Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Almond Cake (Non-Dairy)



This cake is a non-dairy version of Amanda Hesser's Almond Cake, found in the New York Times Essential Cookbook and earlier in her column in the New York Times, August, 2001. Not all cakes can make the jump from dairy to non-dairy without suffering for it - but this one, which I've made several times, really stands up to the modification. This cake looks much like a nut torte, but does contain flour.

Amanda Hesser credited the recipe to her mother-in-law, Elizabeth. She wrote that her mother-in-law described the cake as, "The Shar-Pei of cakes."  Assuming that her mother in law meant ugly but delightful, it's an apt description. The cake crumbles a bit along the edges and doesn't always slice perfectly; however, it's rich and very yummy.

Choreography:
The cake is assembled without any special tricks: creaming fat and sugar, adding other fat ingredients (almond paste and egg yolks) and moving onto liquids and solids.  The leaving agent is a combination of four egg yolks and baking soda. The original recipe incorporates the baking soda into sour cream, since I use coconut milk "yogurt" mixed with a bit of white vinegar, I mix the baking soda into the flour and not into the liquid mixture.

Equipment: 

  • 2 - 8inch round cake pans (the original recipe calls for springform pans, I use regular cake pans successfully 
  • parchment paper to line the bottom of the pans
  • electric mixer or stand mixer 
  • measuring cups, spoons
  • kitchen scale 
  • silicone spatula
Ingredients: 
  •  9 oz (just a bit over 2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening or margarine
  • 1 1/3 c granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 7 oz almond paste (I use Love 'n Bake, which comes in a 10 oz can. Weigh the required 7 oz and wrap the remainder and store in the freezer) 
  • 4 large egg yolks 
  • 1 tsp almond extract 
  • 1 container (6oz) coconut milk "yogurt" (plain or vanilla) 
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  •  1/2 cup sliced or diced almonds (optional) 


Procedure:
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease the 2 pans, line the bottom of each with parchment paper.  
  2. Combine the flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. 
  3. Cream the margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add the salt and almond paste, a small chunk at a time. Keep mixing until well blended.
  4. Add the yolks, one at a time, continuously mixing. The mixture will be creamy. Add the extract.
  5. Combine the coconut milk and vinegar and pour into the mixing bowl and continue to blend.
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture at low speed and mix until just blended. Don't over mix, you are not looking to develop gluten. 
  7. Divide and pour into the prepared pans. The mixture will be thick, use a spatula to smooth out as well as you can. The batter will not pour in nicely, it will look a bit rough around the edges - don't worry- it will mostly smooth out in the oven. This cake does look a bit rustic after baked- that's ok. 
  8. Top with almonds if desired. (The original recipe suggested a sprinkling of powdered sugar over the finished cake.)
  9. Bake for 1 hour. The cake will brown slightly, feel firm but soft in the center. Cool completely and then use the parchment at the bottom to help you lift the cake out of the pan. The cake crumbles easily. 
  10. This cake is best when left to age for a day or two before serving. Amanda Hesser notes that it stays well for a week or two, I've never had that experience, the cake gets eaten too quickly!