Walnut Nutmeg Butter Cake

An easy little butter cake baked in a single pan. This is a sugar-dusted, walnut-studded version, perfumed with nutmeg. That said, there are a thousand other directions you can take this cake. It's so simple and incredibly good.

Walnut Nutmeg Butter Cake

This beauty falls squarely into the easy-little-cake category. It's a butter cake that isn't basic. Baked in a single pan, perfumed with grated nutmeg, and topped with well-chopped walnuts this is a versatile cake with a sugar-sweet heart and rustic rye soul. I love this cake and bake it (or variation on it) regularly. It's a favorite for picnics and a nice alternative to the usual suspects around the holidays. The key is upping your nutmeg game. If you've never grated your own nutmeg, consider this an invitation.

Walnut Nutmeg Butter Cake on Purple Tablecloth

Let's Talk about Nutmeg

Great quality, freshly grated nutmeg will absolutely blow your mind. It is incredibly fragrant and powerful. Using whole nutmeg is a game changer for many things including this cake (or anything else you're baking), ice creams, and spice blends. I have two favorite nutmegs at the moment, this Belmont Estate organic family farm-grown nutmeg from Grenada changed how I think about nutmeg, and this beautiful single-origin Anamalia nutmeg from Diaspora Co. From here on skip pre-ground nutmeg and grate your own.
Grating Nutmeg with Microplane Grater for Butter Cake

How to Grate Nutmeg

On occasion (and if you're fortunate) nutmeg comes in the shell. Simply crack it with a mortar and pestle (or nutcracker), and grate the inner pit using a Microplane-style grater. If your nutmeg is whole, but has been pre-shelled, simply have at it with a grater.
Slice of Cake with Whipped Cream on Purple Tablecloth

Let's talk about Cake Pan Size

If you don't have a 9-inch round cake pan, can you bake this cake in another pan? Let's talk. I've baked this cake in an 8-inch pan a number of times, but it can be a bit tricky. You need to make sure the center of the cake sets, and this takes quite a bit longer compared to the 9-inch cake pan. If you want to use a square pan, please report back - I always bake this cake round. You can certainly make a series of mini-cakes with the batter, just dial the baking time way back and keep a close eye on things. When the centers of the cakes set up you're all good.
Ingredients for Butter Cake arranged on Marble Counter

What if you Can't Find Rye Flour?

I encourage you to play around with the flours in the cake. I like this cake just a shade rustic, and the rye flour brings that in spades. If you think you might like a slightly lighter crumbed cake, dial back the rye and dial up the all-purpose flour. If what you have is all-purpose flour, you can use about 1 1/3 cups of that. If you have whole wheat flour instead of rye, give that a go. I haven't tried this cake with any of the GF flours available, but if you use one of those, let us know how it turns out.

Walnut Nutmeg Butter Cake Cooling on Rack near Window

Butter Cake Variations

Pictured above is the cake straight from the oven (above).  I'm posting the basic recipe down below, but once you decide it's a cake you love, you can take it in many different directions.

  • Powdered Sugar: I like to give this cake a heavy dusting with powdered sugar before serving. To be honest, I tend to use more powdered sugar than you see in the pictures here. I recommend really going for it, but I wanted you to be able to see some of the walnuts peeking through in the photos. Think about adding something to the sugar. Drop citrus rinds (or zest) that you've allowed to dry for a couple days into a baggie with powdered sugar and let it infuse in the coming days. Makrut lime is a favorite, and you can't go wrong with meyer lemon, or classic orange. Or grind up a few threads of saffron, and combine this saffron dust with the powdered sugar. If your powdered sugar gets clumpy at any point, use your finger to rub it against the strainer for even dusting across your cake.
  • Nuts: I go all in with walnuts here, but can 100% get on board with pistachios, pecans, almonds, or walnuts for this cake. I've done versions with a blend when I'm low on any single nut variety. Well received! The main thing is to give the nuts a fine chop. This keeps things light & even on top of the cake, and makes for easier and more precise slicing.
  • Flours: We talked about ways to explore different flours up above. Even if you don't have rye flour, give this cake a go!
  • Spices & Extracts: Another way you can make this cake your own is through spices and extracts. Let's brainstorm! I bet a triple-vanilla version would be really good. You could add a splash of vanilla extract, a bit of vanilla paste to the batter, and a bit of vanilla powder to the powdered sugar on top. For my flower lovers out there, a rose cake would be gorgeous. In this case, I might actually scale back the rye flour, and use more all-purpose flour for a lighter cake overall. I'd add a splash of rose water and some freeze-dried raspberries to the batter, and then crumble some dried rose petals over the powdered sugar before serving. And if you're serving with a bit of whipped cream, go ahead and boost that with a kiss of rose water as well. I could go on all day - but I hope this gives you some creative inspiration.

