Almond Cake

This year I have been about simple food—simple muffins, classic desserts, and hearty loaves of bread. Truthfully, I haven't had the energy for layer cakes or multi-step desserts as of late. The endless winter has taken what little I have left to give. There is no fuss, no frosting, no flair in my cooking. The focus has been solely on flavor and all the many straightforward forms it may come in. A simple goal, perhaps, but one I believe worth pursuing.

This Almond Cake falls squarely under simple food, but nothing about the flavor is plain. The sweetness rings true, a pure blend of almond and vanilla bean that is wholly dreamy in theory and in reality.

I made this cake twice over the last two weeks (and would make it again in a heartbeat should the ingredients find their way into my cupboard). The first occasion was on a Monday evening after a long day's work. When it cooled, I wrapped it up tight so I could photograph it the next afternoon, much to my boyfriend's dismay. Once the scent of almond had settled into the apartment, it was hard to ignore the cake on the counter. The next afternoon, once the photographs were finally taken, we split the cake in two, each eating half and calling it dinner. We had no regrets.

The second time I made it and brought it to a family gathering, leaving it unadorned with a jar of raspberry jam to complement it. It disappeared quickly once again, as little slivers were stolen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is a classic cake which can be dolled up for a fancy dinner or left simple for an afternoon treat, but never will it disappoint.

This Almond Cake is a simple one, the ingredients common and the flavors pure, but it is somehow utterly unforgettable. A jar of almond paste and the seeds from a vanilla bean provide the flavor to the cake's tender crumb. Though the cake in the photographs is slightly overbaked, it still turned out well, the oven providing a toasted almond flavor to the outer edge. The glaze is optional; the cake is lovely enough left bare. However, I do recommend cutting a slice and spreading your favorite jam across the side. It will be memorable.

One Year Ago: Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream, Blueberry Lemon Pancakes, and Lavender Lemon Shortbread
Two Years Ago: Hot Cocoa Cookies, Rosemary Foccaccia, and Swedish Visiting Cake
Three Years Ago: Brown Butter Rice Krispie Bars, Yeasted Chocolate Coffee Cake, and Meyer Lemon Curd

Almond Cake

Yields 9-inch cake

8 tablespoons (113 grams) butter
8 ounces (227 grams) almond paste
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (125 grams) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Sliced almonds, toasted (for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees C). Grease a 9-inch cake pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, almond paste, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition. Add the vanilla bean seeds. Gradually fold in the flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring until just combined.

Transfer batter to prepared baking pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle over the cake and top with toasted almonds. Serve with a side of raspberry jam.