If I had to choose a breakfast cake, this would be it. If I had to choose a cake to eat an entire day, this would be it. My reasons are threefold: it is nutty and distinctly aromatic, it is moist and buttery and stays that way for long, and it fills you up and keeps you going.
There’s something about the aroma of baked almond cake that both sates you and makes you work up an appetite. It really does make for a hearty meal! The ground almonds keep the cake moist, while imparting a nutty flavour to the cake that the almond essence enhances. And those little crunchy and toasted bits of almond tease you so! What’s more, this easy-to-bake cake will get leave your friends and guests in awe of you. No, it does do that to people! Only you will know that all it took was vigorous mixing with one wooden spoon, and lo and behold! It transformed into decadent pieces of moist rich almond cake.
Now’s a good time to tell you that this recipe uses blanched almonds. I know you may not have it in hand, but if you have raw almonds at home, blanched almonds are easy and quick (5 minutes). And more hygienic than the store bought ones. Oh, and healthier too. Here’s a handy guide to blanching almonds. Once you’ve blanched all your almonds, set aside 50 g to cut and sprinkle atop the cake and set another portion (175 g) to grind so you can use homemade almond flour or ground almonds for baking. Ensure that the latter batch is completely dry though. Leave it out in the sun the whole day and toss it about now and then, or keep it in the oven for a while in the lowest temperature and watch it closely so it doesn’t toast. You want dry almonds, not toasted almonds. You can also try keeping them on top of the oven for a bit. And when you grind it, keep a close watch as the almonds can quickly release their oils and turn into almond butter. Wait until you see that the almonds are ground and stop. The flour should be fluffy; if it is sticky, well, it’s on its way to becoming almond butter.
Fruits and nuts make for a well-paired bite, and I urge you to try this cake with oranges or plums, or even apricot jam. At tea time, do away with tea; sip peach juice while you leisurely savour your cake. Having previously paired almond cake with oranges and peach juice, I paired it with sweet limes (mousambis) this time — and the pairing turned out great!
The subtle sweet lime complemented the nutty almond cake and chocolate perfectly. If you’ve previously only paired oranges with dry fruits and chocolate, I urge you to try the less acidic and pleasant sweet lime, and you will not be disappointed. If you’re juicing it, drink it quickly, as the taste turns bitter rapidly when in contact with air.
I adapted this cake from the book Easy Cooking — Baking. Since it’s almost Christmas, and I thought the season warranted a Christmas tree-shaped pan. Once I poured my cake mixture in, I knew that the cake would turn out just right.
I have a confession to make: I used more chocolate than mentioned in the recipe as I love almonds with chocolate. Also, I didn’t wait for it to set fully, I dug into it as soon as I finished photographing it for you. This other time I made this almond cake (a regular feature in our house), I made it for someone who doesn’t like chocolates (yes, I’m friends with all kinds!) and therefore you won’t see any chocolate on it. But when it was time to eat, I paired mine with chocolates (and oranges there were oranges and coffee). One last thing — the recipe in the book calls for 1 teaspoon almond essence, which for me was a bit much. I use 1/4 teaspoon now, after tasting it the first time I made it.
- 225 g (8 oz) butter or margarine
- 225 g (8 oz) caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1/4 teaspoon almond essence
- 125 g (4 oz) self-raising flour
- 175 g (6 oz) ground almonds
- 50 g (2 oz) whole almonds, blanched
- 25 g (1 oz) plain dark chocolate optional
Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Lightly oil and line the base of a 20.5 cm (8-inch) standard round cake tin with parchment paper.
Cream together the butter or margarine and sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.
Whisk the eggs and essences together, and add to the fluffy mix a little at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Sift the flour, and add to the egg mixture. While continuously mixing it in, add in the ground almonds too until mixed well.
Transfer the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Roughly chop the almonds and scatter them over the cake batter before sending it off into the oven.
Bake for 45 minutes or until you see that it is golden and a skewer or butter knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
Remove from tin and let it cool further on a wire rack.
Once the cake is cooled, melt the chocolate in a small bowl placed over hot water simmering away in a saucepan. Take it off the heat once it is smooth. Drizzle it over the cake and serve once the chocolate has set.
Since this cake pairs well with fruits and jams, you could induce that into the cake and then pair it with fruit. Add a tablespoon or two of orange water, along with the zest of an orange for a fragrant citrus flavour. Remember to omit the vanilla essence. This almond cake tastes better when eaten the next day. You may want to warm your slice of cake before eating it — the rich nutty aroma is just so inviting!
Storage: When stored in an air-tight container, this cake lasts for about 3-4 days.
Equipment: One 20.5 cm x 5 cm (8-inch x 2-inch) round cake pan. If you're using a dark cake pan, take the cake out 10 minutes earlier and check to see if it is baked through by inserting a skewer. The cake must start to shrink after you take it out of the oven.
How To Blanch Almonds (notjustspice)
Citrus Limetta (Sweet Lime) (Wikipedia)