Italy and France around a Walnut Cake — L’Italie et la France autour d’un gâteau aux noix

Walnut Cakes

When I woke up this morning and looked at the calendar, I could not believe that it was already August.

Phhh, c’est pas possible, on est déjà en août,” I told P. as we were both sitting at the dining table, busy eating our bowls of cereal. (I can’t believe that we are already in August!)

I really do not know where July went. I had plans to do many things, such as take better care of the garden, study my Spanish, make a few batches of jam, have my camera and lenses cleaned, tidy my wardrobe and get rid of clothes I collect but do not wear and also, cook a recipe, or two, from Adventures of an Italian Food Lover, Faith Heller Willinger‘s new cookbook. But July arrived quickly and left just as fast as it came, and my plan failed, leaving me with still many things to accomplish on my ever-growing to-do-list. Besides, July was just too hot to do anything. I am definitely not a hot summer girl. Actually, I cannot wait for August to be over too.

But last night, as I had a few hours in front of me after dinner, I decided to pull Faith’s cookbook out of the large grey bag I keep on a dining-room chair, in which I keep food magazines and “books to study“. I made a pot of green tea and sat down to start reading.

When Cath from A Blithe Palate contacted me earlier in July to ask if I would like to participate in a cookbook event she and Ivonne were hosting, I was initially hesitant. Not because I did not like the idea (I love cookbooks!) but because I knew that July was going to be fairly busy for me, between being away, working on some photo shoots, writing articles and going to Chicago, amongst other things. I did not want to promise something and then disappoint. But Cath was nice enough to send my a copy of Adventures of an Italian Food Lover anyway. She wanted participants to make a dish and share a story about the particular friends or family with whom they would share the dish, or by whom they were inspired when making the dish.

Faith’s cookbook is a lovely collection of authentic recipes accompanied by stories experienced as she traveled through Italy for over thirty years. It offers memories of her times spent with friends around great food. And really, is there anything else that matters? In her book, there were so many recipes and attractive dishes that I could have chosen that in the end, I settled with a very simple, yet satisfying one. I baked individual Walnut Cakes.

The reason why I chose Faith’s Walnut Cake recipe was because it made me think of the Flourless Walnut Cake that I had made back in November of last year. And immediately, it reminded me of when I visited my family in France then, when I was able to pick fresh walnuts with my mum, at my uncle’s farm. It is hard to describe the feeling I experienced then with words. Picking walnuts is something that many people do and do not think about, isn’t it? It can even become a chore, something that you know you have to do, but drag yourself to doing. For me however, this activity tasted quite different and was special. And I will tell you why.

There is no doubt that living overseas is amazingly powerful and enriching. During the eleven years of my expatriate life, I have learned so much that it is simply impossible to imagine my life differently now. My friend A. would add “On ne peut pas faire marche arrière” (You cannot go back), and he is so right. His experience includes Armenia, Turkey, France and the US. But of course, it would also be a lie to say that living an expatriate life only brings positive things. Like with anything else, it has its downsides. When I decided to leave France for New Zealand and the US, I really had no plan of the length of my time away. One year, maybe two. But years went by, and with each, I kept the hope that my family would visit. They did, of course, but certainly less often than I would have wished. In my family, I am the traveling one. I am the one who typically goes to them, and not the other way round.

So yes, when I made Faith’s cakes, I simply thought about my family. I really do not often have simple moments like picking walnuts with my brother and his wife, my dad and mum. We rarely clean peas, bake cakes, take a walk, prepare and share a meal together. I even rarely cook for them.

And I miss it.

Because again, what else is there?

PS: there is already a round-up of the event on Cath’s blog here and Ivonne’s there. Take a look.

Lucia’s Walnut Cake

(Recipe from “Adventures of an Italian Food Lover”)

You need:

  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp cane sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Pinch of salt


  • Preheat the oven at 350 F.
  • Line an 8 inch spring form pan with parchment paper (I used ramekins to make individual cakes; makes 6 small).
  • Put 3 egg whites and 1/3 cup of sugar in a pot and stir on low heat with a wooden spoon until the preparation looks like white-slush melted marshmallows.
  • Beat the 3 other egg whites firm with a pinch of salt.
  • Combine the cooked egg whites with the nuts and fold the firm white eggs in.
  • Divide between the molds and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp sugar.
  • Cook for 55 to 60 min for a large cake, 35 min for the small ones (check that they are cooked by inserting the blade of a knife in; it should come out dry).
  • Take out and let cool.
  • Le coin français
    Gâteau aux noix de Lucia

