Monday, July 18, 2011

Almond cake

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love baking for others!  If I could afford to double triple my grocery bill and just hand a half dozen cupcakes or pies out on the street to strangers on a regular basis, I totally would.  I find it so satisfying.  "It" being the process of creating something from scratch.  With my own hands.  That normally spend eight hours a day atop a keyboard.  (Not complainin', just sayin'!)  Of course, I'm assuming that people would ignore the fact that I'm a perfect stranger and see through to my good intentions.  Right?  I mean, how could you not trust this face?

Luckily for me, there was no need to employ questionable baiting tactics on the streets of Pittsburgh since a good friend celebrated his 27th birthday this past Saturday and gave me a prime excuse for baking.   The old man Tony loves all things almond-flavored.  His wife requested almond layer cake for his graduation party.  They served almond cake at their wedding reception.  Notice a pattern?

So, knowing this, I went into brainstorming mode.  There are loads of almond recipes out there, in case you're wondering.  Cookies are grand, but a cake just says "birthday" to me!  I wanted a different almond cake than last year's and this was certainly the ticket.  While that cake was ideal for layering and frosting with thick chocolate icing, this cake was a complete contrast.

It hailed from David Lebovitz, and he is one of the very few professional and popular chefs whom I trust implicitly, so I knew it was going to be good.  But I didn't know just how good it would be.

It was light and spongy and incredibly moist!  Buttery with a deep fragrance of almond that could be smelled miles a room away.  I swear that I could still smell it even after the cake was covered in plastic wrap.  It truly needed nothing on top but a dusting blizzard of confectioner's sugar.  (That's what happens when you use a fork rather than a strainer to "dust" a cake.  I really need one of these numbers.)

Oh, one more thing.  That whole "sharing is caring" nonsense I preached earlier?  As I wrapped up this cake, I decided the sentiment was a load of garbage.   I did not want to give away this cake!  I love my friends, but I loved this cake more.  Sorry, folks :)  I really really did not want to part with my newest creation, but 'tis better to give than to receive.  And I could bake it again any ol' time I wanted... which I will be doing very soon.

Like the grown-up and almost 27-year-old that I am, I mustered up my best gift-giving face and presented the birthday boy with his cake  -- he was going to cut the cake the next day when his family visited.  After celebrating with a group of friends, I headed home and went to bed since I worked the next morning.  And then I woke up to two of the most hilarious text messages I've ever received:

Sent at 1:01am -- "Omg this cake is amazing!  We r both on slice #2!" -Val
Sent at 12:58am -- "Just had a piece of birthday cake.  I love almond thanks for coming out tonight and thanks for the yummies." -Tony

After reading those, well, I guess I did the right thing :)  Hope you had an awesome birthday, dude!

Almond Cake
(adapted, barely, from David Lebovitz's recipe)
-makes one 9-10 inch cake

A few notes: There is a lot of batter, so if it's one cake you want, I strongly recommend using a springform that has sides at least two inches high.  If you want to use a standard cake pan whose sides are shorter, be prepared to reserve a bit of the batter or make sure that the bottom of your oven is lined when it overflows.  Or, you could make a few cupcakes or butter a small 6-inch round cake pan for a mini version of the cake. 

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
8 ounces almond paste
3/4, plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Grease a 9- or 10-inch cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess.  Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment, if using a stand model), grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt.

Once the almond paste is completely broken up, add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts, then process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. (Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled, it’ll come back together after the next step.)

Add half the flour mixture and pulse the mixer a few times, then add the rest, pulsing the machine until the drying ingredients are just incorporated, but do not overmix. (You can also mix in the dry ingredients by hand.)

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 65 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.

Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan.  Let the cake cool completely in the pan.  Once cool, tap the cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set on a cake plate until ready to serve.

Storage: This cake will keep for four days at room temperature, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen for up to two months.


  1. Ok everyone...just so you know...this cake was demolished very It was amazing! Thanks Katy for the special and wonderful cake!

  2. This cake sounds amazing! And sounds like the recipients were very happy campers =)

  3. Wow !What an amazing blog.
    Its one of the best blog.
    Nice blog on almond paste.
    Keep going...

  4. I just made this cake in three 5" pans - Its beautiful! No hump to cut off when I put the layers together which means I'm going to have to wait to taste it!

    1. Good things come to those who wait :)