Quince Almond Cake Recipe

I scored big last week, as not one, but two generous friends asked if I’d like to take a few quinces off their hands. I am systemically incapable of resisting free produce, especially when it comes from a friend’s garden (or a friend’s neighbor’s garden), and especially when it’s as old-world charming as quince. I said yes! yes! just tell me where and when and I’ll come a-running with my wheelbarrow!

And this is how I found myself with about five kilos of the yellow-green fruit, making my apartment smell very precisely like Maïa’s country house. Maïa was one of my sister’s childhood friends, and her grandparents owned a beautiful stone farmhouse a little way outside of Paris — geography didn’t exist outside the classroom when I was little, so I have no idea where it really was — where my sister was invited from time to time, and I got to tag along one weekend in the fall.

The adults stayed in the main house, but we kids were allowed to play and sleep in the upstairs room of an outbuilding that may have been a stable at some point, and was the ideal setting in which to reenact boarding school scenes from Roald Dahl’s autobiographical book Boy.

Further in the back of the property was a large garden with numerous fruit trees, many of which were quince trees (cognassiers) and bearing big gnarly fruit when I visited. This was my first encounter with quinces, those woody not-pears covered with fuzz. I don’t think I actually tasted their flesh until many years later, but their pervasive, extraordinary smell — like a musky cross between the pear and the pineapple — was everywhere around and inside that house, and the two are forever linked in my mind’s sensory library.

Going through five kilos of quince takes some stamina, and I devoted part of my weekend to the task. The first thing I did was poach as many as would fit in my pressure cooker, following this recipe for vanilla poached quince I wrote about two years ago. This is (yet) an(other) instance when the pressure cooker is the cook’s best friend, as it slashes down the poaching time to just thirty minutes, and makes zero mess on your cooking range.

Most of these poached quince quarters will be eaten just like that, in a bowl, with a little yogurt or cream and an optional sprinkle of granola, but some were enrolled into this simple quince and almond cake.