    (Recette tirée du livre “Adventures of an Italian Food Lover”)

    Ingrédients :

    • 60 g de sucre + 2 càs
    • 6 blancs d’oeuf
    • 200 g de noix, concassées grossièrement
    • Pincée de sel

    Étapes :

  • Préchauffez votre four à 180 C.
  • Mettez une feuille de papier sulfurisé dans un moule à fond amovible de 20 cm (j’ai utilisé des ramequins pour faire des gâteaux individuels, au total 6)
  • Mettez 3 blancs d’oeuf avec 60 g de sucre dans une casserole à fond épais et faites chauffer sur feu doux en remuant avec une cuiller en bois, jusqu’à ce que la préparation ressemble à de la guimauve blanche fondue.
  • Battez 3 blancs d’oeuf en neige ferme avec une pincée de sel.
  • Mélangez les oeufs cuits aux noix, puis ajoutez delicatement les blancs en neige, sans faire retomber la masse.
  • Divisez cette préparation entre les moules et saupoudrez avec 2 càs de sucre.
  • Cuisez au four pendant 55 à 60 min pour un grand gâteau ou 35 min environ pour des gâteaux individuels (vérifiez que les gâteaux sont cuits en insérant la lame d’un couteau. Elle doit en ressortir sèche.
  • Sortez du four et laissez refroidir.
  • Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

    Posted in Cakes, Dessert, Gluten Free


    1. I agree that living an expat life is not always positive. These photos are beautiful 🙂

    2. Mmm.. this looks delicious! Nutty and light at the same time.

      It’s interesting to hear about life as an expat. I’m currently in the midst of a 4 year relationship with a German. We live in San Diego now, but next year, when I finish my PhD… who knows? There are so many difficult decisions to be made…

    3. Quelle belle idée ce livre !bravo d’y avoir participé ….Tu as bien fait d’accepter et en plus ta recette me semble aérienne !

    4. Cath et Ivone ont vraiment eu une merveilleuse idée: j’ai lu la plupart des billets des participants, que d’émotions!! Et ton walnut moment en ajoute une!

    5. May I ask which walnut cake you preferred and why? I’m dying to try at least one…but can’t choose!

    6. Thanks for sharing this family story Bea. I think ‘travelling’ is very much a state of mind – my family live near Antwerp and I live in London, but they hardly ever visit. For me, going to Belgium is not travelling, it only takes a few hours by train and you can easily ‘pop over’ for a weekend, but for my family it seems to be a big thing, that has to be meticulously planned and prepared at least three months in advance!.

      Thanks for the recipe also, I’m certainly going to try that. I’ve got a large bag of walnuts that need using, and I’ve made so much custard and ice cream lately, I’ve got all these left-over egg whites.

    7. Bea, tes mots et recettes me vont droit au coeur. Apres 4 ans aux USA et depuis 2 ans en Australie, je suis moi aussi la voyageuse dans la famille. Vive Internet!
      Mais, loin des yeux n’est pas forcement loin du coeur, et les retrouvailles ne sont souvent que meilleures.
      Continue de nous epater et de partager ta passion pour la cuisine. Ton blog est une inspiration quotidienne.

    8. quelle tentation !! je pars samedi matin ds le sud de la Toscane… il faut que j’achete ce livre avant de partir…. C’est vrai que l’Italie est un festin en soi !

    9. You always enrich your creations with the most wonderful stories – I think you’ve had the most interesting life! The walnut cakes look like the cover of a DH magazine!

    10. Great minds think alike, Béa. I completely understand your fascination with this cale. Thanks so much for taking part in the event!

    11. La lecture de ce billet me donne envie de me procurer ce livre.
      Superbes photos.
      Bien à toi

    12. J’adore les noix, et dans les gâteaux elles font merveille en apportant le dose de douceur …

    13. I just made vin de noix and found this post. We always seem to be on the same wavelength. It really does look like its a book cover. You are such a busy Bea, LOL. Your photos look more and more wonderful everyday. Happy August!

    14. Adorable little walnut cakes! They look delicious! And what a beautiful post about family…i agree — “Because again, what else is there?” Well said!

    15. i wanna be an expat again!
      and i wish people would call me to cook a recipe and join their cookbook events…any idea how i can get myself involved?

