Walnut Cake

Tispishti

Tispishti is a classic Turkish walnut cake bathed in syrup. It has a moist texture and, surprisingly, is not too sweet. Gilda Angel’s Sephardic Holiday Cooking uses honey syrup, but most recipes for this cake use lemon-scented sugar syrup, which is lighter. Some cooks pour cooled syrup over the hot cake. Others pour warm syrup over a cooled cake. The cake is also called tishpishti, tishpitti, tichpichti, and tezpisti. Although one recipe uses 1½ cups walnuts and ½ cup almonds, and another uses part walnuts and part hazelnuts, walnuts usually are the signature flavor. If you are serving the cake at a dairy meal, a dollop of whipped cream is a nice enhancement.

Ingredients

For the Syrup

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange-flower or rose water (optional)

For the Cake

  • 10 eggs, separated
  • cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups ground toasted walnuts

Method

To make the syrup, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the syrup thickens slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Add orange-flower or rose water, if desired.

Butter a 10-by-l4-by-3-inch baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the cake, place the egg yolks in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale yellow. Gradually add the sugar and beat until thick and pale. Dissolve the baking soda in the orange juice and add to the egg yolks along with the vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat until combined. Stir in the grated zest and nuts.

In another bowl, using the electric mixer and clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir one-third of the beaten whites into the yolk-nut mixture, then fold in the remainder. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, place on a rack, and let cool for a bit. Puncture the top of the cake in several places with a toothpick or a small skewer. Pour the syrup evenly over the warm cake. Let cool completely. Cut into serving pieces and serve.

Variation

For korydato, a Greek Passover walnut cake from Ioannina, omit the baking soda and replace ½ cup of the walnuts with ½ cup matzoh cake meal. Or reduce the walnuts to 1 cup and add 1 cup matzoh cake meal for a lighter version.