It is a variation on my trusted yogurt cake. I’ve tweaked it a little to add some ground almonds and fold in the diced quinces* for a lovely fall cake, fragrant and very moist, that’s best eaten with your hands, while sitting in a patch of sunlight on the wooden floors of the living room.

~~~

* If you maintain a sourdough starter, you’ll be happy to hear that I’ve replaced the yogurt with an equal weight of the starter I collect at each feeding instead of discarding it. Indeed, I have found that sourdough starter (not particularly ripe, but not super old either) can be used as a yogurt substitute in cake recipes like this one: it has more or less the same consistency and acidity, and produces a wonderfully tender crumb.

Quince Almond Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

One 28-cm (11-inch) round cake

Quince Almond Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 200 grams (7 ounces, about 1 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces, about 3/4 cups) almond flour (= almond meal or ground almonds)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 200 grams (1 cup) unrefined cane sugar
  • 50 grams (1/3 cup) vegetable oil (I used extra-virgin rapeseed oil)
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) plain yogurt (or sourdough starter)
  • a good splash of rum (optional)
  • 400 grams (14 ounces) vanilla-poached quinces (about 2 large quinces, see recipe), drained and coarsely chopped (if you don't have quinces, pears can be substituted; no need to precook them)
  • unrefined cane sugar in coarse crystals, for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, almonds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir with a whisk to aerate and remove any clumps.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and line a 28-cm (11-inch) cake pan with parchment paper.
  3. In another, large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar for a couple of minutes. Add the oil, yogurt and rum, and whisk again to combine. Add the chopped quinces and stir gently just to combine. Add in the flour mixture, folding it in with a spatula until just incorporated. Don't overmix.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, level out the surface, and sprinkle with coarse crystals of sugar.
  5. Insert in the middle of the oven and bake for 40 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool and serve, slightly warm or at room temperature.

Notes

Stephanie, over at Dollop of Cream, offers a gluten-free adaptation of this recipe.

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  • http://www.gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    I love using sourdough starter in a cake recipe! I’ve done it before with a chocolate cake and it turned out to be amazing!

    I love that this cake has almond meal in it. I imagine the flavour is pretty great!

  • http://www.cauldronsandcrockpots.com rebecca

    I LOVE using sourdough starters in cakes. I often leave it overnight before baking too, which usually makes it more sour, but slightly more fluffy too.

    Looks gorgeous either way.

  • http://operagirlcooks.com Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks

    Sourdough starter in cake — that’s genius, Clotilde! I’ve never had quince before, even though we had a tree outside my old house growing up. They’re all over the farmers markets this month, and you’ve inspired me to try some!

  • Claudine

    You gave me the idea of making muffins based on your recipe above. Any advice on modifying the recipe in that direction?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      This would work well in muffin form — the only change you’d need to make is to shorten the baking time to 25 minutes or so. This is just my guess, though, so watch them closely!

  • http://thedelightblog.wordpress.com/ Cassandra Potier Watkins

    I was looking at my (approx. 10 kilos) of quince this weekend and wondering what else I could do with it besides the usual jam and pate de coing! I just looked at your post for the poached quince, could I can them this way? The freezer is already full to the brim with cherries, mirabelles, quetsche and pintade. I think quince did really well in the countryside around Paris this year. Our tree is crazy full and I have received a huge case from neighbor!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Beyond jams and jellies, I have no experience with canning fruit, so I’m not comfortable advising you in that regard. Perhaps another C&Z reader can chime in?

      • http://thedelightblog.wordpress.com/ Cassandra PW

        If anyone has some ideas I would love to hear them. I will start my experiments during the Toussaint vacation!

        • Zsófi
          • http://thedelightblog.wordpress.com/ Cassandra PW

            I am going to try making a bottle of this with the last of the quince. I love the occasional warm and sweet nightcap!

        • Cathy Miller

          I bottle my quinces. I peel, core and slice the quinces and then put them in a pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add sugar (to your taste) and continue cooking until the quinces are soft. Bottle the hot mixture in sterilized mason jars. As the quince cool the bottles will seal. Enjoy.

    • http://www.followyourstar.co.nz Sally

      Cassanddra I poach quinces in a rice cooker – they turn out perfectly and the colour is sublime as you know. THey don’t have to be watch as often as doing them in a pot.

      • http://thedelightblog.wordpress.com/ Cassandra PW

        Thank you for the tip. I heart my rice cooker! We cook so many things in it…but I had never thought of quince.It makes sense. The slow simmer is probably perfect. I wrote about my quince experience on my last post.
        I will have to try this with the last 10lbs of quince I have on my hands.

      • Rosie

        Re cooking quinces in rice cooker- It is quince season here in NZ and I usually make quince paste in the microwave ( saves time with cooking!)but I am very interested in how long you would poach quinces in a rice cooker.

  • http://thecastlerockincook.blogspot.com/ My Kitchen in the Rockies

    My German Grandma had a big Quince tree in her garden. (I grew up very close to the French boarder) She always cooked the best marmalade with it. You are very lucky your friends shared some with you. I can’t find quince here. I am sure some plums would work as well with this very simple but delicious, very french “kids birthday cake base” recipe.

  • http://sasasunakku.com Sasa

    I’m afraid I can’t help with the how-to but when I worked in France as a private chef, part of my job was doing the shopping and I loved seeing the jars of quince jam lined up in a row, such a subtle colour.

  • Maïa

    Mais … mais … mais … je rêve ou bien c’est MOI ????????
    Eh oui, je te lis toujours ….
