Apr 15, 2008

Crunchy Almond Cake

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Dear Reader, I don’t often implore you to try a specific recipe. When I get inspiration from other fabulous bakers and bloggers or magazines or whatever, it’s usually not about feeling the urge to make a certain cake or cookie, but rather just feeling the pull to get into the kitchen and create something. Well, this post is different because I am asking you, nay, begging you to give this recipe a shot. Barring any severe almond allergy, I think you’ll agree that this cake is one of the most delicious things that will ever come out of your kitchen. And, happily, one of the simplest ever to throw together.

The Almond Cake from Alice Medrich’s fantastic Pure Dessert is a perfect example of what her book is all about–this simple, rustic cake is a true celebration of the earthy flavor of almonds. In trying to figure out how to describe it to you, I’ve decided that the Almond Cake is basically the most excellent Mad Lib of anyone’s dessert dreams–buttery, rich, nutty, incredibly moist, crunchy, crispy, chewy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth–you name it, it’s in there. A slice of this cake works with your 10 a.m. coffee, after dinner, as a sudden sweet bite from the countertop while passing through the kitchen in the middle of the afternoon.

And the flavor–oh, the flavor! Absolutely drunk with almonds. To start, imagine a pumped up, cake version of those crispy, perfectly sweet almond cookies you might get from your favorite Chinese take out place. One of the most interesting things about this cake is that its sweetness comes not just from the sugar in the batter and the smattering of it in the prepared baking pan, but also a different kind of sweetness altogether–a fragrance, really–that is provided by a dose of heady almond extract and the almonds themselves in different forms (ground into flour for the batter and layered in the pan to create a gorgeous crust).

If the promise of amazing flavor and texture isn’t enough, let me tell you that after a bit of mise, this cake comes together in minutes in a blender or food processor. No creaming, folding or alternating wets and dries required, people! You now have no excuse to miss the opportunity to make yourself and loved ones deliriously happy by trying this recipe. Like, now.

Crunchy Almond Cake
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert

For the crust:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, very soft
Generous 1/3 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the cake:

4 ounces whole almonds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 large eggs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, slightly softened
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack to the lower third of the oven. Generously butter a 9 inch cake pan with 1 tablespoon of very soft unsalted butter–it seems like an insane amount of butter, but you are also creating a crust for the cake here. After the pan is buttered, sprinkle the sliced almonds in a single, even layer over the bottom of the pan and work some of the slices up the sides of the pan as well. Sprinkle two tablespoons of granulated sugar over the butter and almonds and set the prepared pan aside.

To make the cake batter, throw the almonds, sugar, salt and almond extract into a blender or food processor and blend until the nuts are finely ground. Add the eggs and butter, blending throughly. Add the flour and baking powder and blend just until everything is incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is a deep golden brown and a tester comes out clean, about 32-35 minutes. Cool cake completely in the pan on a wire rack before sliding a thin knife around the sides of the pan to release it. Turn the cake out onto a serving platter so that the sliced almond-covered bottom becomes the top of the cake. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

  • Shauna, this sounds delicious! I have that cookbook, but I’ve yet to make anything from it. I keep saying “soon,” but I have far too many things I want to bake! This definitely sounds like a winner. I am a big fan of quick and easy. And, of course, delicious doesn’t hurt.

  • I have been eyeing this recipe in the book. I LOVE anything almond. I think I will have to run, bake this cake! Lovely post:)

  • I was originally looking for a recipe to use Italian "prune" plums, but this looked yummy so I adapted this recipe into an Almond Plum "Kuchen", and it's amazing (and very easy)! I followed the recipe exactly, except added an extra 2 oz. of the ground almonds to absorb the moisture from the plums. After pouring the batter into the pan, I placed slices (quarters) of plum pieces in concentric circles on top (leaving 1/2" space between slices), pressing it into the batter slightly. Had to bake it longer, due to the added moisture. But the combination of almond and slightly tart Italian plums is heavenly. The cake rises up and the plums sink into the cake. My 2 daughters can't wait until I make this again! Thanks, Shauna. (And hope you don't mind my adaptation.)

  • Linda–That sounds amazing! And for a great recipe if you are still able to get your hands on the Italian prune plums, Ina Garten's Plum Tart is MADE for them. I will be posting about said tart in the next couple of days!

  • I made this for an informal dinner party tonight and it was amazing! It is so easy to mix up;it probably takes about 10 minutes to make. It comes out so flavorful and different. It reminds me of a frangipane in cake form. Very lovely. Thank you for posting it.

  • This looks amazing! I also love how you used the word nay. People don't say it often enough these days. I must try this. You're very persuasive. ūüôā

  • My mum said she wanted a cake with crunch and she got one! I made this cake a couple of weeks ago and the response was amazing. I intend to make two this weekend for my family in Birmingham. I used whole almonds for the crust, I bashed them about and then roasted them lightly before putting them in the tin. Thank you for sharing!

  • I have made this cake a half dozen times and every time the bottom is burned and the cake sticks. I have been extra careful in greasing the pan, I’ve tried lower oven temperatures and baking the cake close to the top of the oven and changing cake pans, all without success. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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