September 22, 2014
This is a no-frills European style cake that never goes out of style.
Europe likes their coffee and sweets. Kaffee und Kuchen in Germany, Merenda in Italy, and a Cafe au Lait with a financier in France -- you get the drift. All of these European countries have their own version of afternoon coffee (or tea) with a pastry. The afternoon coffee break is a sweet pause that refreshes.
While the afternoon coffee break may be a meal between meals on its face, I think it is so much more than that. The afternoon coffee break is a pause to enjoy some treats, embrace a leisurely afternoon moment with friends, co-workers, or family, and just catch up and recharge.
This tradition is so accessible in Europe, thanks to the endless bakeries and cafes. Nearly all of them have some type of sweet treat that you can pair with a nice cup of coffee or tea.
So many tortes and cakes in Europe are made with almonds. There's something familiar and comforting with the almond flavor. Maybe it's because the Europeans have been making tortes and cakes for so long with almonds. Toasting and crushing the almonds (even though it's in the food processor) just adds a rustic feel to this cake.
When I saw this almond cake in Cook's Illustrated, it went on the "must bake list." It's a simple cake: you make it in the food processor, there's only one layer, and you don't whip up any fancy frostings. There's a light lemon sugar crunch on top of the cake that is not too dense and not too light. It just tastes "homey" and is asking to be paired with a big cup of tea or coffee.
Slice some time out of your busy day and just have a peaceful afternoon moment to enjoy the company of a friend, with a slice of this cake, of course.
Yields 8 to 10 servings
1 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 3/4 oz. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
8 3/4 oz. granulated sugar, plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. lemon zest (about 2 small lemons)
3/4 tsp. almond extract
5 tbsp. butter, melted
1/3 cup canola oil
Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 300ºF.
In a food processor, pulse the almonds, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to a finely ground mixture, and then transfer it to a bowl. In the now-empty food processor, add the eggs, 8 3/4 oz. sugar, 1 tbsp. of lemon zest, and almond extract and run for about 2 minutes. While the food processor is still running, add the melted butter and oil. Once ingredients are incorporated, add the almond mixture and pulse to combine, about 5 to 7 pulses. Then, transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar with the lemon zest. Sprinkle top of cake evenly with the sugar-zest mixture.
Bake for about 50 minutes. Rotate the pan half way through. Allow the cake to cook in pan for about 20 minutes, and then run a paring knife around the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a serving plate and discard parchment. Allow the cake to cool for a few hours before serving.
Source: Cook's Illustrated