For those of us too chicken to try Steph’s macarons, this will get you your almond fix. As a bonus, it’s very, very easy and is always a crowd pleaser.
This was in the food section of the The Week in November 25, 2005 as a summary of an LA Times article about Lindsey Remolif Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook. How’s that for attribution? It does indicate, however, why this may seem familiar: it’s not a new recipe. In fact, looking at the original now, I see that this is officially dubbed “Almond Torte” but we’ve been calling it almond cake for so long, I’m changing the title.
- 1 1/4 c. sugar
- 8 oz. almond paste
- 1 c. unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 6 eggs at room temperature
- 1 c. flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. table salt
- 9-inch cake pan or springform pan
Hey! Almond paste isn’t the same thing as marzipan. Nor is it the same as ground up almonds. You’ll probably see some paste that comes in a 7 oz. package. Note that you need 8 0z., and there is a manufacturer that puts 8 oz. of almond paste in a can (UPDATE: now a box). We’ve used both, and really, you need all 8 oz. or it messes with the fat ratio in the cake. Just sayin’.
Mix the almond paste and the sugar in your mixer or food processor. You want sandy looking almond-sugar without lumps of almond paste. Start slow – when we do this in the mixer, it invariably tries to throw some of the sugar and almond paste out of the bowl – just pick up any big lumps and chuck ’em back in the bowl.
Cream the butter and almond-sugar mixture. Watch the color during this step; you want it to go from yellowy-tan to almost white. This is your only real chance to get any air into the cake, so don’t skimp here.
Add the vanilla and the room temperature eggs one at a time, allowing each to become fully incorporated before adding the next. (I break them into a measuring cup to check them and then pour them in one at a time.)
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder and add to the batter and mix until just combined.
Butter and flour (or Baker’s Joy and/or parchment round) a 9″ round x 3″ deep cake pan or a springform pan (We’ve only used the springform a few times – there’s really no need and it’s a pain to clean). Pour/spread in the batter (depending on your room temperature, you may need to even it out a little in the pan) and bake in a 325F oven for an hour to 75 minutes.
Skimping on baking time is the one thing you can do to mess up this cake. It will look beautiful and puffy and golden brown after about 50 minutes. It’s lying to you! Don’t believe it. It’s all a trick. If you take it out now, the center will sink and you will be sad. (It will still taste fine, but it won’t look so nice – can you tell we’ve done this a few times?) Test with a toothpick in the center and look for the center to spring back when pressed lightly. Don’t test halfway between the edge and the center – test in the center. (UPDATE: if your kitchen is particularly warm, you might even consider popping the filled pan into the fridge to firm up the butter for 5 or 10 minutes. This will give the batter a chance to set up a bit in the oven before the butter loses all its structural integrity.)
Let the cake cool for about an hour or so – it will pull away from the edges a bit. Run a knife around the edge and unmold if you springformed, or dump it out onto a cooling rack if you used the regular pan. If you let it cool overnight in a cold kitchen and it seems reluctant to leave the pan, put the pan in a hot water bath for a few minutes to soften the butter you greased the pan with – it will pop right out (don’t do this with a springform – they’re notoriously leaky and no one wants soggy cake).
A sprinkle of powdered sugar and a few slivered almonds (toasted if you’re feeling fancy) make it look really nice. We usually don’t bother unless we’re taking it to a party. (The almond garnish is a nice warning to the nut-intolerant as well, since the cake doesn’t really look like it’s full of nuts.)