This Simple & Moist Chocolate Walnut Cake is incredibly rich and full of chocolate flavor!! An updated take on the Southern old fashioned chocolate walnut cake, this decadent reimagined classic is filled and topped with toasted walnuts to deliver an epic crunch and covered in a fudgy chocolate espresso ganache. It practically melts in your mouth with the first bite. Made with basic ingredients, this simple but delicious cake is the perfect cure to all of your chocolate cravings!!
It doesn’t get any better than enjoying a slice of homemade chocolate cake. Chocolate and walnut is a classic flavor combination and a Southern favorite for good reason!! Richly decadent and incredibly moist, this updated take on the old fashioned chocolate walnut cake will have you reaching for your second slice right after you finish your first!!
This easy cake is based off my grandmother’s old fashioned chocolate walnut cake. Made with a combination of dutch process and black cocoa powder and topped with a decadently fudgy chocolate espresso ganache, this delicious cake tastes just like your favorite fudge brownie!! Not only are toasted, finely chopped walnuts folded into the luscious batter, but they are also sprinkled on the top for the perfect crunch. This extra addition of walnuts ensures there is a nice, nutty flavor in every bite.
Easy to make with simple ingredients, it is the perfect dessert for holidays, birthdays, or any other special occasion. Guests will love sinking their teeth into the moist and tender cake, the thick and not too sweet espresso ganache, and the contrast in texture from the crunchy walnuts. All these flavors come together and pair perfectly, creating the perfect rich chocolate cake!!
Why You’ll Love This Chocolate Walnut Cake
- Classic chocolate and walnut flavor combination – Chocolate and walnut is a classic Southern flavor combination!!
- A chocolate lovers dream – If you love chocolate, then this cake has got you covered!! Made with a combination of black and Dutch processed cocoa powder and topped with a fudgy chocolate espresso ganache, this simple cake is the perfect way to satisfy all of your chocolate cravings.
- Simple to make – With basic ingredients and easy to follow instructions, this easy walnut chocolate cake recipe comes together in no time and is perfect for beginner and experienced bakers alike!!
- Best texture – This delicious chocolate walnut cake is super moist and tender with a fluffy crumb. The addition of walnuts adds a wonderful crunch and creates a nice contrast in texture to the moist chocolate cake.
- Perfect for any occasion – This moist chocolate pound cake is the ultimate crowd pleaser!! Whether are celebrating the holidays, a birthday, or just looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, this decadent dessert is your go to for any and all special occasions.
You’ll need the following ingredients to make this Moist Chocolate Walnut Cake:
Ingredients for the chocolate cake
Ingredients for the chocolate espresso ganache
Here are a few notes on the ingredients used to make this Easy Chocolate Walnut Cake recipe:
- Melted Butter – Melted butter gives this cake the best flavor. Not only does it provide richness but it also gives the cake a tender crumb.
- Cocoa powder – I used a combination of black and Dutch processed cocoa powder. I love using both for extra richness and a deeper chocolate flavor. Dutch processed cocoa powders also result in a fudgier chocolate cake than natural unsweetened cocoa powder. I used Valhrona Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder and King Arthur Black Cocoa Powder.
- Walnuts – I recommend using raw, unsalted walnuts. I also toasted the walnuts before adding them to the cake. Toasting walnuts is a game changer!! It helps make them buttery, brings out their earthiness, and makes them less bitter. Plus, they smell amazing while they are baking!! They do burn easily so be sure to keep an eye on them.
- Buttermilk – Buttermilk gives this cake a moist, tender crumb and provides a slight tang.
- Semi-sweet Chocolate – Semisweet chocolate bars are best for making the ganache. Its not too sweet and compliments the espresso powder so well. Be sure to use high quality chocolate baking bars such as Valhrona, Guittard, or Ghirardelli. I used Guittard Semisweet Baking Bars for this recipe. I do not recommend using chocolate chips. They do not melt well and will not give you the consistency needed for the ganache.
- Espresso Powder – Espresso powder is used both in the cake and in the ganache. I love using it in chocolate cakes because it really helps to enhance the chocolate flavor. Be sure to use quality espresso powder such as DeLallo.
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
Substitutions and Variations
Bundt cakes are the ideal dessert. Not only are they simple to make, they come together quickly and are usually baked under an hour. They look beautiful with little or no decoration at all, no elaborate decor required!! But my favorite part has to be all the endless possibilities when it comes to toppings and unique additions. Check out some of the delicious variations and ways you can customize this fudgy, flavor filled chocolate and walnut cake and make it your own:
- Use a different nut. Change up the nuts and use toasted almonds, hazelnuts or pecans instead!!
