It's too late for you to make this for New Year's Eve, as we did, but this perfect cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible will get you through many an occasion in 2011. I have neglected this book for far too long, and I'm a little sad that I missed so many opportunities to make this cake. I even felt a tinge of regret that I missed my chance to make this cake for our wedding. I'm kind of a nut for marzipan, and if you could transform marzipan into cake, this is it--buttery, tender, and perfumed with almond and vanilla. It takes no time to mix, and the only special ingredient is the almond meal, which I will be keeping in my freezer at all times from now on. (If you can't find almond meal in your local grocery, you can grind your own toasted almonds in the food processor. I got mine at Trader Joe's.)
I prefer cakes without frosting, and this one doesn't need a thing. (If you keep it simple, you won't feel guilty eating a slice for breakfast...and another for tea.) I served it with a dusting of confectioner's sugar and a drizzle of warm cherry preserves. Fresh fruit would pair nicely with the cake. If you want to get fancy, you could split the cake into two layers, fill it with apricot preserves, and frost it with a dark chocolate ganache. I'll let you know when I get to that variation!
Don't cheat on the mixing times or the method in this recipe. Not to veer off into theology, here, but this is one bible that demands a literal interpretation. You won't be led astray.
And Papa, I believe this a birthday cake with your name all over it. Wish we could share it with you today, but I will be more than happy to make you another one when we are together again in May!
Golden Almond Cake
from The Cake Bible
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups sifted cake flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9" round cake pan or springform pan with parchment or wax paper. Grease and flour the pan (I use baking spray).
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, about 1/4 of the sour cream, and the almond and vanilla extracts.
In a large stand mixer bowl, mix the dry ingredients on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining sour cream. Mix on low until the ingredients begin to combine, then increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
Put the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it with a spatula. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a small metal spatula and unmold from the pan. Cool completely before wrapping airtight. Store this cake 2 days room temperature, 5 days refrigerated, 2 months frozen.