Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Almond Cake for the Playoffs

Sunday was a tragic day in our house, as the Ravens fell for the third time this season to the Steelers. Well, more tragic for Noah, but since I'm still getting over the Colts early exit and the fact that the Niners only won half a dozen games this year, I can kind of sympathize. And it all had to happen in front of many of our friends (who themselves were mourning the loss by the Eagles earlier in the day). But, to paraphrase someone who possibly paraphrased Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake.
Oh, things made from almond paste and/or marzipan, how I love thee. Let me count the ways - candy, cookies, croissants and... cake. I've been letting the idea for this cake percolate for a while, ever since I found a lovely can of high quality almond paste at an Italian deli in the San Gabriel Valley (during the Great Bacon Party Errand Extravaganza). And when my sister and mom sent me some preserved apricots and apricot jam from Stacy's tree this summer, well, the idea started to get a little clearer. Then on Saturday, two days after oatmeal cookie making, I was just like - screw it. My waistline, I mean. I wanted some damned almond cake.

I scoped out a few recipes in my cookbooks, but like the oatmeal cookie recipe serach, everything proved too complicated or fattening or crazy ingredient procuring difficult. I searched for recipes online and found one at the Odense site (they make almond paste, but not the kind I was using). I was especially drawn to the "Butterless" part of the recipe, as most recipes I looked at had two sticks involved in the cake baking. And dude, almond paste has plenty of fat as it is, two additional sticks of butter seemed like seriously greasy overkill.

I made very few adjustments to the recipe - I added 2-3 tablespoons of Stacy & mom's apricot jam to the batter, and to compensate for that density I added another tablespoon or two of flour. That's it. I also didn't grate the almond paste as the brand I bought was incredibly soft and didn't seem to need grating to incorporate into the batter, but I'll leave that part in the instructions, in case yours proves unwieldly. Oh yes, and instead of dusting the cake with confectioners sugar, I used more of the apricot jam, thinned with almond liqueur and a touch of sugar, then microwaved for 30 seconds to create a glaze. It was delicious, especially because the homemade jam was nice and chunky with apricots. High five, mom and Stacy! And high five, me.

Note: I ended up freezing a few remaining slices of this cake for future enjoyment. I'll let you know how that works out.

Butterless Almond Cake
from the Odense website

7 oz. almond paste, grated if hard
1/4 c. sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature (mine were still cold)
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp. apricot jam* (My addition, you could probably happily substitute raspberry jam if that's what does it for you)
Optional: confectioners sugar or Apricot Glaze (above) for dusting/glazing

Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. Grease 9" round pan. Line bottom of pan with wax paper (I used parchment paper). Grease paper.

Add almond paste, sugar and eggs (and jam, if using) to a mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until well combined, then turn to high and mix for 3 minutes. Add flour and salt to almond mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Pour batter into greased, parchmented pan and bake for 20-22 minutes (my cold oven took about 28 mins) or until a toothpick comes out of the middle cleanly.

Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 15 mins. Invert on plate or wire rack, peel off wax paper. Invert cake back onto wire rack, so top doesn't get lined, to finish cooling. Dust with confectioners sugar (or glaze with Apricot Glaze) if desired. You could also pair it with fresh summer berries and whipped cream.

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