Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Almond Cake

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I ventured out to Berkeley and had one of the best meals I have ever tasted at Chez Panisse.  I had a lovely three course meal that consisted of baby gem lettuce with beets and avocado, grilled squid with a fennel salad and white beans, and for dessert:  almond cake.  This delicious, single layer cake, was bursting with almond flavor and it was served with a light dusting of powdered sugar and some fresh berries.  I couldn't wait to get home and replicate this simple dessert. 

Layer cakes are not my area of expertise, but a single layer cake I can manage.  Luckily, I was able to find the Chez Panisse almond cake recipe courtesy of David Lebovitz.  He has a slightly adapted version on his website which you can find here.  The ingredients are pretty basic, except for the almond paste, but I was able to easily find the paste in my local grocery store in the baking aisle. 

I used a 9-inch deep, round cake pan for this cake, but I will warn you.  The cake it so light and airy that it will rise quite a bit.  If you want one cake, I suggest cutting the recipe in half or using a really deep cake pan.  Otherwise, you can divide the batter into two separate 9-inch cake pans, like I did.  If you pour all of your batter into one pan, you risk it overflowing over the sides of the pan and onto the bottom of your oven.  I speak from experience!  Baking in two pans makes the cake not as thick, but it will still taste delicious and you will have an extra cake to share with friends and family!

1 1/3 cups of sugar
8 ounces almond paste (I have found 7 ounce packages and this is fine)
3/4, plus 1/4 cup flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp, cubed
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
6 large eggs at room temp
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease your cake pan(s) with butter then dust with flour, shaking out the excess flour.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment.
Using a food processor or Kitchen Aid mixer (I used the mixer with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed), mix the sugar, almond paste, and the 1/4 cup of flour until the paste has broken up into small pieces.
In a separate bowl, mix together the 3/4 cup of flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
Once the paste in the mixer is broken up, add the cubes of butter and the extracts.  Process for about 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, until combined.  Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to make sure everything is mixing together. 
Add half the flour mixture and mix for a minute before adding the rest of the flour mixture.  Do not overmix, just beat until the flour is combined. 
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and bake for approximately 45-60 minutes.  If using two pans, your baking time will not be as long, approximately 30 min.  The top of the cake will turn brown and the cake will not be jiggly in the center, it will feel set. 
Remove from oven, run a sharp knife around the edge, and let cool in the pan completely. 
Serving suggestions:
Dust with powdered sugar
Serve with fresh berries (I like raspberries) and fresh whipped cream
Cake can be kept for 4-5 days at room temperature (if it lasts that long!).  It will also freeze up to two months. 

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