espresso + black walnut madeleines

Have you ever eaten a black walnut? More exotic than their cultivated cousin – the English walnut commonly found in grocery stores – black walnuts bring the words medicinal, bitter, and mature-tasting to mind. There’s something about them that is a bit baffling, a bit mysterious, and probably also a bit detested by children who taste them. Perhaps I’m not selling these well, but the message I mean to convey is that the black walnut’s flavor is something to contemplate and (hopefully subsequently) appreciate.

It was high time I crafted a batch of madeleines. Finding the time to bake is a bit of a luxury, given our preponderance of weekend trips. This year it’s all been about biking. Still, I was able to weasel myself a good block of time last Friday to try out some new-to-me flavor pairings. Combining espresso with toasted black walnuts did something magical, that I can’t quite explain. The finished cakelet hinted strongly at maple syrup, which was a bit unexpected, but I can see how the melange of espresso and nuts created something caramely and rich and better than the sum of its parts.

Give these a go if you are looking for a sophisticated dessert, which is fully-flavored and not overly sweet. Or, add some more sugar and make it sweeter, it’s up to you. As for me? My life is sweet enough, as I try to constantly remind myself. It’s amazing I still have my teeth, I’m that much of a sugar fiend. I need to lay off the sugar and chill. But in the meantime, how about some little cakes?

black walnutsmadeleines

Espresso + Black Walnut Madeleines {recipe by myself}

Makes 24


1/2 c. butter + 1 tbsp for madeleine tins
2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 c. + 3 tbsp black walnuts
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt

For the glaze:

1/2 c. powdered sugar
A few tsp of milk
2 tsp espresso powder


Melt 1 tbsp of butter and brush into madeleine tins. Cool one minute, then sprinkle a small amount of flour into each mold. Tap in each direction to evenly coat surface, then tap out extra. Set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat (or in the microwave), add in espresso powder, and cool. In a saute pan over low heat, toast the black walnuts until they give off an aroma, stirring frequently. After several minutes, remove from heat, and grind to a fine consistency in a nut grinder or food processor. Add nuts to butter mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar and baking powder.

In another large bowl, whisk eggs and salt for two to three minutes until well-frothed. Whisk in half of flour mixture, then butter mixture. Switch to a spatula, and fold in the remaining flour mixture.

Spoon or pipe batter into tins – 2/3 to 3/4 full should be plenty, don’t overfill. Chill tins in the fridge for two hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake tins for 9 – 16minutes, rotating once. Nonstick pans should take 9-11 minutes to bake, and tin tins should take 13-16 minutes. Watch your madeleines bake carefully; it’s only a few minutes of your time, but these are important minutes. When the edges turn golden brown, and the center bumps appear cooked (the change is noticeable if you watch them bake), remove pan from the oven. Invert onto a cooling rack, or pry out with a spoon or knife.

Let cool 5 minutes. Make the glaze: combine powdered sugar, espresso powder, and milk. Add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time, mixing in additional teaspoons of milk until desired consistency is reached. Cover madeleines with glaze, let sit at least 10 minutes to harden. These are best eaten the day they are made, as they grow sticky with time. Store well-wrapped.


So, delicious cakes aside, here are a few scattered images of my fall.

1. The Amish go shopping on a rainy day. 2. Balsam fir grows to an impressive size in northern Maine after only 28 years, when allowed to grow unhindered. 3. My sweet cat is the cutest thing in the world (sorry One Direction and well-tailored jeans). 4. Apples quickly become delicious cider, thanks to some good friends and the homemade cider press they’ve built. 5. Autumn is fading fast.

amishfir kittyciderfall road


35 thoughts on “espresso + black walnut madeleines

  1. Hey you, I’ve never tried black walnut, but I feel like I can imagine the flavor and it does sound good with espresso. And I’m a total sucker for madeleines or any little cakes:)
    Loving all the photos of your life…. So different from mine here in Berkeley.

    1. Yes, our lives are so so different. In the winter time, I think of my life up here as cold and abrasive, but these last weeks of fall are something incredible to witness and experience. A last hurrah for the summer we never had this year!

      You’ll have to give black walnuts a try sometime. While not native to California, I’m sure you have them available to you should you want to give ’em a go.

  2. This is perfect. So perfect. I’d never heard of black walnuts until I recipe tested for Amber’s cookbook, but still haven’t tasted them yet.

    Thank you for the happy life shots. They make me heart go SWOOSH for you. x

    1. How do you test a recipe without the recipe in the recipe? Sounds about as deep and mysterious as these black walnuts!

      SWOOSH goes the wind and away with it the leaves, and now comes winter!

  3. Hi there, Emma – you’ve got me very curious about black walnuts now…never heard of it and pretty sure I’ve never had it given your description. I think it would be a tough sell for my 8 yr old but I’d be willing to try since I love most nuts. Nice humps on your madeleines, btw. : )
    PS- can I just say from reading your comments elsewhere that I have also had a lot of success with Martha recipes in the past…I can only think of one where it was a bit off and different from an online version and I’ve tried many. ; )

    1. Monica, black walnut trees are native to the east half of the US and Canada, so my guess is you pass by them occasionally! Especially down your way. Feel free to use regular walnuts, or any nut that you think might appeal to your kiddo… as I really do think these may be an acquired taste cake.

      Thanks for the solidarity, sister! We gotta have the backs of our billionaire, no-time-for-the-little-people, 609 year-old vampire pal Martha, right? Yeahhh, that’s right.

