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Black Walnut Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting

    A classic Black Walnut Cake recipe that my grandma used to make. The bold black walnut flavor throughout the cake pairs with the hint of orange marmalade and sweet cream cheese frosting.

    I was asked by Carusele to participate in the #BakingAtHome campaign, sponsored by Clabber Girl® Baking Powder, and Crisco® Shortening. Although I have been compensated, all opinions are my own.

    A classic Black Walnut Cake recipe that my grandma used to make. The bold black walnut flavor throughout the cake pairs with the hint of orange marmalade and sweet cream cheese frosting.

    3 Layer Black Walnut Cake

    As much as I love a good pie for the holidays, I also love another reason to have a slice of cake. This simple three-layer vanilla cake is transformed with the simple addition of black walnuts. Black walnuts aren’t just regular walnuts, oh no. They have a bolder, almost sweet taste that carries through this cake.

    What are Black Walnuts?

    There are English Walnuts that are used in most baked items like cookies and brownies. Black Walnuts have a much different flavor profile that some people would not care for when eaten by themselves, however, when mixed into the cake, the walnuts are the dominant flavoring.

    A photo of the finished cake showing the rough cake edges peaking though the cream cheese frosting with walnuts and orange slices on top.

    Black walnuts are also packed with antioxidants and protein compared to other tree nuts. The shell is used in beauty products, cleaning products, and even filler in dynamite while the wood from the trees is used to make beautiful furniture.

    Why use Clabber Girl® Baking Powder?

    Clabber Girl Baking Powder has been a leading baking brand since 1850. Their baking powder is a double-acting formula that causes a chemical reaction once when liquid is added and a second reaction when heat is applied during baking.

    Image featuring Clabber Girl® Baking Powder with the cake in the background.

    What is the shelf life of baking powder?

    Baking powder is good for up to a year when unopened. Once you open the container, it’s best to replace it within 6 months. I buy a new container each fall for my holiday baking. Unlike yeast, there isn’t a good way to test if your baking soda is still good to use. It’s a good thing that it’s an inexpensive ingredient and can be bought at most grocery stores.

    What does baking powder do in baked goods?

    Baking powder is a leavening agent in baked goods. What does that mean? Well, a leavening agent is simply an ingredient that will make it rise. What yeast does to bread, baking powder does to cakes and cookies. Here’s the science of how it works. Baking powder contains both a base and acid that releases carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide is then trapped in the cake batter creating air pockets. As the black walnut cake is baking air and water vapor cause the cake to rise to give you cake a soft crumb.

    Black Walnut Cream Cheese Cake 2 copy

    Why Use Crisco® Shortening?

    There are a few shortening brands on the market, but Crisco is the leading brand in the U.S. It’s made with a blend of partially and fully hydrogenated soybean and palm oils. There is zero trans fat, 50% less saturated fat than butter, and a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids (source).

    How does shortening bake differently than butter?

    Butter is a mixture of fat and water while shortening is all fat. Ever had cookies that spread out way too much? That’s most likely a result of your butter being too soft and/or having a higher water content. On the other hand, shortening has a higher melting point, which will help baked goods hold their shape better, trap in the air longer, and will help give the final product a light crumb. It’s a very versatile ingredient that all bakers need.

    This is image is sponsored by Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening.

    Why does this cake have both shortening and butter?

    We are using bother Crisco shortening and butter in this Black Walnut Cake for the best of both worlds. The butter will melt and caramelize on the edges of the cake, while the shortening will trap a little more air giving this cake a light texture. It’s a win-win! You can use 50/50 butter and Crisco is most of your baked goods.

    How long will shortening be good for?

    Shortening is good on the shelf, unopened, for two years. Once you open it, replace it after a year. Shortening will go rancid if it is left in the back of the pantry and just used for a few recipes. Just like the baking powder, buy a new container each year.

    A slice of cake on a plate to show the walnuts in the cake, the cream cheese frosting between the cake layers and a fork standing up in the middle of the cake slice.

