I’m going to share my favorite black walnut cake. Granny has made it for years. She said she got the recipe from some ladies she used to work with in Hayesville. It seems to be an old recipe. You can tell from the ingredient list which calls for things like sweet milk and a lump of butter.
I suppose the name is supposed to be “Irish Potato Cake,” but Granny calls it ‘arsh potato cake’. Older folks in my part of Appalachia often call white potatoes arsh potatoes. They call them that to differentiate white potatoes from sweet potatoes. I’ve heard Granny and Pap say arsh potato my whole life.
The cake is time consuming to make and it’s so rich you can’t eat more than a small piece at a time, but it’s perfect for the holidays…well it’s perfect anytime if you like it as much as I do.
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup warm mashed potatoes (If I have mashed potatoes left over from supper I pop them in the freezer so I’ll have them when I make the cake. Or you can boil up a potato and mash it right when you need it)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cocoa
- 2 cups plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sodie (baking soda)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sweet milk (just regular whole milk)
- 1 cup black walnuts
- 3 egg whites beaten light (save the yolks for the icing)
- 1 cup sweet cream (or evaporated milk)
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 beaten egg yolks
- 1 lump butter (1 tablespoon)
- 1 cup black walnuts or less or none
- 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
~first beat egg whites till light and fluffy; set aside.
~cream butter and sugar thoroughly
~sift together all the dry ingredients except the cocoa; set aside
~after the butter and sugar are creamed add cocoa and vanilla; mix well
~add mashed potatoes mix well
~alternately add dry ingredients and milk; mix well after each addition
~fold in black walnuts
~fold in egg whites
~pour into greased and floured cake pans (I use two 8 inch round cake pans and have enough batter left to put in a small loaf pan. I think Granny uses her 9 inch round cake pans and it works out.)
~bake at 350 for 30 minutes or till done (It takes 28 minutes in my oven for the size pans I use.)
~remove cake from pans and let cool (Mine always stick a little-you can use parchment paper to make the cakes easier to remove)
~to make the icing-cook cream, sugar, and reserved egg yolks over low heat until thick (The icing isn’t very thick-its more the pour and let drip kind.)
~remove from heat; stir in butter
~stir in coconut and black walnuts
~I don’t worry about the sides-I place one layer on the cake stand pour some icing on it and then place the other layer on top and add the rest of the icing spreading it evenly on top allowing it to drip where it will down the sides.
The cake is actually sweet enough that if you wanted to forgo the icing it would still be very tasty especially with a big glass of milk or a cup of coffee.
If you decide to try the recipe-please let me know if you like it.
p.s. I looked in the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English to see if the word ‘arsh’ was in there-it was. The book documents the word being used in 1939-Roaring Fork TN; 1942; 1991-Haywood Home.