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Grandma’s Hickory Nut Cake

This recipe's more than a recipe to us—it's a family tradition, three generations old. The frosting's a must—otherwise it's not the "true" cake! We have a timber stand with hickory trees on our farm, so getting enough nuts is easy. The problem is finding someone to crack and pick them and the "someone" usually ends up to me! I bake a lot of pies, cakes, rolls and bread. Three of our four children are now married, but with eight grandchildren, I still have plenty of takers for treats.
  • Total Time
    Prep: 30 min. Bake: 45 min.
  • Makes
    16 servings


  • CAKE:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hickory nuts, chopped (reserve a few halves for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk or half-and-half cream
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Cream together sugar and butter for cake. Add eggs; beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes. Mix dry ingredients together lightly with fork. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Mix well. Stir in vanilla and nuts. Pour into greased 13x9-in. baking pan.
  • Bake at 325° for 45-50 minutes. (Cake may be baked in 8-in. layer pans.) Cool. Make frosting by melting butter in a medium saucepan. Add brown sugar; boil 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to boil. Remove from heat; cool to lukewarm. Beat in sugar and vanilla. (May add chopped hickory nuts, 1/2 cup if desired.) Frost cake.
Nutrition Facts
1 slice: 469 calories, 19g fat (9g saturated fat), 78mg cholesterol, 231mg sodium, 70g carbohydrate (53g sugars, 1g fiber), 6g protein.
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Average Rating:
  • Mona
    Oct 21, 2019

    Love it! Reminds me of grandma's cakes and the frostings she made when I was little. The frosting is sweet, but that's how penuche (like fudge candy) frostings are. It was worth the work of getting the hickory nuts.

  • Ralph
    Oct 22, 2017

    The cake was ok, but the frosting was way, way, way to sweet.

  • indykat
    Sep 8, 2013

    Wonderful!! It took us about 3 hours to shell the hickory nuts (1 cup), so if this recipe didn't work, I would have cried! Delicious!! You could make it with pecans, but hickory nuts are so mild and good. The icing is wonderful too and would be good on a ton of other cakes (ex: apple, spice, pumpkin, etc). Like all recipes, test your baking powder before using. I did two round layers, but think next time, I will do one 9x13. I can see why this one is a family tradition!!