Every October, yards and forests around Indianapolis grow dense with thousands of these walnuts. But don’t mistake them for a nuisance. They’re culinary gems.

Black Walnut Cake Recipe

By Craig Baker, Chef/owner of the Local Pub & Eatery

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoon baking powder

2 cups roasted black walnuts, finely chopped

3 large eggs

3/4 cups sugar

7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1/4 cup of brewed espresso

1/4 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons light rum

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 Amaretti cookies, crushed

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift flour and baking powder together. Pulse roasted black walnuts in a food processor till they are ground fine, but not powdered. Beat eggs and sugar together until completely combined, then add the next six ingredients. Mix in a stand mixer and slowly and add the ground walnuts and the crushed Amaretti cookies. Stop mixer and add all the flour at once and mix on low just till the flour is incorporated. Pour mixture into a 9” greased cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.

This dessert is great with fresh whipped cream and served with coffee or any cordial. Prep time and cook time is about one hour and five minutes.  Chef Baker recommends garnishing the cake with powdered sugar and a drizzle of creme anglaise.

Black Walnut Foraging Tips

By Becky Hostetter, Chef/Co-owner of Duos

  • You cannot eat them until they cure for quite a long time—months.
  • Hurry—you must get them before the squirrels.
  • The ripe ones are slightly yellow as opposed to bright green.
  • You MUST wear gloves. People used to use black walnuts to dye wool. You get the picture.
  • Stomp off the green hull and stick in a bucket of water. Rotten ones will float to the top.
  • Don’t compost those hulls. They can ruin other plants (especially tomato plants).
  • Store in dark place, shell on (or else they get rancid with oils released), on trays and not piled up. This is how I did it growing up.
  • They have several tunnels.  The meat is not plentiful like good old English Walnuts and the taste is very different. Patience. 


>> Here are a few of our favorite (amateur) Black Walnut video tutorials:

Recommended tool to get to nut meat: a hammer


Recommended tool to get to nut meat: metal conduit hanger


Recommended tool to get to nut meat: a pickup truck


Recommended tools to get to nut meat: pocket knife and a vice


Photo by Tony Valainis

This web extra appeared as a companion piece to our “Discovery: Black Walnuts” article in the October 2012 issue.