if you like, transfer to mini paper cups. The mini versions are a little plain in appearance. At one party, the host added little plastic doo-hickies. Or you could bake with a little Swedish sugar on top.

But they're cute, yes? And good news, they stay fresh for several days!


Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time to table: 3 hours
Serves 12 with generous pieces, more for slimmer ones
  • 4 ounces (113g) bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1-2/3 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 210g
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon, optional but lovely
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 cups (212g/8ounces) chopped black walnuts (see TIPS)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Set the oven to 325F/160C. Generously grease a Bundt pan.

MELT CHOCOLATE Gently melt the chocolate, either in a small saucepan over low heat or in a bowl in the microwave, 10 seconds at a time.

WHIP EGG WHITES While the beaters are clean, in a medium bowl, beat the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

CREAM BUTTER, SUGAR & EGGS In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks until light and fluffy.

MEASURE DRY INGREDIENTS In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and walnuts.

COMBINE Mixing just until combined, mix into the butter mixture:

– 1/3 flour mixture
– half milk
– 1/3 flour mixture
– remaining milk
– melted chocolate
– remaining flour mixture

FOLD IN EGG WHITES With a spatula, gently fold in the beaten egg whites. Transfer to the Bundt pan.

BAKE & COOL Bake for 60 - 75 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn cake onto a cooling rack to finish cooling, then transfer to a cake plate. If you like, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

SERVE Slice and serve with scoops of maple ice cream made without (or with, either way) walnuts. Savor and remember!

ALANNA's TIPS For years, I recommended Baker's Joy for best results with Bundt pans. No more! I'm just thrilled with the results of this three-ingredient DIY Substitute for Baker's Joy. It works like a charm! Not everyone has access to black walnuts. (Believe it or not, my best sources are Walmart and Sam's Club!) Not to worry, English walnuts are easy to find and would work just as well in this loaf cake, so would pecans, so would almonds. I do recommend first toasting English walnuts (but not black walnuts), pecans and almonds, to draw out their nutty flavor. The original recipe calls for 3 ounces of chocolate but once I accidentally used 4 ounces but loved the added chocolate richness. Four ounces it is! One cake, I substituted coconut milk for milk, it worked fine though the coconut flavor didn't really come through. I have "no idea" if this cake keeps or not, there are "zero" leftovers!
MINI TEA CAKES Cut the recipe in half to make about 24 mini tea cakes. Spray a mini muffin pan very well, fill the cups almost to the top and then bake for 10-13 minutes at 325F/160C. Let cool then gently remove and transfer into decorative papers.
HALF-SIZE BUNDT CAKE A Bundt cake is b-i-g, too much for all but the largest gatherings. So awhile back, I picked up a half-size Bundt cake and use it all the time, way more often than the big Bundt pan. For a half-size Bundt cake, cut the recipe in half and bake for about 30 minutes at 325F/160C. Let cool, then gently upend the cake pan to release the cake.
NUTRITION ESTIMATE Assumes 16 Slices, per Slice: 339 Calories; 16g Tot Fat; 6g Sat Fat; 75mg Cholesterol; 157mg Sodium; 35g Carb; 2g Fiber; 24g Sugar; 8g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 8 & PointsPlus 9 & SmartPoints 14 & Freestyle 14 & myWW green 14 & blue 14 & purple 14

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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2009, 2011, 2019 & 2020

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Colleen4/20/2009

    I recently discoverd your site while looking for some low calorie/low carb recipes. I then checked out your veggie venture site also, and love how easy it is to navigate. I signed up to be notified whenever you post a new recipe, and look forward to checking new ones. I also shared your site with 3 friends who are also trying to lose wieght. We we skip the walnot chocolate cake for now, but REALLY enjoyed looking at the photos! Thanks!

  2. Hi Colleen ~ Thank you so much for taking the time to write, your words mean the world.

  3. I love that you post nutritional information for ALL your recipes. I'm trying to re-start Weight Watchers and it's so helpful to have a trusted resource for great recipes that won't derail me!

  4. DLAOKC4/21/2009

    Loved the story about the black walnut tree! The recipe is a bonus - thanks.

  5. one of my all time favorite cake recipes. Thanks for sharing. Simon


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna