I apologize to Nancy of Dog Eat the Crumbs. I am going to be late wit the Swedish Visiting Cake. Work has been insanely busy since both the hockey and basketball seasons were coming to an end and I've worked until 10 pm almost every night that I started with only Saturday off. Now, I'm not complaining, because my job is totally awesome and I need to pinch myself because of how awesome my job is, but it gives me absolutely no time to bake, cook, or blog. Now that the seasons are (very sadly) over, I'll have some time to cook again. And finally get around to commenting on the blogs. I have some favorites out there that I have been severely deprived of reading for the past two weeks! My Google Reader weeps for me.
That said, I am absolutely making the cake, but it will be posted later in the week. And I hope that it is awesome (which is surely will be), because it may be my first thing I take to work to feed the coworkers and I don't want to let them down. Ha.
In the place of the Swedish Visiting Cake, I give you Thomas Keller's Almond Cake from the Bouchon Cookbook. I cannot express how totally awesome this cake is (this post is just filled with awesomeness, isn't it?). I mean, this cake is INSANELY good. As in, Jack and I had two friends over for dinner on Saturday night and we almost polished this whole thing off, it's so good. The cake has a texture unlike any cake I have ever eaten. It is light and incredibly moist, but a extremely substantial. It almost has a pound cake like texture, but it's different. For the first time ever, I am lacking words to describe it. Almond paste and sugar are put together in a mixing bowl and beaten until the paste is crumbly. Then, chilled, diced butter is added to the mix and beaten for a good five minutes until the mixture is light and airy. Finally, honey is added, along with eggs, amaretto, and only 1/3 cup of flour.
The cake is only supposed to be cooked for about 25 minutes, but I had mine in for 35 minutes (and had to tent it with foil so it didn't brown), because my 8" pans are crap. I bought them before I learned how to cook, and they probably were like, $3 each and said "Buy us, we're crap!". So the center of my cake took some time to cook.
Finally, the recipe calls for the cake to be topped with a Strawberry Rhubarb Compote, but I couldn't find Rhubarb (and, although I know it is delicious, it still scares me because it looks like a vegetable) and creme fraiche, but I ended up making some No-Cook Amaretto Ice cream and a Strawberry Compote. The additions were heaven. The sweet strawberry compote just melted atop a creamy, almond liquor flavored ice cream and added the perfect textural and flavor contrast to the dish. But Jack said that the cake was so good that he was actually mad there was compote and ice cream "ruining the cake".
He's got a way with words.
And Thomas Keller has a way with recipes. This man is a god.
Almond Cake with Strawberry Compote adapted from Bouchon Cookbook
2 pounds strawberries, rinsed and hulled
6 tbsp granulated sugar
Butter and flour (for the pans)
7 oz. almond paste
1/4 cup granulated sugar
8 tbsp (4 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 tbsp honey
3 large eggs
2 tbsp amaretto, plus additional for brushing
1/3 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1/3 to 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
No-Cook Amaretto Ice Cream
2 cups of half and half
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 tbsp Amaretto
For the compote: Select about 2 oz of the smallest strawberries and cut lengthwise into quarters. These will be added raw to the cooked compote; set aside.
Cut the remaining larger berries in halves or quarters so that the pieces are about the same size. (You should have about 2 1/2 cups). Place them in a medium saucepan.
Use a Microplane or a fine grater to zest the lemon. Add 1 teaspoon of zest to the pan. Squeeze 1 tbsp of juice from the lemon and add to the pan. Add the sugar and stir to coat the fruit.
Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. By the time the sugar has dissolved, the fruit will have released a lot of juice. Boil for about 2-3 minutes to reduce the liquid somewhat, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 2 minutes, or until the strawberries are soft.
Remove from heat and stir in the reserved strawberries. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a covered container until cold.
For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour four 4-by-1 3/4-inch-high miniature springform pans or butter the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan and butter and flour its sides. Line the bottom of the 8-inch pan, if using, with parchment paper; this isn't necessary with the small pans.
Place the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in another large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Begin to cream the mixture on low speed to break up the almond paste, then increase the speed for medium about 2 minutes, or until the paste is broken into fine particles. Add the butter and mix for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light in color and airy; stop the machine and scrape down the sides as necessary. It is important to mix long enough or the cake will have a dense texture. Mix in the honey, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the amaretto, flour, and a pinch of salt and mix just to combine.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the top. Bake the small cakes for about 15 minutes, the large one for about 25 minutes, or until the cake is golden and springs back when pressed. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
Unmold the small cakes or invert the large cake onto the rack and remove the parchment paper, and invert the cake again so the top is once again facing upward. Brush the top of the cake(s) with amaretto and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Dust with confectioners' sugar (the cakes can be stored, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 2 days).
For the Ice Cream: Mix together the first five ingredients until combined, making sure the condensed milk is well blended with the other liquids. Chill until cold.
Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze accordingly. Add the amaretto close to the end of churning.