In 2014 we harvested more than 30 pounds of butternuts from neighborhood trees, thinking we’d have some free nuts. The only problem with our plan is that butternuts are notoriously hard to crack and yield only a small meat. With our move and setting up our new homestead last year we never got around to cracking the nuts, but over last weekend we finally made some progress.
Grandpa had black walnuts and he had a special log where he would hit the nuts with a hammer to get them open. Then he and Grandma would sit on the porch and scoop out the meats. After we realized we had butternut trees nearby, Jim bought a supersized nut cracker made especially for butternuts and black walnuts, hoping it would help us with the nuts we had so easily available.
After looking at those nuts in a box for the past year and a half, Jim and I finally used the nutcracker out on the back deck on Saturday. He cracked, I scooped. We opened up about 20 pounds of the nuts. It took two hours and we ended up with 1/2 cup of nuts. Yes, half a cup! It’s truly a labor of love!
Grandma had a “Black Walnut Cake” recipe that she noted in 1960 was “excellent.” I thought it was more like a bread than a cake, so I baked it in a bread pan. If you want to try an old-fashioned walnut bread recipe, I think you will like this one. It came out great! You could substitute regular store-bought walnuts, of course. No need to scour your neighborhood for wild nuts and spend hours cracking them like we did!
Black Walnut Cake
3/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs or egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup non-dairy milk (almond, soy, cashew, coconut)
2 cups white flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped black walnuts or butternuts
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Blend sugar and butter or margarine until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and milk and stir well. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Stir just until combined. Add walnuts and combine. Turn into prepared pan. Bake about 1 hour. Cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes. When cool, remove from pan and frost with your favorite frosting, if desired.