It has been a while. I may not have been updating the blog as often as I should have been, but I have had so much fun the last few months. Travelled a bit, tasted a lot of new food, met old friends, made new friends. . . Came back home to a flurry of activities. Classes to teach, knowledge to share, experiments to try, challenges to overcome, birthday cakes to be baked.
While I did all this, there was always a challenge as to what I wanted to post here. Some of the recipes were too complicated and some of them were still in the process of being perfected. But when I baked this cake for my daughter’s birthday, I knew I had a winner and this I had to share with everyone.
It was the last of those teen years. So it had to be special. I had just one brief–the cake had to have nuts. Armed with this instruction I went about my task. I had all kinds of nuts in my pantry (Not including the bigger nuts living in the house) I had peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, cashew nuts and macadamia nuts. I knew I wanted to incorporate as many of these as possible, for each carried with it, its own special flavour. So I narrowed it down and settled on almond, pistachio, hazelnut, and pecans.
Next, I needed to figure out a way to incorporate this into the cake. The simplest way was to grind them up and use them as flour. Not only will the process release the oils and flavours but the nut flour would provide a lovely crumbly texture to the cake. The pistachio would be a pale green, the almonds a beautiful cream and to the hazelnuts, I would add some cocoa (for not only would it enhance the flavour but add to the colour contrast that I was looking for).
Such a heavy cake would require a frosting which was light. Debating between whipped cream and Italian meringue buttercream, I decided to go the whole hog and make the buttercream. The pecans would be transformed into a salted caramel praline and would go between the layers and on the sides. None could complain about the paucity of nuts in this cake. For the recipe, I had in mind something Debbie had made in her Smitten Kitchen. Generously adapting her rustic recipe, I created this delicious layered cake which screams that I am nuts about you.
So I layered the cake, starting with an almond layer at the bottom, followed by the hazelnut-chocolate and finally the pistachio. Each layer sandwiched with silky delicate Buttercream infused with vanilla bean with a scattering of the pecan praline for the crunch. I made sure I took the caramel to a really dark point to give that lovely depth of flavour. And don’t forget the salt–my new favourite in all things sweet.
The recipe below is just for the cake. I will be giving you an almond version of the cake. Feel free to substitute with a nut of your choice. I preferred to add no color or flavour to the cake batter, minus a generous dose of vanilla. For the hazelnut layer, I removed a couple of tablespoons of regular flour and added good cocoa. I am not going into the makings of the Buttercream, which by the way, is not totally necessary to enjoy this cake. This was a birthday cake, and what is a birthday cake without filling and frosting? I made half the portion baked this cake in an 8-inch pan. So basically for the birthday cake, I made one and a half portions. I wanted a tallish cake but not super tall. Please be wary, if you decide to torte the cake, chill it very well before you do so. The cake, because of the nut flour needs to be handled delicately.
140 grams roasted almonds (or any nut of your choice)
200 grams granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
145 grams butter
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
115 grams all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 170C and prepare your pans. I prefer to line the pans because this cake can be quite delicate when you try to unmould them.
- Grind the nuts, sugar, and salt together in a grinder or blender till the nuts are as fine as they can be without turning it into a paste.
- Beat the butter until soft and fluffy.
- Add the nut mixture little by little. Initially, it will look like sludge but continue to beat until light and creamy.
- Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat
- Add milk, vanilla and baking powder. Beat well to combine. (Don’t worry about beating well you have not yet added the flour)
- Now fold in flour
- Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Cool the cake well in in the pan before turning over.
I must say that almost everyone who tasted the cake loved it! Will I be making it again? Oh yes, I will. I cannot wait to try different versions and combinations of this nutty cake.