Serious Eats: Recipes

Spirited Cooking: Nocino Chocolate Cake

I recently came across a cake in Nick Malgieri's Perfect Light Desserts cookbook that used a whopping 2/3 cup of rum instead of the typical 2 to 3 tablespoons you often find in baked goods. The delicate blue Ball jar filled with homemade walnut liqueur sitting patiently in my refrigerator jumped for joy. A cake just waiting for the notes of walnuts, citrus, vanilla and warm spices to shine through! It made that 'ol rum sound a little boring.

Nocino is a sweet, spicy walnut liqueur made from green walnuts, grain alcohol or vodka, sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon and clove. Some versions swap orange for lemon, others add a vanilla pod,mace, juniper, or star anise. The resulting liqueur is dark and syrupy, and sipping it straight feels like pure indulgence.

Nocino is an excellent way to transform green, undeveloped walnuts into a cherished gifts for all your favorite people. It is often made in June when green walnuts are readily available on backyard trees—a Nocino-making fest is a great excuse to have a summer party.

If you don't have any homemade Nocino sitting around, you can grab a bottle of walnut liqueur from your local liquor store. Whether you sip it as a simple digestif, mix it into cocktails, drizzle it over ice cream, or fold it into batters, it's a worthy addition to your liquor cabinet.

The nutty, spicy perfume of this cake permeates the air as it bakes. It comes out moist and dense and needs the simplest adornment of Nocino spiked whipped cream to really sing. Serve with a chilled shot of Nocino or a hot pot of coffee.

Adapted from Nick Malgieri's Perfect Light Desserts

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