Maple walnut. A warm salty-sweet combo that practically screams autumn. And not to mention, one of my husband’s favorite ice cream flavors. Why I haven’t made a maple walnut cake before, I have no idea but, my oh my this gluten-free and dairy-free maple walnut cake was a total game-changer.
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Maple Walnut Cake
Four layers of fluffy vanilla cake packed full of toasted and chopped walnuts that add a great texture to each forkful. Paired with a light whipped maple buttercream frosting that is not too sweet and not too strong. This gluten-free and dairy-free maple walnut cake is a beautiful combination of salty and sweet with every bite and will have you coming back for seconds.
How To Make Gluten-Free Walnut Cake
The real star of this cake show is the gluten-free walnut cake layers. Toasting the walnuts beforehand gives an extra bit of warmth and depth to the flavor profile. A hint of salt elevates the natural sweetness of the vanilla cake layers and serves as a beautiful flavor base for these gluten-free walnut layers.
I used a gluten-free 1:1 baking blend with xanthan gum and love the airy and fluffy crumb it produces. Make sure whatever gluten-free flour blend you are using contains xanthan gum as that is what acts as the “glue” for gluten-free baking. And as always, double-check the baking powder to ensure it’s gluten-free as well.
How To Make Maple Frosting
My first attempt at a maple buttercream frosting ended up in a lumpy sticky mess. I thought I could boil down the maple syrup to reduce the volume while intensifying the flavor. Well, turns out it will caramelize and turn into a maple candy. Delicious, yes, but not so fabulous for a frosting.
On the second attempt, I went back to basics and simply added the maple syrup into the frosting little by little until I achieved the subtly sweet maple flavor I desired. Goes to show that sometimes simple truly is best.
Make sure you are using pure maple syrup. Imitation table syrup is far thinner and you will end up with an unstable buttercream consistency. I personally recommend going for an A or B-grade maple syrup with a deep amber color.
Easy Dairy-Free Buttercream Recipe
I’m an American buttercream-type gal. The flavor, the consistency, I love it all! That said, I was inspired to try a new frosting style and this Easy Buttercream Frosting from Sugar Geek Show encouraged me to get out of my regular buttercream box.
Using pasteurized egg whites (the kind from the carton) as the base and combining it with icing sugar and butter in a mock swiss meringue buttercream style produced a soft, light, and subtly sweet frosting that smoothed like a dream. I adapted the recipe to make it dairy-free and maple-flavored and I think you’re really going to enjoy it!
Maple Walnut Cake (Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)
Warm nutty cake layers packed full of toasted walnuts with texture and depth to every single bite. Stacked high and smothered with a smooth and light maple buttercream frosting that will shock you that it’s dairy-free. This cake was delightfully easy to make and delightfully delicious to devour. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
Fun Fall Baking Recipes
Fall is not just the prettiest season, but I think it’s the yummiest too. Full of such great flavors, I hope you’ll be inspired to start baking with these awesomely-autumn recipes.
This maple walnut cake is packed full of toasted walnuts and real maple syrup. Fluffy gluten-free cake layers and a subtly sweet dairy-free buttercream frosting. The perfect autumn dessert!
⅔ cup (160g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cup (288g) brown sugar, packed
¼ cup (60ml) vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup (280g) gluten-free flour 1:1 baking blend *
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (180ml) dairy-free milk, room temperature
1 cup (100g) walnuts, chopped
½ cup (120g) pasteurized egg whites, room temperature
4 ½ cups (540g) icing sugar
2 cups (480g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
¼ cup (60ml) pure maple syrup **
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Toast the chopped walnuts in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat for approximately 5 minutes or until they start to brown. Make sure to continually stir to avoid burning. Remove from the heat and allow to cool on a plate as the cake batter is prepared.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF degrees and spray and parchment line four 6-inch round cake pans.
In the bowl of a stand mixer and with the flat beater attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and vegetable oil on high for 5 minutes.
Add in the eggs and vanilla extract and mix on high for another 2 minutes.
Add in the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and turn the mixer on low.
As the mixer is on low slowly pour in the milk and allow the batter to mix until just combined. Be careful to not overmix the batter. Scrape the sides of the bowl when necessary.
Add the toasted walnuts into the cake batter and combine with a spatula until just incorporated.
Divide the cake batter evenly into the four prepared cake pans and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs and the cake edges begin to pull away from the cake pans.
Allow the cake layers to cool for 10 minutes and then invert them on a cooling rack to fully cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the pasteurized egg whites and icing sugar together and whisk on low until combined.
Turn the mixer up to high and allow to mix for 2 minutes.
Add in the butter and mix on low until combined.
Turn the mixer up to high and allow to mix for 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes the buttercream appears to be lumpy or separated, turn the mixer back on to high for another 5 minutes.
Add in the maple syrup and salt and mix on low until fully combined and then on high for another 2 minutes.
Level each fully cooled walnut cake layer with a cake leveler or knife if needed.
Place one leveled layer of cake on a cake board, plate, and/or cake turntable and top with approximately 1 cup of maple buttercream.
Repeat with the remaining layers and apply a thin coat of buttercream all over the cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Cover the cake with another layer of maple buttercream and roughly smooth the sides with a cake smoother. Using the tip of an offset sptaula or butter knife drag it from bottom to top in diagonal lines.
Decorate the cake as you please. I used a Wilton 1m piping tip and piped swirls around the top and gently pressed chopped walnuts to the top and bottom edge. Enjoy!
Store leftover cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.