Sunday, October 31, 2010

I wish I could say I’d been absent for good reason—that I’ve spent the last few months mastering a hundred-layer lasagna or jury-rigging our kitchen oven to produce perfect Neapolitan pizza.

Instead, I can only blame a full schedule, and my summer inclination toward spontaneous (and recipe-less) meals.

But today I’m brushing off the mothballs, beginning (as promised) with an old favorite: Amanda Hesser’s almond cake. Technically, it’s her mother-in-law’s, which feels appropriate given that I prepared it most recently for my own future in-laws.

Don’t expect the delicacy of a financier: this cake is decidedly less refined, with a craterous surface and an emphatic almond flavor. Which is exactly why I love it.

Almond Cake
Adapted from Cooking for Mr. Latte, by Amanda Hesser

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1½ cups sugar
7 ounces almond paste
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Combine the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. In another bowl, sift together the flour and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste, a little at a time, beating at medium speed for 8 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time; mix until incorporated. (It may look curdled.) Blend in the almond and vanilla extracts, followed by the sour cream mixture. Mixing at low speed, gradually add the flour mixture; beat just until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake about 1 hour; it is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan.

Remove from the pan and cool on a cooling rack. The cake will sink in the middle as it cools. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve with whipped cream.

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