    Bises petite clotilde devenue grande.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Oui, absolument ! J’ai bien pensé à toi ces derniers jours… :)

  • http://www.edenkitchen.com Joe @ Eden Kitchen

    I love quince and would love to try this cake. I find quince very hard to come by here in New Zealand so I think I’ll use pears. Thanks :)

  • http://wildeinthekitchen.blogspot.com Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen

    This sounds delicious! It’s a rare find to get quince around here, maybe I’ll search the gourmet grocery store this weekend!

  • http://isabellang.blogspot.com Isabel ~ Maison Douce

    If I could get my hands on some quince, I’d hurry up and make portuguese quince jam (marmelada), I love it sooooo much!!! This cake sounds delicious….
    Isabel

  • http://www.storiesfromemona.com Maya

    Poaching quinces in pressure cooker, now that’s an excellent idea! I’m expecting a large quantity of quinces from my relatives this weekend, and I can hardly wait to smell them… I can not think of a better room fragrance in autumn. I’m thinking of carrying one quince in the car as well – I’ve seen people in Spain do that – oh I’m definitely going to “get high” on quinces this autumn! :)
    This cake recipe sounds awesome, too – bookmarked! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.foodmoods.net Blandine

    I haven’t managed to get hold of any quince this year :(
    I love them and your cake looks beautiful!

  • http://spicesavant.blogspot.com Ameya

    Quince and almond sounds like a fantastic combination! And I had no idea you could use sourdough starter in cake-thanks for the tip. One question-are you familiar with the old-fashioned ovens with turn-dials to set temperature, the ones where you can pick a setting from one to ten, but not read the exact temperature? Do you have any idea what setting I would need to use to bake this cake in such an oven? Thank!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      If you’re referring to gas marks, you can find conversion charts online (such as this one).

      If it’s a French oven, though, the thermostat system is different, but simpler: you just have to multiply the setting by 30 to get the celsius temp (example: Th. 7 = 7 x 30 = 210°C).

  • http://senseofhome.blogspot.com Sense of Home

    This sounds wonderful. I also love my pressure cooker, I use it mainly for preserving. There is always quince in the store during the winter months, so I will hang onto this recipe until then.

    -Brenda

  • Bobby Jay

    Clotilde:

    I would like to make this cake, and I have a pressure cooker to speed up the making of quince compote. Your old post on Vanilla-Poached Quince does not indicate that you should reduce the water from the non-pressure cooker method, but I suspect much less, and possibly NO, water would do. What is your experience on this point?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for pointing this out, I’ve edited the poached quince recipe to clarify. You do need water to poach the quinces (in fact, I don’t think it’s safe to use a pressure cooker with no water at all) but you only need to add enough water to just cover the fruit.

  • http://northsideladies.blogspot.com Carla

    looks absolutely gorgeous!

  • http://www.cozydelicious.com Katie@Cozydelicious

    You know, I saw quince at the market over the weekend, and I didn’t get any because I just didn’t know what to use them for. Now I know! This looks lovely. If they are there again this weekend I will buy some!

  • Vera

    Mmmm, quince…paste? jelly? roll?? and Manchego cheese is absurdly delicious. My mom used to make quince jelly and we’d slice it and eat it on buttered toast – it’s a Chilean thing. It’s called “dulce de membrillo” in Chile but I don’t know what to call it in English; it’s not spreadable or soft like marmalade or jam as it was cooked until it was dark amber color and then set up in jars until it was very firm, like a jell. Mom removed the jell from the jars, wrapped it in plastic and kept it on hand for breakfast. I learned to eat it with Manchego cheese years ago and love it.

    You can find it already made in specialty cheese shops in San Francisco (where I now live) but it’s rather expensive. Better to make it at home and save $$!

  • Jess

    Just wondering whether a gluten free flour can be used & if there are any modifications that’ll be needed? Thanks!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’ve never tried making a gluten-free version of this cake, so I’m afraid I can’t offer guidance. But there are many resources out there on how to convert baking recipes to gluten-free, so perhaps you can do an online search?

  • http://www.makanaibio.com Flo Makanai

    Super extra yummy! Et pas surprise que tu aies fait ainsi honneur aux coings offerts ;)
    Ici, la cuisine embaume la purée pomme-coing avec un beau bâton de cannelle, cuisson express en cocotte-minute… On ne s’en lasse pas.
    J’ai même troqué 2 kgs de coings contre 2 betteraves crues chez ma maraîchère tout à l’heure (elle a refusé que je les lui donne…).

  • Rose

    I’m in love with quince!! I live next to an organic orchard near Santa Fe, New Mexico…and the quince are almost ripe! This year, I’ve decided to make jam and jelly, and perhaps a cake or two. Love the pressure cooker idea, as we live above 7500 ft elevation. Have been following your blog for a few years, and love your beauty and grace. Thanks for sharing your love of life with the world!

  • http://www.memorablemorsels.com Maryam

    I will definitely try your cake recipe. The quince almond combination sounds lovely. There are many savory uses for quince that I love. One of my favorites is a lamb tagine with quince. And another simple preparation my Mom used to make on a cold winter day in Iran — a poached beef dish as follows: layer slices of onion, potatoes, thin slices of beef, and quince. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, saffron, cinammon, all-spice, and a small amount of water. Cover and simmer on low. The quince helps tenderize the meat and the house smells lovely (you can substitute chicken thighs for the beef too). Serve with plain basmati rice.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      It sounds fantastic, Maryam, thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.leplaisirdegourmandise.com/ sab

    what a treat…i have to try this one

  • http://www.estouestblog.com est

    clotilde! such a great idea. I would have loved to use some of my/your sourdough starter in my future cakes, but.. I’m afraid Fluffy just doesn’t like NYC! I dehydrated it and brought it back to life and it does bubble when I feed it, but it smells like glue and never raises… I’ve tried all purpose unbleached and bread flour from king arthur but nothing works as well as good old T60 ;)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Sorry to hear Fluffy is not adjusting well to NYC — but I hope you are!

