Growing up, I assumed cakes were restricted to birthday celebrations. After all, that’s the only time I can recall my mom serving cake. Somewhere in my early childhood – perhaps when I was in elementary school – I went to a friend’s house and her mother baked a cake for no reason at all. She baked it JUST BECAUSE. I remember being shocked. I was stunned that a mom would bake a cake – and let us eat it! – when it wasn’t even her kid’s birthday.
There is something so completely satisfying and comforting about a slice of cake. Perhaps because I didn’t indulge on a regular basis while I was growing up, cake holds a special place in my heart. Cake makes me happy.
While having lunch one day last week, I saw a post by David Lebovitz on his recipe for almond cake, and I knew I had to make it. The almond cake looked so simple, yet so perfect. On impulse, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up a can of almond paste.
I followed David’s advice and used my food processor to break up the almond paste (it really does look like sand) and make the batter. Along with the vanilla and almond extracts, I added a bit of orange flower water to the cake batter as a flavor enhancer.
Because of the stickiness of the batter, I used a spring form pan to bake the cake in, but it’s really not necessary. If all you have is a regular cake pan, that will work just fine. Buttering and flouring the pan – and using the parchment paper round in the pan – is essential, though. At least it was for me. I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I really didn’t want to have an ugly cake bottom. Or top, for that matter.
The cake was heavenly. The sweet aroma of almond filled the kitchen as it was baking and also when I cut slices of the cake. It was rich but not cloying. It reminded me of a very spongy and lush pound cake – but oh, so much better.
It was a perfect cake. And it made me happy.
This recipe is only slightly adapted from this one from David Lebovitz. I added a bit of orange flower water along with the extracts, but that's the only substantial modification I made. I used a spring form pan but you can use a 9- or 10-inch diameter cake pan instead.
1 1/3 cup (265 g) sugar
8 ounces (227 g) almond paste
3/4 cup (105 g) plus 1/4 cup (35 g) all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon orange flower water
6 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch diameter spring form pan, dust with flour, and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup (105 g) flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup (35 g) flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand. Add the cubes of butter, the vanilla and almond extracts, and the orange flower water. Process until the batter is smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition, scraping down bowl as needed.
Add half of the flour mixture to the food processor bowl and pulse a few times. Transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl and add the remaining half of the flour mixture. Mix by hand until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour batter into prepared spring form pan and bake for 65 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.
Remove cake from oven and run a sharp serrated knife around the perimeter, loosening the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in pan; once cool, remove sides of spring form pan and invert cake onto rack. Remove bottom of spring form pan and parchment paper from the cake. Carefully turn cake back over and onto a cake plate for serving.