Friday, July 12, 2013

Brown Butter Almond Cake

I feel like I struck it rich a few days ago when my market had cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, all sorts of berries and figs all at once.  What a goldmine!  So I’m back to basics with this very versatile Brown Butter Almond Cake, a perfect partner for all the season’s colorful fruit. 

I tend to like these kinds of simple cakes because they can also be employed with other elements to compose another dessert, like a parfait or trifle.  Even if you’re not a fruit lover, you can cover this cake with chocolate glaze or serve it with your favorite ice cream. 

The recipe starts with browned butter, which I use to enhance and underscore the central almond flavor.  It has a good portion of almond paste so it has plenty of nutty taste.  The almond paste is finely ground with sugar so it will blend well with the other ingredients.  The cake is easily whisked together in a bowl and it bakes in just about 30 minutes.

The next time you’re lucky enough to have some of this season's wonderful fresh fruit in your kitchen, make a little compote of your favorite one and serve it with a slice of this moist and flavorful cake.

Bench notes:
- For a good illustration of how to brown butter, see the guidance at Simply Recipes.  Use a stainless steel pan so you can keep a close eye on the browning.  Once you begin to detect a nutty aroma, it’s just about ready. I lift the pan off the heat and swirl for more control if I think it’s browning too fast or nearly done. It will continue to brown once you take it off the heat. Pour immediately into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking.
- For the best cake texture, it's important to process the almond paste with the sugar until it's very finely ground and looks homogeneous with the sugar.   If you don't have a food processor, you can do this with a mixer but it will take several minutes.
- Note 7/18/13: Reader Jen informs me that she used an immersion blender with great success to break up the almond paste with the sugar.  Great idea!
- I like Odense brand almond paste.  This recipe calls for 3 1/2 oz or half a log.  You can wrap the other half in plastic wrap, place in a zipped plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.  
- I use all-purpose flour for this cake.
- Add some lemon or orange zest or a pinch of spice for an alternative flavor.

Brown Butter Almond Cake
Serves 8

4 oz (8 tablespoons) butter                                                                      
3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 oz almond paste
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (4 1/2 oz) sugar
3 eggs @ room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8” cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Brown the butter to a medium dark amber and pour immediately into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking and to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Cut the almond paste into thin slices and place in the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar.  Process until the paste is broken into fine granules and blended with the sugar.  Pour this mixture into a mixing bowl and blend with the cooled browned butter.  Add the eggs and combine thoroughly.  Mix in the vanilla.  Stir in the flour until there are no streaks. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly.

Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.


Jen said...

I made this cake last night to go with fresh berries and ice cream, and was in love with it before it even got out of the oven. Lacking a food processor, I took an immersion blender to the almond paste/sugar combo with good results. Thank you for a fantastic, easy recipe! I'll definitely be making it again with the rest of the almond paste.

pastry studio said...

Oh, Jen, that's terrific! Glad to hear of the immersion blender trick. I'll have to add that to the bench notes. Don't you love the smell of it as it bakes?!

Unknown said...

Thank you ever so much for posting this - I made it on Saturday night and it was a huge success - super easy and delicious!

pastry studio said...

Rachel, thanks very much for your kind feedback. This is a very versatile cake so I hope you continue to enjoy it throughout the seasons.