  • http://guusjes-appeltaart.blogspot.com/ Guusje

    ♥lovely, good tip!

  • http://www.mortadifame.com Morta Di Fame

    totally going to make this!

  • http://beyondthepeel.blogspot.com France

    This cake sounds delicious. Since I rarely have access to quince in Canada, can you offer a fruit substitution?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      In the ingredients list I’ve indicated that pears can be substituted for the quinces. (No need to poach them first.)

  • http://cuisine-a-la-perse.blogspot.com mehdi aghdaee

    Hi Clotilde,

    I thought you might be surprised to hear in every iranian household there’s a container for quince seeds, stored after using the quince for jams, cordial, stew or eating raw. The quince seed gives off a gelatine-like substance when soaked, and this has got a soothing effect for sore throats (aka old world ricola!!)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Love this, thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.heidispiegel.com heidi

    I went to the farmers market intentionally in pursuit of quince to make both the cake and poached fruit with. I was not disappointed. The Lorraine is flourishing with quince as all of France is it seems!

    However – the frangrance is SO intoxicating, I cannot bring myself to do anything with them but to stick my nose in ‘em and just breath in. It’s incredibly heady – wow.

    Thanks for the recipes, perhaps by next weekend I will succomb.

    hs

  • http://www.tergum.co.il/ Danny

    My mom makes a killer Almond cake, I’ll pass on this recipe to her

  • Emma

    We had a delicious fall salad made with beautiful red speckled butter lettuce, toasted pecans, blue cheese and poached quince at our local gastropub. Since it was a daily special and not likely to reappear on the menu, I asked for the recipe or at least the technique on how it was made but the chef adamantly refused-the big meanie!
    Then I scored some gorgeous quince at the farmer’s market and can’t wait to try your vanilla poached quince recipe from two years ago. Then on to the quince almond cake. Then I’ll try to replicate the salad.
    But first, I’m taking your suggestion and letting the quince perfume my house from a platter in the center of the table.
    Thanks for this very inspiring post!

  • http://www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com Elizabeth

    I love this recipe, Clotilde! and can’t wait to try it. We are heading up to our house in Umbria, where I hope my two quince trees will be groaning with fruit. I made this cake with our almonds.

    Very much looking forward to combining the almonds with quince.

  • http://thedelightblog.wordpress.com/ Cassandra PW

    Well we made it through the (not 20) but over 40lbs of quince. We made jelly, conserves, pate de coing, compote and poached quince!
    I wrote a post with a few of the recipes we used, but it is going to take at least three more posts to get down all the ways we worked the quince!
    I did make your delicious cake. We all loved it, but agreed that it could use double the amount of poached quince!

  • claire silvers

    Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food mentions in passing, as part of another recipe, that you can just roast quince whole in the oven, then split them if you like & broil with a tiny bit of butter & sugar. We put them in whenever the oven is going for roasted veg, and just eat them as is. Fragrance, fabulous taste & texture, and beautiful color.

  • http://www.laviecevenole.blogspot.com Tammy

    Hello Clotilde,

    A friend also recently passed along her surplus quince to me, which I promptly converted into compote–and roasted with meat too. Delicious and of the moment.

    But what I particularly enjoyed were your lovely images of being at Maia’s house, and how the perfume and poetry of that time still persist into your present.

    As a mother raising (and cooking) for two little ones in her own country house, this is so heart-warming to read…

  • Liliana

    I was intrigued reading about quince and then I come across someone writing from Canada. I live in Toronto and in the fall you can see quince in stores at $2.50 a piece. I used to be able to get quince in Middle Eastern stores at a good price but even that is getting more difficult. There are usually Greek families who will have a tree in their yard but the fruit is so desirable no one wants to share. The quince we get is from California. When I was growing up in Europe most homes would have quince sitting in a bowl on the table just for the lovely perfume. I recall my aunt keeping a few among the linen. Quince tree is quite beautiful in bloom. Pink flowers and as they fade the fruit begins to form at the end of the faded flower.

  • http://www.thebats.co.nz Paul Kean

    Love this recipe. I’ll search out your sourdough starter. I’ve just made quince jelly which was so easy. Also made a quince and apple dessert with a hazlenut flour spongey topping we had with custard and cream.

  • ruthie

    My family’s place in the country has always had a quince tree or two. I grew up with my grandmother’s, then my mother’s, Quince and Orange Marmalade.

    It was so very good – not too acid-y from the oranges and a bit thicker and smoother, too. And it smelled wonderful on hot toast. Now that I’ve been reminded of it, and, alas, mom and grandmom are both gone, I’m going to have to see if I can’t find their recipe. I still have the quince trees, and I’m having an orange tree put in this year. Mmmmm.

    Thank you for the evoking that memory.

  • Nina

    Thank you so much for this recipe Clotilde – the cake is DELICIOUS!! I have made it many times with quince, but now quince is out of season so I just made the cake with sour cherries and it turned out perfectly! I will definitely memorise this recipe :-) Thank you! Nina

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      That’s lovely to hear, Nina, thanks for reporting back!

  • Kate Roud

    I’ve used hazelnut meal instead of the ground almonds, great flavour, love this recipe x

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Using hazelnut meal is a great idea, it must have been delicious. Thanks for reporting back!

  • Ginny Elam

    Lovely to read all the discussion of quinces , I also have kilos of them this year in Essex ,UK .am making my third batch of jelly as I write . Particularly like the sound of the Iranian dish ,can not wait to try . In Turkey they simply bake them slowly and top with cream . Yummy . Ginny

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Slow-baked quinces and cream sounds so, so good! I had no idea they ate quinces in Turkey.

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