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. Heath bars I don’t do (never had one, not sold over here) but Zarah Maria had the brilliance to use 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 Originally made by a company called Freia Marabou, they have been a popular treat in Scandinavia since 1952.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 bought, and it is harder to snap at your spouse (or whoever your assistant builder is) for misplacing the screwdriver when your jaws are stuck together by caramel.
Kraft Foods acquired Freia Marabou in 1993 and started distributing Daims more widely on the French market, selling them in 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 bits of Daim). I myself enjoy them very much (caramel, chocolate, almonds, you can’t 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 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. Apart from the Daim substitution I changed a few other things, using powdered almonds instead of slivered, 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 reminded me a lot of the coffee cakes I like 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 lent the cake a stupendous ground layer of caramely 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.
Gâteau aux Daims
- 3 C (360g) all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp (1 envelope) baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 11 oz (300g) Daims
- 1/4 C (22g) ground almonds (a.k.a. powdered almonds or almond meal)
- 2 sticks (220g) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 C (300g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 C (35 g) light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (I use vanilla paste from Trader Joe’s)
- 1 C (250 ml) plain yogurt
- Confectioner’s sugar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease a 10-inch cake pan (I use one with a removable bottom).
Unwrap the Daims and chop them roughly with a knife, not too thinly: you want Daims chunks, not Daims powder. In a medium mixing-bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and ground almonds. 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 mix 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 them with the yogurts 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 an hour, until the cake turns brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let rest for five minutes on a rack, unmold and return to the rack to cool completely. Dust the top with confectioner’s sugar if desired — and if it’s not meant to be a birthday cake!
[Recipe adapted from Lisa Yockelson's Buttercrunch almond tea cake, in her book Baking by Flavor]