Recipe Corner: Holiday Walnut Cake from Café Cat


Photos and recipe are courtesy of Australia’s Linda Peek at Café Cat: (See:

“I grew up in England in the 1960s, when olive oil was kept in the medicine cabinet as a cure for earache and only foreigners ate garlic. We had never heard of eggplants or zucchini, not even by their European names of aubergines and courgettes.”

Linda Peek has cooked for rock stars, dignitaries, and royalty in her role as a diplomat’s wife, and is now sharing her stories and volumes of recipes like this decadent walnut cake at her remarkable Canberra, Australia food blog. “Of Middle Eastern origin, this special cake is best served with hot coffee or tea, with a dollop of fresh cream, says Linda. “It will keep in a cake tin for 2-3 days. Being doused in a sugary syrup, you would think it would be very sweet, but it’s not. The syrup helps to keep it moist.”

There aren’t many food bloggers who can list “Diplomat’s Spouse” as a former career, but for Linda it was a natural progression from one experience to the other. She lived in Geneva, Switzerland until she met her husband Matthew, a member of the Australian Diplomatic Service. “We’ve been fortunate to live on five continents with postings to Tel Aviv, Kuala Lumpur, Pretoria, Santiago, Paris and Copenhagen, with home postings to Canberra in between.”

“Many of my recipes have been in my family for generations…others were passed on by friends and chefs around the world. Many recipes have been adapted over the years to make them lighter and healthier or to update their presentation. Diplomacy, I found, involves a lot of cooking and entertaining. With several events to host each week, from small dinners to large receptions, being an ambassador’s wife is a bit like running a restaurant. I’ve served my recipes to royalty, PMs and other VIPs, and there have been no complaints. This recipe includes walnuts, one of my favorite ingredients, and is moist and delicious baked any time of year,” she adds.

“Internationally, California walnuts supply two-thirds of the world’s walnut trade. Walnuts are primarily made up of protein and polyunsaturated fat, and contain a relatively high percentage of omega-3 fat, which has been linked to various health benefits. Walnuts are naturally a gluten-free food.” (For information, see:

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125g (4 oz.) butter (one stick) at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

People: Linda Peek

2 cups walnut halves (or pecans)

1 1/4 cups flour, sifted, plus 2 teaspoons baking powder


1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Piece of cinnamon bark

1 tablespoon brandy, to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and bottom line a 22cm (9-inch) cake pan. (Note: Linda uses a silicone pan that doesn’t need to be greased, but if you use a metal pan, you will need to grease and line with paper.)

Place butter and sugar in food processor and mix well until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides. Separate the eggs. Add the yolks to the food processor, with the cinnamon and salt.

Lastly, add the walnuts and process to chop them, but not too finely, stopping to scrape down the sides. With electric beater, whip the egg whites in a large clean bowl, until they hold soft peaks. Scrape the mixture from the food processor into the whipped egg whites and add the sifted flour and baking powder.

Fold all ingredients together gently but thoroughly, then scrape mixture into the cake pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until light brown and firm to touch. Do not overcook. Remove from the oven and spoon cooled syrup evenly over the hot cake.

Syrup: Make syrup while cake is baking: Place sugar, water, lemon juice and cinnamon bark in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring. Remove cinnamon bark, add brandy, then cool. Serve with sour cream or fresh whipped cream.

From Linda: “This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Claudia Roden, a British cookbook writer and cultural anthropologist in the 1970s. She is known as the author of Middle Eastern cookbooks including A Book of Middle Eastern Food, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food and Arabesque—Sumptuous Food from Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. I have adapted the recipe over the years. I usually buy my walnuts from the supermarket, but I do like to get ones which are an attractive pale colour and quite large. Dark walnuts can be bitter. Also, I don’t know what sour cream is like in the United States, but it’s not very sour in Australia, and is more equivalent to crème fraiche in France. That’s what you can see in the photo above.”

Serves 10.

Linda manages her own brokerage company, Oztrade Pacific, which handles frozen fruit, juices and purees from various countries into Australia/New Zealand, Europe and South America and Australian cheese into South America. For information, contact: Skype: linda_peek tel: +612-62828872. Or go to:

For Café Cat recipes, see:

For Café Cat walnut recipes, see:

For Linda’s Tahini Cookies, see:

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