I made you a cake.
Just kidding. I made myself a cake, ha. The recipe jumped out at me from one of the more recent Cook’s Illustrated magazines (‘course, according to them, it’s the best almond cake in all the history of almond cakes, but I’ve already said enough about that, and ‘sides, I’m not above adjectiving my recipes with bold strokes upon ‘cassion), so come last Saturday, I was in the mood for some ‘sperimentin’, never mind you that I still had half a carrot cake imprisoned in the glass cake stand atop the kitchen table.
(‘Sup with all the half words anyway? Weird. Moving right along…)
So I whipped up the cake. It’s a simple affair. One layer, no icing, and everything gets ground, beaten, and blended in the food processor. The resulting cake is dense and straightforward, nubbly with bits of blended-up almonds and capped with a crunchy lid of slivered almonds and lemon sugar.
It’s the kind of cake that:
*belongs in a picnic basket (not that I have a picnic basket) and then eaten out of hand with juicy, freshly-picked berries (because berry picking is what’s supposed to happen on picnics).
*pairs perfectly with a cup of morning tea.
*gets on fabulously with a big thermal mug of milky coffee.
*holds up under whipped cream and the scrutiny of an uppity guest (not that I ever have those).
*keeps well, should you have to set it aside to finish up The Other Cake.
*is underappreciated by children which means that you can hoard it without feeling guilty (not that I would ever feel guilty about hiding a cake that my children loved) (because I wouldn’t).
*feels like a hearty breakfast in a dainty dessert’s body, if that makes any sense.
Adapted from the January-February 2014 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.
The recipe calls for blanched, sliced, toasted almonds. The Cook’s Illustrated folks claim to be annoyed by the flecks of brown in the cake that come from the almond skins. Plus, they say the skins give the cake a bitter flavor. I used a mix of sliced almonds (not blanched) and whole almonds. I did not toast them. I’m not sophisticated enough to notice a bitter flavor, and I find the brown flecks enchanting. My recommendation: use whole, untoasted almonds and be done with it.
for the batter:
1½ cups almonds
3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup canola oil
Put the almonds, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in the food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Transfer to a bowl.
Put the eggs, sugar, zest, and extract in the now-empty processor and blend on high for about 2 minutes. With the processor still running, add the butter and oil. As soon as the fats are incorporated into the batter, add the dry ingredients and pulse several times to combine. Pour the batter into a greased and wax paper-lined 9-inch springform pan.
for the topping:
2 tablespoons sugar
½ – 1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup sliced almonds
With your fingers, mix the sugar with the zest until combined—about 10 seconds. (Lick your fingers clean.)
Sprinkle the almonds over the batter and top with the lemon sugar.
Bake the cake at 300 degrees for 50-65 minutes. Let cool for ten minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cake. Cool completely and serve. This cake keeps well, covered with plastic, at room temperature.