Almond and Cardamom Loaf

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While I’m generally a “you had me at almond” kind of girl, it was an unusual (at least to me) technique that drew me to this recipe.  Actually, two interesting techniques.

The first are the caramelized almonds that line the bottom of the pan (or in this iteration, pans).  As written, this cake is served upside-down with the topping on top.  However, since we’re making loaves, the sweet, crunchy almond topping becomes a sort of secret, surprise base.

The second component that drew me in was the emulsification of almond paste, sugar and butter.

In a food processor no less.  The almond paste and sugar are processed into a delicious sand and then the butter is added, one little cube at a time.  As a note on the almond paste.  The recipe asks for 1 cup, or 9 1/2 ounces of almond paste.   Rooting around on Amazon, I kept finding 8 ounces packages.  I took a chance with the smaller amount (I wasn’t going to open a second expensive package for 1 1/2 ounces of paste if I could help it) and the almond flavor came through perfectly.

My slight twist adds the zest of a large orange because my taste buds kept telling me to.  Add it or don’t–whatever your tongue tells you to do.

This cake is delicious and exotic by flavor.  However, its the texture that really makes it special: delicate and crunchy at the edges but satisfyingly dense and moist in the middle.  It was definitely worth cleaning all those food processor pieces in the aftermath.

With the sweet crunchy almonds and gently spiced and almond crumb, the flavors are reminiscent of a bear claw or almond croissant.

Only this can be kept in the freezer and brought out on demand.

Almond and Cardamom Tea Cake

As written, the cake is made into a 9X2 round pan.  I used two 9X5 inch loaf pans with good success.

Ingredients

for the almond topping (or bottom if making loaves)

  • 4 TBS butter (2 ounces)
  • 3 TBS sugar
  • 1 scant C sliced almonds (3 ounces)
  • Pinch of kosher salt of flaky sea salt

for the cake(s)

  • 1 C (5 1/4 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • chopped zest from 1 large orange
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 4 large eggs at room temp
  • 1 C (9 1/2 ounces) almond paste [as a note–the almond paste I found came in 8 ounces packages–so I went with 8 ounces and the almond taste was still nice and strong].
  • 1 C (7 ounces) sugar
  • 16 TBS (8 ounces or 2 stick) butter at room temp

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set rack in upper-third of the oven.  Butter and flour the pans then line with parchment.
  2. Make the almond topping (bottoming).  In a small saucepan set over medium heat, cook the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, until the sugar dissolves completely and the butter bubbles and froths.  Remove from  heat and stir in the sliced almonds and salt.  Pour half into each of the pans and use a spatula to distribute evenly across the bottom of the pan.
  3. For the cake, sift the flour, baking powder and salt onto a piece of parchment paper to evenly combine and remove any lumps. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together the vanilla, cardamom, eggs and zest.  Set aside.
  5. Place the almond paste in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break it up.  Add 1 C of sugar and process for 90 seconds, or until the mixture is as fine as sand.
  6. Add the butter and continue processing until the mixture is very light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes.  Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is being combined evenly.
  7. With the machine on, slowly begin adding the egg mixture, spoonful by spoonful as if making a mayonnaise (you are making an emulsion).  Let each addition of egg be absorbed and the mixture regains its smooth, silky look before adding more egg.  When all the eggs have been added, stop and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula then continue to mix until well combined.  Scrape the batter into a large bowl.
  8. Pick up the parchment paper and use it to sprinkle the flour atop the batter in three batches.  Gently fold-in the flour in between additions until just incorporated.  Do not over mix!
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake for 55-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  The cake will just pull away from the sides of the pans.  Let the cakes cool on a wire rack.  Run a knife along the sides of the pans, then warm the bottom of the pan directly over the stove top for a few seconds to encourage it to release. and set on a cake plate until ready to serve.

TMH: I double wrapped and freezer bagged these and then froze them for a week and they defrosted really well.

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