I have been waiting to make this cake for months.
Wilson and I had almond cake as our wedding cake, and I have been obsessing about almond desserts ever since. Although I have planned to make almond cake for our anniversary, I could not stand to wait any longer.
Lately, I have taken to sitting outside on sunny afternoons and reading cookbooks, my favorite being The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser. I start in a different place each time I read it, though I inevitably find myself thumbing through the desserts section. The almond cake recipe has caught my attention on several occasions, and so, for my birthday this year, I made almond cake. (Wilson kindly offered to make me a cake, but as I told him, I want to make the cake. Making cake is one of my joys in life.)
I realize that this may not be what most people think of as a traditional birthday cake. I love a good layer cake or ice cream cake, but especially since I was making the cake myself, I wanted something modest. Although the appearance of this cake is simple, the flavors and textures are luxurious. The cake is made moist and rich by butter, in addition to almond paste, and somehow lacks the dry density of pound cake.
This is not a subtlety flavored cake. If you would like less of an almond flavor, you can always decrease the amount of almond extract. However, the assertive almond flavor makes this cake a fine companion to macerated berries.
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 (7-ounce) tube almond paste, cut into small pieces
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure almond extract
Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter (or spray with cooking spray) the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. The line the sides and bottom with parchment paper, and butter (or spray) the paper. In a small bowl, mix together sour cream and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste a few pieces at a time, and beat on medium speed for 8 minutes. (Yes, this seems like a long time, but do it. The mixture will get gorgeously fluffy.) Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. (If it looks curdled, don’t worry.) Beat in the almond extract and the sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter a couple of times to make sure there’s no unincorporated flour lurking around.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly with the rubber spatula. Bake for about 1 hour: the cake is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also when it shrinks from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack, and cool the cake in its pan.
When ready to serve, sift powdered sugar over the top, if you like.
Recipe from Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser, via Orangette. The recipe can also be found in The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser.