Saturday, December 8, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake

It was time to celebrate.  It was time for cake.  Baking in my old oven was always an adventure and not necessarily a good one.  It worked fine on small things like cookies or muffins, as long as they were baked a single pan at a time, but larger items like pies or cakes were more of a challenge.  I was never quite sure if they were baked all the way through.  So, I was eager to see what my new oven could do.

Addison and Maddie wanted an almond cake.  It was a good choice to start with because it brings back fond memories.  It was the cake my niece chose for her wedding and it was the base of the petits fours we made at the bakery.  Almond paste adds a delicate flavor and moist texture that makes the cake extra special.  Be sure to use almond paste and not marzipan.  I combined the recipe we used at the bakery and a recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.

Almond Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart

3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups (315 g) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup (350 g) sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces/115 g) almond paste
6 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup (240 g) milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Butter two, 9-inch cake pans and dust with flour. Line pans with parchment paper or waxed paper and butter and flour the paper.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix 1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar with almond paste on low in a mixer with a paddle attachment until the almond paste is in small pieces.  Add the butter and beat until light and fluffy followed by the egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract.  Beat until mixed thoroughly. Alternate adding flour and milk in three parts until well combined.

In a clean mixing bowl beat egg whites with a whisk attachment until foamy.  Slowly add remaining 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar beat until soft peaks form.  Stir in a quarter of the whipped whites to lighten the batter then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.  Put in prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a cake tester in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack until completely cool.

To assemble - remove the cake from the pans, fill and frost with almond buttercream.  Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop.  The cake can be made a day ahead.  The cake tastes best at room temperature, but store in the refrigerator.

Almond Buttercream
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart

3 egg whites
2/3 cup (134 g) sugar
1 cup (8 ounces/226 g) cold, unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Whisk egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water) until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is very warm.  Move the bowl to an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until mixture has cooled and the egg whites have formed stiff, glossy peaks.  (If the mixture isn't cool it will melt the butter and cause it to separate.  Just keep beating until the egg whites are cool about 5 minutes, but longer if needed.)  Switch to a paddle attachment and add the butter a few pieces at a time until well incorporated.  Add the almond extract and continue beating a few more minutes until the buttercream is smooth and shiny.  If the buttercream starts to separate continue beating until it comes back together.

Almond paste, sugar, and butter

Creamed sugar, almond paste, and butter

Creamed mixture with flour and milk added

Beaten egg whites

Egg whites with batter

Folding egg whites into batter

Finished batter

Cooling cakes

The beginning of kitchen and cake

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