I had my first taste of this cake at my friend Adam's lasst December. I was in New York for a whirlwind visit to promote the big fat pink book, and he and Craig had invited me to dinner at their place.
I would have been grateful for any home-cooked meal, which is by far my favorite kind when I travel, but this was a truly delicious dinner, one that refutes the "amateur" in "amateur gourmet."
After a salad of roasted beets and a dish of milk-braised pork (read Adam's post for the recipes), dessert was this almond cake, after a recipe Amanda Hesser published in the New York Times, and then in the edited collection of her columns, Cooking for Mr. Latte.
It was a spectacular almond cake, buttery and fragrant, moist in the middle with a good crust all around. After I'd finished the extra slice Adam gave me to take home (or in this case, back to the hotel) with me, I vowed to bake one just like it.
It took me a few months to act upon this wish, but I finally did when my nephew turned two in the spring, and the family got together to celebrate.
The distinguishing trait of this recipe is that it draws its flavor not from whole or powdered almonds, but from almond paste, and this contributes to the smooth, tender texture of the crumb. (It also reminds me of Julia's Swedish cake, which I've had my eye on for a while and hope to make when apples return.)
I lightened up the recipe a little, lowering the amount of butter and sugar*, and using yogurt in place of sour cream, but the cake remained a pleasingly indulgent affair.
Because the almond and the blueberry are BFFs, I also prepared a quick blueberry coulis to serve with the cake: the idea was to make it a little more sophisticated, and provide a note of tartness to cut through its richness. And, well, I also had some blueberries in the freezer that I was hoping to use in preparation for a much-needed spring defrosting, which still hasn't happened, but let's not dwell on that.
The grown-ups around the table agreed this was a very, very good almond cake, but more important, the birthday boy wolfed down his (admittedly small) slice, asked for seconds, then thirds, and eventually had to be distracted with the toy shinkansen we'd brought him back from Japan so there would be leftovers for tea the next day.
* The original recipe calls for 8 ounces of butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar; I used 7 ounces butter and 3/4 cup sugar.
Almond Cake with Blueberry Coulis
- 200 grams (7 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar (I use unrefined blond cane sugar)
- 200 grams (7 ounces) almond paste (I buy the Perl'amande brand at the organic store)
- 4 egg yolks
- 240 grams (1 cup) plain yogurt, regular or Greek-style
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract (measure with care; this is strong stuff that can ruin your cake if you overdo it)
- 260 grams (9 ounces, about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- confectioner's sugar for dusting
Serves about 12.
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and line a 23-cm (9-inch) round cake pan with parchment paper.
Using a mixer or a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
If the almond paste is fresh and feels flexible, cut it in small dice. If the package has been open for a while and the past has hardened, grate it using the large holes of a grater.
Add the almond paste to the butter-sugar mixture and beat well to incorporate fully. Add the egg yolks and beat again to incorporate. Add the yogurt and almond extract, and beat again until blended.
In a medium mixing-bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the batter, mixing just until blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, level the surface, and insert in the oven. After 30 minutes, place a piece of parchment paper over the cake to prevent it from coloring too much, and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cake in for a final 15 minutes.
Transfer to a rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Lift the cake carefully out of the pan and allow to cool completely.
Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve with blueberry coulis (recipe below) if desired.
Adapted from a recipe published in Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte.
- 240 grams (1 1/4 cups) blueberries, thawed if frozen
- 90 ml (6 tablespoons) water
- 30 grams (1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) agave syrup or maple syrup
In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries, water and syrup. Bring to a simmer, cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool. Put on an apron (really, allow me to insist) and use a blender or an immersion blender to purée the mixture. Add a little more water to thin it out if necessary. Taste and decide if it needs a little sweetening, depending on what you'll serve it with.
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