To all of the women out there: Happy belated Mothers' Day! Not just to my mom but to every one of you who has taken care of me, nurtured me, supported me, given me secret family apple pie recipes and jars of unparalleled delicious spaghetti sauce, taught me patience and diligence and the power of hard work, believed in me even when I do not, pushed me (even in kindergarten) to dream big, given me bear hugs when I have fevers, answered my incessant and possibly idiotic questions, tolerated my extreme and annoying tenacity, provided hope when everything seemed to be falling apart, defended me against unfair injustices in the world (despite the fact that the world is unfair), shared adventures and moments that become my favorite memories, and the million other things that make me, me: to you all, a huge and resounding and all-too-well-deserved thank you.
Here's the Mothers' Day dessert that my family shared this past weekend. Since it's a holiday, a cake was of course in order, but I wanted to make it simple, not-overly-rich or sweet--just the way my mom prefers it (she's constantly trying to bake cookies without sugar or butter or eggs, sometimes resulting hilariously but endearingly in, er..., crackers with chocolate chips), but I still wanted to make it special. So I turned to David Lebovitz/Chez Panisse's almond cake. It's a cake recipe that I've played with almost every which way you can imagine--as cupcakes with raspberries inside, as pound cakes with chocolate ganache (which I made for my dissertation proposal defense to butter up (ha!) my committee), as plain bundt cakes. While this recipe is so, so versatile and delicious no matter how you slice it, I could never exactly settle on a particular recipe use that I really truly loved enough to post.... until now. Enter in the perfectly dramatic yet all so simple almond and blackberry cake with a hint of chocolate.
[click on photo below for a larger image]
The almond cake, made of almond paste, is so fluffy and moist--the texture is just the right mix of dense and yielding, with a wonderful golden-brown crust. On top, the berries are macerated in sugar and meyer lemon juice, with a bit of orange blossom water, but are still tart enough against the intense almond flavor of the cake. Tying it all together--and my favorite touch to this recipe--is the generous sprinkle of bittersweet chocolate curls on top. This hint of chocolate, in the ultra-airy form of small curls, lends just the right amount of depth and interest to the whole cake--berries, almonds, and all. I actually think that chocolate isn't used enough as an accent flavor. Too often we just see wholly chocolate recipes where chocolate is the main component, but it has so much potential as a complement to other flavors! (an episode of the Japanese anime Yakitate!!Japan comes to mind whenever I think about chocolate this way, where one of the main characters makes a pastry studded with fresh fruit. As a final, knock-out, seal-the-victory touch, he outlines the fresh fruit with chocolate to add depth and to make the fruit shine even more. For whatever reason, that scene sticks with me so profoundly. btw, I'm not a big anime watcher, but this was a series about bread and pastry arts, which is why it's one of the very few anime series I've ever seen!)
Speaking of chocolate, I am incredibly pleased to announce that pre-orders for sated are now live, so click here to pre-order your copy today! For this first release, we're using a print-on-demand printer, so I encourage you to pre-order a copy in order to get it right when it's released rather than having to wait for the second printing. I cannot believe that it's actually happening, that the magazine, after all these months of planning and work, is actually coming out! Also, stay tuned to the sated website, because previews of the magazine will be up very shortly, so you'll get a first glimpse of what's inside issue number one: the dark chocolate issue. Yipee! (for those who have asked: yes, there is an international shipping option.)
Read on for recipe....
Almond and Blackberry Cake
cake recipe roughly adapted from David Lebovitz
makes one 8x3-inch cake
3/4 (105 g) + 1/4 (35 g) all-purpose flour
2 tspn baking powder
3/4 tspn salt
1 1/4 (250 g) sugar
8 oz (225 g) almond paste
1 cup (8 oz/225 g) butter, at room temperature
1 tspn orange blossom water
1 1/2 tspn almond extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
12 oz. blackberries
1 Tbspn sugar
juice of half a meyer lemon
1/4 tspn orange blossom water, opt.
bittersweet (72%) chocolate curls (see note)
1. for cake. Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter and flour the insides of an 8 x 3-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment round. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, whisk to combine ¾ cup (105 g) flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the remaining ¼ cup (35 g) of flour, sugar, almond paste, and butter. Process until the almond paste is finely ground and well-combined with the butter.
4. Add in the orange blossom water and the almond extract and pulse briefly to combine.
5. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing well between each addition. Continue to process until the mixture is smooth and light.
6. Add the flour mixture to the batter in two additions, pulsing briefly after each addition just until combined, but do not overmix.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven for 60 – 65 minutes, until the top is brown and the sides are just beginning to pull away from the pan. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
8. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan and turn the cake out. Place upright on a wire rack and let cool completely.
9. for topping. In a bowl, gently toss to combine the blackberries with the sugar, meyer lemon juice, and orange blossom water, if using. Let sit for 10 minutes. Top the cake with the blackberries and sprinkle liberally with chocolate curls before serving.
Note: To make chocolate curls, heat a block of chocolate on high in the microwave for 5 - 10 seconds. The key is just to warm it very slightly but not to melt the chocolate. Run a vegetable peeler along the flat edges of the chocolate block to create the curls. Keep curls cool before use.