Note: Regarding my previous notes about technical difficulties, I’ve changed up the layout a bit and may or may not have a glitch or two to take care of here and there. Please be patient/let me know if you spot anything odd. Meanwhile, on with the show…
I’m a huge fan of the everyday cake — a cake that is humble in its appearance, but versatile, whether you want to eat it as a special dessert or as a simple snack with a cup of tea. Now you could argue that I’m a staunch supporter of these seemingly plain cakes because I just haven’t bothered learning to how to frost baked goods. I won’t deny that I’ve been lazy about learning that skill (though I do enjoy dolloping a delicious ganache on top of cupcakes from time to time). But the fact is, I really do enjoy an unfrosted cake… and frankly a lot of plain-looking cakes are packed with flavor.
That’s the case with this almond cake, which I’ve adapted ever so slightly from Giada De Laurentiis. Granted, this is a little different from the everyday cakes I’ve typically made. But it’s not overly complicated to make and it packs such a delightful flavor, that its simple appearance really doesn’t matter much.
I’ve made extremely subtle changes to this cake. The recipe calls for fine yellow cornmeal. I just picked up a regular box of Quaker yellow cornmeal that looks “fine enough” to me and the texture is no problem for me. Just make sure you don’t pick up anything coarse, and it will work out. I did a little cake flour substitute with cornstarch and all purpose flour. And while I believe I used sour cream the first time I made this a year ago, some low-fat yogurt was a perfectly acceptable substitute this time around.
The only thing is, this egg is extremely eggy — lots of egg yolks, in addition to a couple of eggs. But the toughest part of that process is separating the eggs, which really isn’t so bad.
At the end, a little powdered sugar is really all you need to make the cake look a little prettier. An accompanying vanilla ice cream or whipped cream could work, but the cake really doesn’t need more flavor than what it already contains. If you’re a fan of almond, you’ve got to try this one out.
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup cake flour OR put 1 tablespoon cornstarch at the bottom of a 1/2 cup, then fill the rest with all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 ounces unsalted softened butter
- 1/4 cup almond paste, cut into small pieces (about 1/2 to 3/4 inches)
- 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more set aside for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sour cream OR 1/4 cup plain yogurt*
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- 2. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with vegetable spray OR apply a bit of butter or oil to the pan and flour it. I did use a 9-inch round springform pan out of laziness/need for convenience and the cake turned out fine, just a little flatter.
- 3. Whisk together the cornmeal, cake flour (or all-purpose flour/cornstarch substitute) and baking powder. Keep this mixture to one side.
- 4. Beat the butter and almond paste on high speed until smooth for about 3 to 5 minutes. (I use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment - a hand-held beater could work too). Reduce the speed to low and slowly add confectioners' sugar. Mix until fully combined.
- 5. Add the vanilla extract, eggs and egg yolks and raise the mixer speed to high, mixing until well combined. Bring the speed down to medium and add sour cream (or yogurt substitute), plus dry ingredients. Mix until it's all just incorporated. (Make sure you've scraped any extra bits on the sides of your mixing bowl into the concoction and incorporated it well).
- 6. Transfer the batter to the cake pan and smooth out the top.
- 7. Bake the cake in the lower third of your oven for 30 to 35 minutes (the cake should be golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan when ready).
- 8. Let the cake cool on a wire rack. Just before serving, you can remove the cake from the pan and dust with a little more powdered sugar.
- * I used low-fat plain yogurt. Full fat would also be great, but I would avoid a nonfat yogurt.
- Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Song Pairing: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, “Home”
This song isn’t particularly new. In fact, it’s the band’s most popular (and possibly overplayed) song. But it’s still a lovely tune and there’s something rather comforting about it — much like this cake, which while sophisticated in flavor, is still food that feels very much like something delightful you could indulge in while in your own home. So why not cut yourself a slice and sit back, while making yourself at home?