Sometimes I come upon a recipe and I just can’t seem to get it out of my head. Case in point: the Buttercrunch Almond Tea Cake, as baked by Zarah Maria in Copenhagen. The original recipe comes from Lisa Yockelson’s book Baking by Flavor and is a tea cake studded with chunks of Heath bar. Now, I’ve never had a Heath bars as they’re not sold here in Paris, but Zarah Maria had the brilliance of using Daims instead. Daims? That I will do.
Daims are a Swedish bite-size confection of milk-chocolate-covered crunchy caramel with specks of almonds. Originally made by a company called Freia Marabou, they have been a popular treat in Scandinavia since 1952. The French discovered them by way of IKEA, who was the sole importer for quite a while. Purchasing a bag of those red-wrapped candies was an efficient way to ease the stress and tension of building whatever piece of furniture you had also acquired, and it is harder to snap at your spouse — or whoever your assistant builder is — for misplacing the screwdriver when your jaw is stuck together by caramel.
It is harder to snap at your spouse for misplacing the screwdriver when your jaw is stuck together by caramel.
Kraft Foods acquired Freia Marabou in 1993 and started distributing Daims more widely on the French market, selling them at regular grocery stores, introducing them as a larger-sized bar, and even working with le MacDo to produce a Daim McFlurry (vanilla ice-cream mixed with Daim crush-ins). I myself enjoy them very much (caramel, chocolate, and almonds: what could go wrong?), although with a little more restraint than the average consumer who, according to a study conducted by Kraft Foods France, usually eats nine (nine!) Daims in a row.
Anyway. Zarah Maria had tempted me in an inescapable way, so I hunted for the original cake recipe (Amazon’s “search inside” feature? very convenient) and made it, in addition to the gingersnaps, when my cousins came over for tea and cakes last week. In addition to the Daim substitution I changed a few other things, using almond flour instead of slivered almonds, all-purpose flour and baking powder instead of cake flour, omitting the almond extract and allspice, lowering the sugar content, and using yogurts instead of milk and cream.
The resulting cake was simply wonderful, fine-crumbed and moist, and it reminded me a lot of the coffee cakes I love to make. The Daim chunks had mostly fallen to the bottom (admittedly, I neglected to toss them with a little flour as Lisa recommended) but this formed a stupendous ground layer of caramel goldness, encouraging the eater, as I was able to observe on my enthusiastic guinea pigs, to enjoy the cake from top to bottom and keep the best for last.
- 360 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 25 grams (1/4 cup) almond flour (a.k.a. almond meal or ground almonds)
- 300 grams (11 ounces) Daims, unwrapped and roughly chopped
- 220 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter
- 300 grams (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
- 35 grams (1/4 cup) light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 240 ml (1 cup) plain yogurt
- Confectioner's sugar (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease a 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan (I use one with a removable bottom).
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and almond flour. In a smaller bowl, toss the chopped Daims with a tablespoon of the flour mixture.
- Cream the butter in the food processor for 3 minutes. Add in the granulated sugar and process for 2 minutes. Add in the brown sugar and mix for another minute. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add in the vanilla extract and mix again.
- Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the yogurt in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Avoid overmixing the batter. Stir in the chopped Daims, and pour the batter into the cake pan, leveling the surface with a spatula.
- Put into the oven to bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until the top of the cake is brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let rest for 5 minutes on a rack, unmold and return to the rack to cool completely. Dust the top with confectioner's sugar if desired (and not if it's meant to be a birthday cake!).
Adapted from Lisa Yockelson's Buttercrunch almond tea cake, in her book Baking by Flavor.