Nana’s Birthday Cake

Nana’s Maple Walnut Cake

Today my grandmother, who died just two weeks ago, would have turned 94.

For as long as I can remember, my Mom and Nana, whose birthdays are just a day apart, have celebrated them together.

And Mom has been making Nana the same birthday cake since she discovered it at a bake sale more than 50 years ago.

We call it maple walnut cake.

It’s just a boxed white cake mix made according to the package instructions that is embellished with maple extract and chopped walnuts, but Nana loved it and looked forward to it every year.

Nana's Maple Walnut Cake

Nana’s Maple Walnut Cake

So for me this is the cake forever associated with Nana’s birthdays.

More than a decade ago I decided to try to be with Mom and Nana for their March birthdays as often as I could. I’m glad I did.

The years passed quickly and now a family tradition has come to a close.

Although Nana wasn’t here to enjoy her cake today. I made it anyway. The family and friends who have been celebrating with her all these years wanted it; needed it. We are still recovering from our loss.  As we adjust to life without her gentle presence we craved the sweetness of her special cake.

Food can be so much more than fuel for our bodies. It can connect us, bridge cultures, carry history, make friends, create community and evoke memories.

Nana’s birthday cake helped to make today a just little sweeter.

Do you have a sweet food memory to share?

Nana's Birthday Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is simply a white cake mix made according to package directions to which you add maple extract and chopped walnuts and bake in a bundt pan. Years ago someone told Mom that adding 1-2 tablespoons of flour to packaged cake mixes would improve their texture and though I have no idea if it works, I've carried on the tradition.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 20
For the Cake
  • 1 package white cake mix
  • Ingredients for making the cake as directed on the box
  • 2 tablespoons flour (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon maple extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, plus more for garnish if desired
For the Frosting
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk, plus a little more as needed
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
  2. Make the cake according to the package directions, adding the maple extract and additional flour if desired. Stir in the nuts. Pour into the prepared bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely. Frost with maple icing. Sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.
  4. To make the frosting, put the butter and cream cheese into a very large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until very smooth. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and beat well. Add the milk and maple extract and beat well. Gradually beat in the additional cup of sugar. Beat in enough additional milk until the frosting reaches the spreading consistency you desire.
Cook's Notes
Nutritional Estimates Per Serving (1/20th) (The results will depend on the brand of cake mix and amount of eggs/oil called for. I used a Duncan Hines white cake mix that called for 3 egg whites, 1 cup water, and ¼ cup oil.) 272 calories, 11.9 g fat, 38.7 g carbs, 0.7 g fiber, 3.3 g protein and 8 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

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Maple Walnut Coffee Cake – Miss in the Kitchen
Maple Apple Ginger Cake – Baking Bites
Maple Walnut Blondies – Best Ever Cookie Collection
Whole Wheat Banana Maple Muffins – Vegetarian Family Table
Maple Pecan Bread – Betty Crocker
Maple Cookies – Simply Recipes

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  1. Jean Cheney says

    My eyes are full of tears – tears of joy for your Nana to have been loved by her grandchildren; tears of love that Nana had for her family. Life without love is lonely. I will remember your Nana as a courageous woman and her advice on driving – Maine to Florida – she said as she was undertaking the drive by herself for the first time, “I know I can drive one hour because I have driven an hour to family” so I will drive one hour at a time to get to Florida and she did. Brave woman. Love to all of you who have been blessed for knowing “Nana”. Your mother, Marjorie, and Dad, Tom, are always in my heart as well as you, Martha, Brenda and Peter. Jean

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