Today requires cake. There are some days which just need celebrating and for me, July 7 is one of them. So, pull up a chair, friends and I’ll cut you a slice.
This cake came together after a long night at work, when I was really too tired to be dealing with cakes or batter or finicky ovens. But with July 7 looming, and Chinese bakeries filled with slightly terrifying cakes filled with P-Ho-ey tasting gelatinous mousses, I reminded myself that I love to bake, changed into pajamas and cracked open some notes that I’d been scribbling in a notebook all week.
I had recently reread an article from the New York Times about the steps in recipes that make us turn the pages in our cookbooks with an exasperated sigh, resigned never to bother trying to recreate that recipe. For me one of those deal breakers is anything that says it requires a food processor. I’d originally assumed that when I read David Lebovitz’s recipe for almond cake, that wouldn’t be able to make it – he called for a food processor and I just don’t have one at this point.
I’d all but written almond cake off when I realized that even if I didn’t have one, I could probably work around it. It might not be perfect, but Walker would love me anyway. And it would be the perfect way to use up some left over ganache that I had sitting around from a cupcake project that only called for just the smallest touch of chocolate.
And you know what? It was fantastic. Lebovitz warned that the French find this cake very dry, but my version came out incredibly moist. We couldn’t be happier with it. It was breakfast this morning, I took a slice to work, and I bet we’ll have some for dessert tonight.
Today calls for cake, and we’re not about to skimp.
Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Almond cake from David Lebovitz, with two slight adaptations
Ganache from Joy the Baker
1 1/3 cups (265g) sugar
8 ounces (225g) almond paste
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
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
Large handful of almonds (optional)
*It’s summer where I am, and Shanghai is known for its sweltering heats and choking humidity. Room temperature butter would be a liquid. In the winter, room temperature butter means just that, but in the summer, take your butter out of the fridge about ten minutes before you want to use it, and the consistency will be just right.
1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (162ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch 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. Using a pastry cutter or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, combine the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand, or is as fine as you can get it.
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 whip until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating a bit before the next addition. You’ll want to stop mixing at some point if you’re using a stand mixer to scrape down the sides, to make sure everything is getting equal attention.
6. At this point if you’re using a stand mixer, switch to the normal paddle, or if you’re doing it by hand, grab what you normally use to mix batters. My implement of choice is a plain old fork, but everyone has their preferences. Add the flour mixture in two additions and mix until just incorporated, but don’t over mix. The goal is to get it done in as few stirs as possible.
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 65 minutes, or until the top 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.
9. While cake is cooking, warm cream to a simmer in a small saucepan or a heatproof bowl. Remove cream from heat and add chopped chocolate to the bowl. Let stand for one minute to soften, then stir until smooth. If ganache is too loose to spread, let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The ganache will continue to thicken as it stands.
10. Once the cake has cooled, remove the cake from the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set on the plate you plan to serve it on. Top cake with chocolate ganache, and dot the edges with almonds. Serve immediately.
This cake will keep for four days at room temperature, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen for up to two months.
Happy anniversary, Walker. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. Now eat your cake.