    Add Orange Marmalade to your Black Walnut Cake

    I decided to add some orange marmalade to my cake layers. I didn’t want to overpower the black walnut flavor, but the light orange flavor was very complimentary. Simply melt a half cup of the marmalade and top two cake layers with it before adding the cream cheese frosting. It was the perfect addition and I’m glad I did it.

    How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting

    I recently figured out why my cream cheese frosting always had a “runny” consistency. Cream cheese is nearly half water and sugar is hygroscopic meaning it will absorb the water in the cream cheese and liquidity it. So, to fix that sticky situation, cream the butter and sugar together first! When the sugar is encased in the butter it gives you a little more time to frost your cake before it gets sticky and difficult to work with. This knowledge has been life-changing for me.

    A slice of the walnut cake on a cake with the rest of the cake on a pedestal.

    Black Walnut Cake for the Holidays

    So, what do you think? Have I got you convinced to buy some new baking supplies and bake this amazing cake for the winter holidays? I hope so. It’s a delicious cake for your celebrations.

    While you’re at it, visit to explore hundreds of recipes, tips, tricks, and hacks to help you discover your true kitchen potential.

    Here are a few more Holiday Cakes you might like.

    A classic Black Walnut Cake recipe that my grandma used to make. The bold black walnut flavor throughout the cake pairs with the hint of orange marmalade and sweet cream cheese frosting.
    Yield: 16

    Black Walnut Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting

    Black Walnut Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting

    A classic Black Walnut Cake recipe that my grandma used to make. The bold black walnut flavor throughout the cake pairs with the hint of orange marmalade and sweet cream cheese frosting.

    Prep Time 20 minutes
    Cook Time 25 minutes
    Additional Time 1 hour
    Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes


    For the Black Walnut Cake

    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1/2 cup Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 teaspoons Spice Islands Vanilla Extract
    • 4 eggs
    • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3 teaspoons Clabber Girl® Baking Powder
    • 1 1/2 cups milk, whole milk preferred
    • 1 1/4 cup black walnuts, finely chopped

    For the Cream Cheese Frosting

    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    • 2 teaspoons Spice Islands Vanilla Extract
    • 8 ounces cream cheese
    • 1/2 cup orange marmalade, melted
    • Orange slices
    • Additional black walnuts


    1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 9-inch round cake pans. Spray with Baker's Joy Non-stick Spray, place round parchment down, and spray again. This will ensure that the cake will release cleanly.
    2. Cream butter, Crisco shortening, and sugar on medium speed until light in color and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and Clabber Girl Baking Powder. Remove 1 tablespoon of the mixture and toss with the black walnuts coating them completely.
    4. Add 1/3 of the flour followed by half the milk to the batter. Repeat adding flour and milk.
    5. Fold in the flour-coated walnuts.
    6. Transfer to the prepared pans. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes checking for doneness with the toothpick. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool upside-down to help flatten out the top if you have a lot of doming.
    7. Make the frosting. Beat the butter until light in color. Add one cup of powdered sugar at a time until all the sugar is added. It will be thick. Add the vanilla. In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to break up the cream cheese until it's smooth. Add the cream cheese to the butter mixture and whip until just combined.
    8. Frost your cake. Cut off any domed cake tops with a serrated knife. Add half the melted orange marmalade to the first cake and top with frosting. Repeat with the second cake. Add marmalade and frosting. Turn your top cake over so the flat bottom is up. Frost the cake filling in the gaps between layers. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
    9. Remove from the fridge. Add thin orange slices and additional walnuts to decorate. Allow the cake 20 minutes to warm up before slicing.


    Coating the walnuts with a little bit of flour will help keep them suspended in the cake batter and not sink to the bottom of the pan while baking.

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    Images, text and all other content Copyrighted©Karyn Granrud, Susanne Queck and Wunderlander Verlag LLC, or ©Pro Stock Media via Unlicensed republishing permitted. As an Amazon affiliate, we earn on qualified purchases.

    Karyn Granrud

    Karyn Granrud

    I'm Karyn, a mom and wife, and I founded this little baking blog. Baking and making desserts have been my passion since I was a kid. I love experimenting with different flavors and sharing delicious recipes with all of you. Read more.

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