- Change your topping. Instead of topping this chocolate cake with walnuts with a ganache, try a dusting of powdered sugar and a scoop of ice cream.
- Use water instead of coffee. If you do not like the taste or flavor of coffee, you can substitute it for hot water in the cake. I promise, you do not taste the coffee flavor in the cake at all. It is however, more prominent in the ganache. For a chocolate only ganache, simply leave out the espresso powder when heating the heavy cream.
- Substitute the buttermilk. Although using store bought buttermilk is best for this recipe, you can make your own if needed. For the one cup of buttermilk, add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of whole milk and mix together. Let it sit for five to 10 minutes before using. Or, you can also use 3/4 cup of sour cream mixed with 1/4 cup of whole milk.
This recipe has not been tested with other substitutions or variations. If you happen to try any from the list above or add your own spin with new ingredients, please let us know how it turned out in the comments below.
How to Make Chocolate Nut Cake – Step by Step Instructions
Although easy to make, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to bundt cake perfection. Below, I will share my easy to follow step by step process so you can be confident in making and baking the perfect bundt cake every time. No fancy baking skills required!!
Before you start, preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 12 cup bundt pan with non stick baking spray. Finely chop 1/2 cup of the toasted walnuts.
Step 1: Melt the butter. Slice the butter into one inch pieces and place in a small saucepan. Melt butter over medium heat then set aside to cool.
Step 2: Mix the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment sift together the all purpose flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk in the sugar and salt.
Step 3: Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time to the flour mixture, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition. Stir in vanilla extract.
Step 4: Add the melted butter. On medium speed, mix in melted and cooled butter beating until combined.
Step 5: Mix in buttermilk. On medium speed, add the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture beating until combined.
Step 6: Slowly add the hot coffee. On low speed slowly add the hot coffee mixing until just combined.
Step 7: Fold in the walnuts. Remove bowl from the stand mixer and add the finely chopped walnuts. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the walnut pieces until combined.
Step 8: Bake!! Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake from the pan on to the wire rack and cool completely.
Step 9: Make the chocolate espresso ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in heatproof medium bowl. In a small saucepan, whisk together the heavy cream and espresso powder. Heat cream over medium heat until simmering. Pour cream over chopped chocolate and let it sit for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and with a rubber spatula, gently stir together the melted chocolate and cream until combined.
Step 10: Garnish. Pour the espresso ganache over the cooled cake and top with the remaining walnuts for the perfect added crunch. Enjoy!!
Expert Baking Tips
- Properly measure your flour. For best results, I recommend weighing your ingredients, especially the flour. If you do not have a food scale, start first by fluffing your flour. Fluffing will create air between the flour particles and it will no longer look compressed. Next, spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level it off using the back of a butterknife. Avoid directly scooping into the flour with a measuring cup. This will add more flour to the recipe resulting in a dry cake.
- Use room temperature ingredients. Room temperature ingredients ensures that the ingredients mix together easily. This helps us to not over-mix the batter and creates an even, moist cake. Allow your ingredients to come to room temperature two hours prior to baking.
- Finely chop your walnuts. Make sure to finely chop your walnuts and resist adding larger pieces. Larger walnut pieces will sink to the bottom of the cake. I chopped my walnuts by hand using a large knife and cutting board. You can also use a food processor or place them in a large Ziplock bag and crush them with a rolling pin.
- Make sure your coffee is hot. Adding hot liquid to cocoa powder, also referred to blooming, helps to increase and enhance the chocolate flavor.
- Do not boil the heavy cream. When heating the cream for the ganache, only heat to a gentle simmer. Once you see tiny bubbles around the edges of the saucepan, remove the cream from the heat and pour it immediately over the chocolate. If you heat the cream until it is boiling, it will be too hot and can burn the chocolate.
- Don’t over mix. Over mixing the cake batter will over work the gluten resulting in a dense, tough textured cake.
- Use the ganache immediately. Top the cake with the espresso ganache as soon as it made. If not, the ganache will continue to thicken and no longer be pourable. Also, the finer you chop the chocolate, the easier it will melt with the cream. Larger pieces of chocolate will not fully melt.
Espresso and coffee helps deepen and enhance the flavor of chocolate. Coffee also pairs well with the toasted walnuts.