  4. Thanks for the final four photos…#1 is terrific–great details: turbulent sky, wagon spokes, horse tied up to lamppost, reflection on hard surface, grey color, store name–really good! Thanks also for another shot of that sweet, sweet kitten:-) Is espresso powder just espresso coffee beans ground really fine? I wish that I could taste these little goodies right now:D

    1. I was so happy to see that pony tied up, it was a photograph waiting to happen. And kitty…. OOMPH, whaattta cutie. I had to look up what espresso powder was, given my general lack of coffee knowledge. Here’s some info: “Espresso powder is very intensely dark and concentrated instant coffee. It’s not just coffee beans ground fine. It’s actually coffee crystals that dissolve quickly in liquid.” Click that for more info.

      THESE GOODIES ARE GONE! Bummerrrr!

  5. Fantastic – they look so yummy and what a great flavour combo. I just realised I haven’t had a coffee for nearly 2 days. I’m usually a 2-3 a day kinda guy!

    1. Whoa! Get yourself some coffee, man! I on the other hand am not a coffee person. Randomly I will have a cup, but I much prefer tea *snobbish laugh*

    1. Hmm guess they aren’t native to Nova Scotia, but I wonder if you could find some planted ones in town? Otherwise, I bet you could finagle yourself some at the store.

  6. What an interesting blend of flavors; I had no idea there was even such a thing as a ‘black walnut’. I am forever amazed and intrigued by your search and find process of foods! So classy….so classy!

    1. Black walnut trees are beautiful! They are grown for big big money down around Pennsylvania, and over to the Midwest, because they make really lovely lumber.

      Thanks for calling me classy, classy! Mostly I just roam the grocery store with wide eyes, looking for ingredients to find me:)

  7. How funny, I literally JUST had a lecture from my future father-in-law about how black walnuts are so amazing and infinity times better than regular walnuts, and I NEVER EVEN KNEW THEY EXISTED. When I asked him what the difference was he was basically just like “THEY TASTE BETTER”… I made a mental note to google it later but then promptly forgot about their existence until JUST NOW!

    These look delightful, I’ve been putting off buying a madeleine pan for far too long… I even resorted to making them in a mini muffin pan once… not the same.

    1. That is really funny. I especially like the explanation, I’m going to use that with everything I describe from now on. THEY TASTE BETTER. Solid argument, that. Black walnuts grow from the east coast west through Utah and Colorado, so you must be able to find some at your grocery store. If I can find some in my sad little podunk grocery, I have faith that you too can find some.

      You know you want a madeleine pan for making madeleines in. But do you know why? THEY TASTE BETTER.

      Kinda ;)

  8. Kitty origami!!

    You are, of course, speaking my language when you throw espresso into anything however I don’t like my chances of finding black walnuts here in Oz :(

      1. You are so right! I will add black walnuts to the list of things that I look forward to trying for the first time, even if that first time ends up being a year or so further away than hoped … *ducks* …

  9. you know, i come for the recipes and thoughts, but i stay for the photos. okay, i stay for everything, but you know what i mean.

    can you believe i’ve never knowingly had black walnuts? this is my mother’s fault: every time we see them in the store or i mention them, she shudders and says they taste like dirt. Obviously i’m confused by her hatred of them, since people describe beets that way, and she LOVES beets. she’s evidently conflicted about dirt. :)

    I like that somehow espresso and black walnuts equals maple! interesting. You make me want a madeleine pan. of all the pans i DO have, it’s (sadly) not one of them. When you whip out your madeleines, i remember i need one.

    AMISH! I love it when you creep on them. I NEVER see Amish vehicles in parking lots around here, so i’ll live vicariously through you.

    1. How funny the things that we vehemently dislike (I’ve got plenty). I’m confused by her choice of the word dirt, though. Bitter, yes. Strong, yes. Dirt..? Did she grow up eating them off a tree in her yard? I’m curious.

      We have this cheapo store in Maine that sells everything (hand tools, soup, mattresses) at a discount price, it’s actually the store in the picture above with the Amish buggy and pony. And they have madeleine pans, it’s so odd.

      I LOVE THE AMISH SO MUCH I want to write them a lonnnnng love letter and seal it with kisses. Creep much?

  10. These look delicious and I love your owl bowl! I was trying to convince my husband to gather, cure, crack, etc. a whole bunch of black walnuts recently so I could make a black walnut and honey pie. Maybe I can find some in the store.

    1. A friend made that bowl/plate/whatever, it’s sooo cute!

      Whoa, black walnut + honey pie. I am impressed and intrigued and all sorts of ready to try that out!

  11. I’ve never heard of a black walnut, but these madeleines sound delicious! love your photos, especially that kitty…awfully cute indeed :) Also love that last photo- the epitome of my favorite season.

    1. I bet there are plenty of lovely black walnut trees down your way. Perhaps in your new neighborhood?

      Fall is bitchin’, that’s all there is to it. Winter’s on the way here, but this past weekend was like a last hurrah. Hurrah!

  12. That cat! How is she even – what are her limbs? Oh man, I want a pet cat.

    Have never heard of black walnuts, but you have managed to sell me on them – I enjoy a little bitterness every now and then, and am a fiend for coffee.

    1. She is the absolute best. I stare at her limbs for hours, and definitely regularly proclaim “LOOOOOK SHE IS CUTE!!” Others usually oblige me in this, as, c’mon, it is so necessary, she is cute! It has to be stated regularly.

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