My walnut crumble cake could well be titled ‘yoghurt cake’ because it has a generous quantity of yoghurt. This walnut and date topped cake is plumped up by full-fat yoghurt which yields a delightfully moist and tender crumb. So you have a wholesome, buttery, yoghurt-rich cake with crunchy, sweet-salty walnut crumble in the centre and on top. A double walnut crumble cake if you like.
Curd, that’s Indian for yoghurt, is ubiquitous on our tables and in our kitchens. Generally homemade with whole milk, it is a dairy staple common to regional cuisines across the country. We eat it plain, make lassi with it and use it to cook a staggering number of dishes. It supplements the proteins and calcium in a predominantly vegetarian diet and is the cooling counterfoil to our spicy and sometimes fiery pickles and curries. As is customary in most of South India, we ended our meals with yoghurt. We ate it sometimes with rice and a dab of hot pickle but mostly plain, without sugar, honey or any kind of topping. Homemade yoghurt just doesn’t need any because it has a mild, creamy, almost neutral, zen-like taste that’s soothing to the palate. It makes for an apt closing act to a spice-laden meal.
In winters, my mother would set a fresh bowl every night before she went to bed and during the searing summers it would be her first task when she entered the kitchen in the morning. This ritual became a part of my kitchen when I married 20 years ago and continues to this day. You will always find homemade yoghurt in my refrigerator whether there’s anything else there or not. A typical Indian moving into a new home is more likely to knock on his neighbour’s door for a few teaspoons of ‘starter’ yoghurt rather than for a bowl of sugar. People do this even today because starting homemade yoghurt with store-bought yoghurt yields a gloopy, slimy texture and a strange, synthetic flavour. I think this old fashioned practice is a great ice-breaker.
For the walnut crumble cake, I drained homemade yoghurt before adding it to my cake batter. Quite simply, just pour the yoghurt into a colander or sieve lined with a piece of muslin (large enough to hold it in without spilling), for a couple of hours so that it acquires a Greek yoghurt-like consistency. Also, using homemade yoghurt is purely up to you. Good quality Greek yoghurt and even sour cream are perfect alternatives.
If you’ve been reading my cake recipes, you’ll know that I like to cut down the sweetness a tad. So here in this walnut crumble cake, the sweetness of the topping comes from dates rather than sugar. Chunky, sticky and flecked with salt and ground cinnamon, the crumble feels like damp earth when the fruit and nuts have been freshly whizzed in the processor. I rubbed in a tablespoon of extra-virgin coconut into this rubble before sprinkling it into and onto the cake. If you don’t like coconut oil, use butter instead. Once baked, it becomes crunchy and is just wonderful to encounter in between bites of soft cake.
Walnut Crumble Cake
- 215 g AP flour
- 115 g butter at room temperature
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 90 g caster sugar
- 250 g natural yoghurt drained of whey or Greek yoghurt
- 1 tsp soda bicarbonate
- 1 tsp baking powder
For the crumble
- 115 g walnuts
- 175 g dates, pitted
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
- Preheat the oven to 180℃. Line a 9" square cake tin with baking parchment and lightly grease.
- To make the topping, blitz the dates and walnuts in a food processor till they resemble small chunks. Stir in the salt, cinnamon powder and coconut oil and set aside.
- Sift together the salt, soda bicarb and baking powder in a bowl.
- In another bowl, cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Fold in the flour in three batches alternating with the yoghurt until fully incorporated.
- pour half the batter into the prepared cake tin and level with the back of the spoon. Sprinkle half the crumble mix over the batter.
- Pour the remaining cake batter over the crumble and top with the remaining crumble mix.
- Bake for 35-40 min or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If the cake is still under after 40 mins, bake for a further 10 mins.
- Rest the cake in the tin for 5 min before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Once cooled slice into squares.