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    17. You know I hear you 100%. I actually have my 18 year old god daughter visiting for a month and I am treasuring and savouring every minute together. Like you I have been there more than people have come, except my parents. It’s funny since they have far more paid vacation time!
      Love the cakes!

    18. This is a beautiful entry. I haven’t seen my family in over 2 years and won’t be seeing them until December – they live in California while I live in Connecticut, and sadly work & money just hasn’t made visiting possible. I often think about them when I’m making food though, and I wish I could share what I make with them. I have a long, long list of things to bake when I visit!

    19. Voilà une petite douceur qui ferait merveille à l’heure du café…
      Tu les as magnifiquement photographiées, le petit raphia noué leur va à ravir ! J’aime beaucoup ce cliché sobre !

      Amicalement blog,

    20. Thanks for sharing this recipe!
      I love walnuts, and this cake worked GREAT with my cup of coffee =D

    21. Bea thats just simply beautiful.Beautiful picture composition and definately a treat for the sweet tooths !

    22. I have been away from the blogsphere for a few weeks and I have so much to catch up with…starting with your many and ever so beautiful posts…How do you manage!??!!!?

    23. Oh Bea, what you write is so true. I loved my expat life, but when it came time to “stay forever” I couldn’t do it, hard though it was to leave. It is such a unique experience, and one that I loved and miss very much, but there is a strong lure home. At least there was for me.

      And I think some people are just travelers, others not. I have friends and family where I am always the one going to them, never the other way around. It’s just not in their nature to hop on a place. Lucky us that have it, no?!

    24. Un petit gâteau idéal pour partager quelques souvenirs avec sa meilleure amie… saveurs et délicatesse comme toujours…

    25. Thank you Kat. Yes expatriate life is not always easy, is it?

      Maia, good luck with your adventure. We surely learn a ton, don’t we?

      Mercotte, merci!

      Yoyo, thanks!

      Avital, Oui cette idee est extra, n’est-ce pas. Se replonger dans les souvenirs, un air de nostalgie. Merci de ton mot.

      Annie, I actually preferred P. Conticini’s recipe, although I liked both. But If I had to choose one….

      Jeanne, thank you for your visit.

      Lisanka, oui, tout a fait.

      Valentina, yeah, great news!

      Lauriana, merci.

      Veronica, merci beaucoup.

      Inne, oh yes, true. Traveling a s real state of mind. I struggled for years to understand why they never visited (when they have so much more vacation than we do over here), and finally got resolved with it. Otherwise, I was bound to be unhappy about it.

      Severine, ah oui, tu as bien raison, Internet a vraiment aide pour ces relations a distance. C’est aussi vrai que les retrouvailles n’en sont que meilleures. On en garde que le meilleur, en fait. Merci de ton gentil mot. Il me va aussi droit au coeur.

      Corinne, ah bonnes vacances. Profites-en bien.

      Anita, thank you my dear. I think I am lucky indeed. Always dreaming of more, of course. Thanks again for your sweet note.

      Vanessa, tres simple, tu verras.

      Ivonne, ah yes indeed. Thanks for a great idea Ivonne.

      Vero, merci a toi. Tres gentil.

      Fabienne, oh que tu as raison.

      Riana, oh too sweet of you to say so. I guess I have to write the book now 😉 You and I indeed are on the same wave of length. Nice to see when we are miles away from each other.

      Joey, thank you!

      Gracianne, merci beaucoup. On dit toujours qu’on cree beaucoup quand il y a de la peine, non?

      Monica, good for you. Sweden! Lucky you!

      Pessy, ah starrt a blog first, then it is easy! Good luck! You really should.

      Helen, oh you are so right. I never got that either. The fact that they have so much more time, but just do not use them up the same way.

      Ari, oh, I bet the reunion will be so sweet. You are right in adding that sometimes, money factor, and time, can be a real issue. If only plane tickets were cheaper!

      Ingrid, merci beaucoup.

      SenzaPanna, thank you.

      Amelita, thanks so much for you visit.

      Kate, thank you!

      Ales, welcome. I can already see that you have been well busy with preserving!

      Tea, ah yes, chosing between both is hard, isn’t it? We are lucky indeed to have it, and do it. There are so many lives to be having! Thanks for sharing your thought.

      Eva, merci

      Valerie, merci, tres gentil a toi.

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