There’s a great cookbook, called “Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients,” written by the two guys that own the bakery Baked in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In it, they provide different recipes that use their favorite ingredients, including malt, caramel, and bananas. The book is great, the recipes fantastic, and the 10 favorite ingredients are spot on but there is one glaring omission, in my opinion: almonds, or more specifically almond paste.
Something magic happens when you take almonds, mix them with sugar, and grind them into a paste, commonly known as marzipan if the sugar percentage is sufficiently high. They turn into something so addictive (at least for me), that I’ve been known to eat a whole stick of marzipan in one sitting. In fact, making marzipan is the first food I ever prepared.
I was six years old when one day in school, our teacher taught us how to make amygdalota, marzipan that’s shaped into round fruit shapes, rolled into granulated sugar, and decorated with a single clove to resemble the fruit stem. I have never forgotten that day. The excitement of making the delicious amygdalota, bringing them home to show my mom, and then eating them on top of it all was just too much joy to ever forget it.
Since then, I have loved anything and everything that uses almond paste, like this recipe for almond cake. This is an amazing cake. It’s moist and tender, with a distinct, but not overpowering flavor of almonds.
I have good news and not-so-good news about the cake. First, the good news. This is a single bowl cake, so it’s easy to make. The bowl in this case is the bowl of a food processor. Everything is added in order and processed to make the batter. It takes just a few minutes and you have very little to clean afterwards.
Now, the not-so-good news. You know how sometimes you’ll find an amazing recipe that uses really healthy ingredients but somehow makes something that tastes really rich and sinful? Well, this is the opposite kind of recipe. It uses lots of butter and eggs and sugar but the resulting cake tastes light and harmless. I’m not sure why, but I’d like to think that it’s the almond paste. In my book, it makes everything better.
Almond Cake – Very slightly adapted from DavidLebovitz.com
1 1/3 cups (265g) sugar
7-8 ounces (198-225g) almond paste (not marzipan)
3/4, plus 1/4 cup (140g total) flour
1 cup (8 ounces, 225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (162ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand. It will only take a few seconds but make sure there are no clumps of almond paste left.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup (105g) of flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Once the almond paste is completely broken up, add the cubes of butter and the vanilla extract, then process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition. Scrape the sides down as needed.
After you add all the eggs, the mixture may look curdled (mine didn’t). It’ll come back together after the next step.
6. Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times, then add the rest, pulsing the machine until the drying ingredients are just incorporated, but do not overmix.
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 65 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.
8. Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.