This chocolate walnut cake is a simple chocolate snack cake with a walnut caramel filling and a rich chocolate frosting. This rustic cake is quick to make and doesn't require any fancy decorating or tools, only a standard round 8-or-9-inch cake pan!
The dark chocolate walnut cake starts with a moist, chocolatey cake batter that comes together without any special equipment. The filling is made with a homemade caramel and walnut pieces which add a great textural crunch.
Then, the whole cake gets topped with a fudgy chocolate cream cheese frosting that is not overly sweet and pairs perfectly with the walnut caramel.
Chocolate cake is such an indulgent treat, and there are lots of avenues to choose from. For more chocolate cake recipes, try:
- Triple Chocolate Layer Cake
- Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake
- Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Black Velvet Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
- Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Frosting
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Double chocolate - This chocolate walnut cake has both a soft, moist chocolate cake and a chocolate icing, so it's perfect for those chocoholics like me! The recipe uses cocoa powder, melted chocolate, and a secret ingredient to bring out extra chocolate flavor - coffee.
Crunch - While the cake is soft and the chocolate cream cheese frosting is luscious, the walnuts add a great contrasting crunch to the caramel filling and on top of the cake.
Simple - Even though this cake is packed with rich flavor, it's surprisingly easy to make. And because it's supposed to be a rustic dessert or snack cake, it doesn't require any fancy decorations or equipment.
- Dutch-processed cocoa powder. I don't suggest using natural cocoa in this recipe. Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa can be found in most standard grocery stores.
- Semi-sweet chocolate. Use a chocolate bar and chop it yourself for best melt-factor. Look for a chocolate between 60-70% cacao.
- Coffee. Hot coffee blooms the cocoa powder, and also enhances the chocolate flavor. Water can be used in place of coffee, if desired.
- Dairy. Sour cream and whole milk are used in the cake recipes and cream cheese is used for the chocolate frosting. All ingredients should be at room temperature before beginning.
- Walnuts. Whole or walnut pieces can be used, just be sure they are chopped into smaller pieces.
- Light corn syrup. This ingredient is used to product the walnut caramel syrup that goes on top of the cake and keeps the caramel from solidifying.
See recipe card for full ingredients list and quantities.
Substitutions and Variations
- Substitute buttermilk or greek yogurt in place of sour cream in the chocolate cake.
- Use hot water or hot coffee to bloom the cocoa and bring out it's full flavor.
- Try pecans, almonds, or macadamia nuts instead of walnuts.
- Bake the cake in an 8x8 inch square pan instead of a round pan.
How to Make This Recipe
One: Whisk together the dry ingredients and sugar.
Two: Whisk together the wet ingredients until very smooth.
Three: Add the chopped chocolate and hot coffee to a bowl and allow it to stand. Stir after one minute.
Four: Mix together the wet and dry ingredients using a rubber spatula.
Five: Add the coffee and chocolate, then carefully mix to combine. It will be much thinner now.
Six: Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, then bake until done. Cool the cake completely.
Seven: Add the corn syrup, sugar, and butter and cook for 1-2 minutes while bubbling lightly.
Eight: Stir in the walnuts and vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool completely.
Nine: Beat together the butter and powdered sugar. Then, add the cream cheese to combine.
Ten: Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, and heavy cream and whip until light and fluffy.
Eleven: Spread a thin layer of frosting on top of the cake.
Twelve: Transfer a small amount of frosting to a piping bag (or zip-top bag) and pipe a circle around the edge of the cake.
Thirteen: Fill the center of the cake with walnut caramel. Don't fill past the frosting dam.
Fourteen: Add the remaining frosting on top of the filling and spread and swoop to cover completely. Top with toasted walnuts, if desired.
- Toast the walnuts to bring out their nutty flavor.
- Use a scale to measure the flour for the most accurate results.
- Bring all of the dairy ingredients to room temperature so they easily incorporate into the batter.
- Cool the cake completely before icing so the frosting doesn't melt.
- Don't allow the walnut caramel to go above the frosting dam, otherwise it will break through the top layer of the icing.
A mixture of sugar and fat will provide an ultra-moist cake. Oil is the most commonly used fat to produce very moist chocolate cakes.
That depends on the flavor profile and leavening agents (baking powder and/or baking soda) in the recipe. I typically prefer Dutch process cocoa for both flavor and color profile.
Yes, this cake can be made in an 8x8 inch square pan if you'd prefer a differently shaped cake. Alternatively, make it in an 8" round pan and increase the bake time by about five to ten minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean with no wet batter.
Store the chocolate walnut cake covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for one day. Then, store in the fridge for an additional 2-3 days.
Add strips of parchment paper or extra plastic wrap to the cut sides of the cake to keep the walnut caramel in place.
Chocolate Walnut Cake
- 9" cake pan
- Mixing bowls
- Medium saucepan
- Rubber spatula
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup cocoa powder dutch processed
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup sour cream room temperature
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- ¼ cup whole milk room temperature
- 1 large egg + 1 yolk room temperature
- ¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chopped
- ½ cup hot coffee or water
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- ½ cup brown sugar packed (light or dark brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup walnuts roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chopped and melted
- ¼ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 4 oz cream cheese brick style, room temperature
- 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/180℃ and grease line the bottom of a 9” round cake pan with parchment paper.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, ⅓ cup cocoa powder dutch processed, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sour cream, oil, whole milk, eggs and whisk to combine.¼ cup sour cream, ¼ cup neutral oil, ¼ cup whole milk, 1 large egg + 1 yolk
- In a small bowl, add the hot coffee or water and chocolate and allow to stand for about a minute, then mix to combine.½ cup hot coffee, ¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate
- Add the dry ingredients to the sour cream mixture and mix to combine using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. It will be thick at this point.
- Stir together the coffee and chocolate, then add to the batter and carefully mix to fully combine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 25 -30 minutes until the edges have started to pull away from the sides and the center is no longer sloshy. A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.
- Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. Make the caramel walnuts and frosting while the cake cools.
- Add the corn syrup, brown sugar and butter to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to melt, then allow it to lightly bubble for 1-2 minutes.½ cup light corn syrup, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Remove from the heat then stir in the nuts and vanilla. Transfer to a heat-safe bowl to cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the heavy whipping cream. Allow it to cool completely at room temperature.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¾ cup walnuts, ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
- Chop the chocolate and melt in a microwave safe bowl in :30 second increments until fully melted. Set aside to cool.4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- Add the butter, salt, and half of the powdered sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a handheld mixer) and mix on low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium high and beat for an additional 3 minutes.¼ cup unsalted butter, 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Scrape down the sides, then add the cream cheese and mix on low to incorporate. With the mixer on low speed, spoon in the remaining powdered sugar until dissolved. Increase the speed to medium and beat for :30 seconds.4 oz cream cheese
- Scrape down the sides again, then add the melted and cooled chocolate. Mix on low speed to completely combine. Add the heavy whipping cream and whip on high speed for one minute. Use a rubber spatula to finish mixing by hand, being sure everything is completely uniform2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- Add some chocolate frosting to the top of the cake and smooth it out to cover the top completely in a very thin layer.
- Add more frosting to a piping bag (or zip top bag) and cut off a ½” opening. Pipe a circle around the edge of the cake (this will hold in the caramel walnuts).
- Add some of the cooled caramel walnuts to the middle of the cake and allow it to spread to meet the edges.
- Top the walnuts with the remaining chocolate frosting, adding rustic swoops for decoration. Top the cake with additional chopped walnuts, then slice and serve.