This is a classic rich, sweet almond cake reinvented and simplified. It starts with whole almonds in the food processor, and two minutes later, you have batter. The cake is hard to stay away from: it’s sophisticated enough to serve for dessert with pureed raspberries or sliced fresh strawberries, plums, or nectarines, but it’s difficult not to nibble on it throughout the day if you leave it on the counter. Wrapped in cellophane or presented in a pretty tin, this cake is a fine holiday hostess gift. For the best flavor and texture, make this a day ahead.
Equipment: An 8 by 2-inch round cake pan
- Yield: 10 to 12 servings
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 ounces) unblanched or blanched whole almonds
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 3 large eggs
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into several chunks and slightly softened
- 1 tablespoon kirsch (optional)
- 1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
For crunchy almond crust (optional):
- 1 tablespoon softened butter
- 6 tablespoons sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides of the cake pan and line the bottom of it with a round of parchment paper.
- Place the almonds, sugar, salt, and almond extract in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are finely pulverized. Add the eggs, butter, and kirsch, if using, and pulse to blend thoroughly. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse just until blended.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick plunged into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on the rack.
- To unmold, slide a slim knife or spatula around the cake to release the sides. Cover the pan with a plate and invert both. Remove the cake pan, peel off the parchment liner, and turn the cake right side up. Dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving, if desired. Tightly wrapped, the cake keeps well at room temperature for several days.
- Serve with fresh berries, a fresh berry puree, or with sliced fresh plums or nectarines.
For almond cake with crunchy crust:
- Smear the sides and bottom of the pan generously with about 1 tablespoon softened butter; do not line the pan with parchment. Scatter 6 tablespoons sliced almonds over the bottom of the pan and press some of them about 1 inch up the sides; distribute any extra nuts evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Make the cake batter, scrape it carefully into the prepared pan and bake as directed. Cool the cake on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding. To unmold, slide a slim knife or spatula carefully around the inside of the pan, pressing against the pan to release the cake without cracking the crust. Cover the pan with a plate, and invert both. Remove the pan and leave the cake crust side up to serve.