Over baking and using too much flour will lead to a dry cake.
This cake can definitely be made the day before and stored in an air tight container at room temperature until ready to serve. I recommend glazing the cake on the day you plan to serve it. But if you are short on time and would also like to glaze it the night before, store the cake in an air tight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. You can also toast the walnuts the night before and seal them in an airtight container until ready to use.
Semisweet chocolate is perfect for making the chocolate espresso ganache. It’s not too sweet and not too bitter. Be sure to use chocolate bars for the ganache and not chocolate chips. Chocolate chips will not melt as well or give the ganache its consistency.
Top tip: Using a serrated knife is the best for chopping the chocolate. The grooves of the knife help chop the chocolate into finer pieces.
Store the fully cooled, unglazed walnut chocolate cake in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days.
Store the glazed chocolate walnut bundt cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
I recommend freezing this cake unglazed. Wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap then foil. Place in a freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months.
More Cake Recipes
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Simple & Moist Chocolate Walnut Cake
For the Chocolate Pound Cake
- 1 (227 g) cup Unsalted butter melted and cooled
- 1 3/4 (219 g) cup All purpose flour
- 1/2 (43 g) cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
- 1/4 (21 g) cup Black cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon Baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 (400 g) cups Granulated sugar
- 3 large Eggs room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla extract
- 1 (240 g) cup Buttermilk room temperature
- 3/4 cup Hot water
- 1 teaspoon Espresso powder
- 1 cup Walnuts, divided raw, unsalted
For the Chocolate Espresso Ganache
- 6 oz Heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Espresso powder
- 6 oz Semi sweet chocolate bar finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
For the Walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the walnuts evenly, making sure they are not overlapping. Bake until the walnuts are deeply golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring with a heat proof spatula halfway through baking. Be sure to keep an eye on them as they burn easily. Remove from the oven and allow walnuts to cool on the baking sheet. When cooled, finely chop 1/2 cup of the walnuts and set aside until ready to fold into the cake.1 cup Walnuts, divided
For the Chocolate Pound Cake
- Leave the oven at 350 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup bundt pan with non stick baking spray. Using a fine pastry brush, spread the baking spray to coat the pan making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. Set aside.
- Slice the butter into 1 inch pieces and place in a medium sized saucepan. Melt the butter over medium heat then transfer to a heatproof bowl to cool. (Alternatively, you can do this in the microwave. Place the butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until the butter is fully melted.)1 (227 g) cup Unsalted butter
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift together the flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk in the granulated sugar and salt.1 3/4 (219 g) cup All purpose flour, 1/2 (43 g) cup Dutch processed cocoa powder, 1/4 (21 g) cup Black cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon Baking powder, 1 teaspoon Baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, 2 (400 g) cups Granulated sugar
- In a small saucepan, heat water until simmering and hot. Add 1 teaspoon of espresso powder and stir until the powder has dissolved. Set aside.3/4 cup Hot water, 1 teaspoon Espresso powder
- On medium speed, add in the eggs, one at a time making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in the vanilla extract.3 large Eggs, 1 tablespoon Vanilla extract
- With the mixer on medium speed, add in the melted butter, and mix until fully combined, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Next, add in the buttermilk and mix until fully incorporated, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.1 (240 g) cup Buttermilk
- Reduce speed to low and slowly add the hot coffee, mixing until just combined. Remove bowl from the stand mixer and add in the finely chopped walnuts. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the walnuts until just combined.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
- Remove cake from oven and allow it to cool in the pan on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack to cool completely.
For the Chocolate Espresso Ganache
- Place the finely chopped chocolate into medium sized heat proof bowl.6 oz Semi sweet chocolate bar
- In a small saucepan, whisk together the heavy cream and espresso powder. Heat over medium heat until it begins to gently simmer. Heat only until you see tiny bubbles of cream around the edges of the pan. Do not allow cream to come to a rapid boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate allowing it to sit for 3 minutes without stirring.6 oz Heavy cream, 1 1/2 teaspoon Espresso powder
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and with a rubber spatula, slowly mix until completely combined and chocolate has melted. Set the cooling rack with the cake over a piece of wax or parchment paper and pour the ganache over the cake. Gently tap the cooling rack to help the ganache drizzle down the sides of the cake. Top the cake with the remaining toasted walnuts. Allow the ganache to set before serving.1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract