Venice-based blogger Skye McAlpine first came across this not-too-sweet, not-too-rich chocolate cake in an old cookbook written in rough Venetian dialect, and she's been making it ever since. She sometimes swaps macadamias or Brazil nuts for the walnuts.
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1 cup walnut halves
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups superfine sugar
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large eggs, separated
Confectioners' sugar, for sifting
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the walnuts in a cake pan and bake until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a work surface and let cool, then coarsely chop.
Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and dust with cocoa powder. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a medium saucepan, stir all but 2 tablespoons of the superfine sugar with the 3/4 cup of cocoa powder. Whisk in the water in a steady stream until incorporated. Bring the cocoa mixture to a boil over moderate heat, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat and whisk in the olive oil.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork to break them up. Beat a large spoonful of the cocoa mixture into the egg yolks, then scrape the yolk mixture into the saucepan and whisk until no streaks remain. Using a rubber spatula, stir the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients, then fold in the chopped walnuts.
In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of superfine sugar and beat until the egg whites are thick and glossy, about 5 minutes. Fold the beaten whites into the batter in 3 additions.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool completely before unmolding. Sift confectioners' sugar over the top before serving.
The cake can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature overnight.
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Review Body: I'n sorry, but this is the worst, driest cake I ever made. I tried to improve it with a chocolate icing, but that failed. It's extremely dry. I served it on a dessert buffet and no one liked it. It was very embarrassing. Luckily, I had made other things that were delicious. I lived in Italy for almost ten years and I know that often their cakes are drier and less sweet than American cakes, but this recipe fails. Sorry to be so blunt, but this is my opinion after making this cake.