Slicing Walnut Nutmeg Butter Cake on PLatter
Have fun with this one. It's a fun, buttery cake canvas to experiment with. If chocolate is more what you're craving, be sure to try my all-time favorite brownie recipe, this Chocolate Devil's Food Cake, or the perfect chocolate pudding (no joke!).

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Walnut Nutmeg Butter Cake

4.47 from 15 votes

I love this cake, and you can switch it up a thousand different ways - adding fruit, exploring flours, changing spices or nuts, etc. I outline a bunch of ideas up above!

  • 3 tablespoons / 35g granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup / 94g all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup / 72g dark rye flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon / 2g fine grain sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons / 3g freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups / 260g granulated sugar
  • 14 tablespoons / 200g unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • 1 cup / 120g walnuts, finely chopped
  • to serve: powdered sugar, loosely whipped, lightly sweetened whipped cream, cinnamon
  1. Heat oven to 350F / 176C with a rack in the center. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, butter it well. A springform pan or one with removable bottom works best for this cake. Sprinkle the buttered pan with the 3 tablespoons of sugar, shaking to cover the bottom and sides completely.
  2. Whisk the flours, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside.

  3. Combine the eggs and 1 1/3 cup sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment beat until the mixture nearly triples in volume, until it becomes billowy and frosting-like. This can take a while - 5-7 minutes. By hand, using a spatula, immediately fold in the flour mixture. Add the melted butter, fold and stir until the batter is uniform.

  4. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with the walnuts, and bake for 30-40 minutes. I tend to err on the under-baked side with this cake to keep things extra moist, but you definitely want to be sure the center has set. Test with a toothpick or cake tester.
  5. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, remove from pan and transfer to a rack. Allow to cool completely. Sift generously with powdered sugar and a bit of cinnamon. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if you like!

Serves 12.

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
45 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Post Your Comment

Recipe Rating


Hi Heidi. Would you recommend against using slightly roasted nuts for this?


    Hi Melinda - I don't think you need to pre-toast them because they're put on top before baking....if they were going to be mixed into the batter more, I'd lean toward yes. Happy baking!

    Heidi Swanson

This is one of my favorite recipes of yours and worth the wait! This is so delicious and a perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea or as a light dessert.


This was delicious! I used buckwheat flour instead of rye and next time I’ll try using a gf blend with the buckwheat.


    Thanks Barb!

    Heidi Swanson

Lovely! Thank you, Heidi for another fantastic recipe. I cut the sugar a bit and deemed it a 'breakfast cake' - big hit this morning before school here in Seoul! Just delivered two pieces for tea time to our sweet German neighbors. I've written this before, but Heidi our daughters, now 15 and 13, have literally grown up on your cookbooks. "Is this Heidi's recipe?" they'll ask. Your efforts make an impact worldwide!

mostafa mohamed

    Thanks Mostafa!

    Heidi Swanson

I’m going to make this tomorrow! Do you think it will overflow in a regular 9” cake pan (not springform)?


    Hi Leslie, you should be fine unless you pan is unusually shallow. The 9-inch pan I used for the cake in the photos isn't springform. Have fun baking!

    Heidi Swanson

Lovely! Thank you, Heidi for another fantastic recipe. I cut the sugar a bit and deemed it a 'breakfast cake' - big hit this morning before school here in Seoul! Just delivered two pieces for tea time to our sweet German neighbors. I've written this before, but Heidi our daughters, now 15 and 13, have literally grown up on your cookbooks. "Is this Heidi's recipe?" they'll ask. Your efforts make an impact worldwide!

Dee Dee

    This makes my morning Dee Dee! Breakfast cake for the win. :)

    Heidi Swanson

Heidi, this cake is simply AMAZING! I have been in love with the Bay Leaf Pound Cake forever and this is another one of those recipes that I will be baking again and again and again. It will go on road trips, brought over to a friends house, enjoyed with tea and coffee - and I am sure the tiny cupcake version will be the perfect dessert with a nice hot espresso. Thank you so much!


    So happy you enjoyed it Tina! xx!

    Heidi Swanson

Thanks Heidi! I'm always looking for new ways to add rye flour to my baking. After seeing this mentioned in your recent Favorites list, I needed to make this. It's super easy. My only change was baking half the recipe in a 6" pan and it turned out perfectly. Similar to your suggestions, I used a vanilla bean because, for now, I still have vanilla beans. Simple, intriguing flavors-- nutmeg, walnut, rye, vanilla (and butter!). I lined the buttered pan with a mix of sugar and turbinado then sprinkled a little leftover sugar mix and a final pinch of nutmeg on top with the walnuts. Finished with powdered sugar, it looks really pretty. It's so tasty!


    Oh! I bet a 6-inch version is tres cute!

    Heidi Swanson

Where do you add the nuts?


    Hi Alyssa - step 4. After transferring the batter to the pan.

    Heidi Swanson

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