simply put, this almond cake with strawberry rhubarb compote is delicious. prior to this cake, i was sort of undecided when it came to how i felt about almond flavored things when the almond flavor was more of the marzipan variety than the almond butter variety (since i know that i love almond butter, especially in cookies or energy balls). after taking one bite of this almond cake, though, i was instantly and firmly in the marzipan-y almond flavor is delicious camp.
as an almond paste rookie, i put a bunch of notes below the recipe with lessons learned from my field research and testing, in case i’m not the only newbie. for example, if you are buying odense brand almond paste, inside the thin cardboard box is a foil wrapped tube of almond paste. not an iron pipe. so if the contents of the box at the tiny store with low product turnover feels like an iron pipe, that’s a good clue that the almond paste you’re about to buy is really old and dried out. live and learn! at least it responded well to my improvised “treat it like dried out brown sugar and hope for the best!” resuscitation efforts (also detailed in the notes, in case you face a similar quandary)…
and in case it sounds fancy and difficult, let me assure you that at least in this case, “compote” means “super flavorful and delicious jam that is ready in less than 15 minutes and does not require any special equipment or skill”. in other words, it’s nothing like canning, that thing that people who are not me have been doing for generations, mostly without botulism poisoning, that still strikes fear in my heart/seems tedious.
and since it seems like such an obvious substitution these days, with the prevalence of gluten free diets and ease of finding almond flour in stores, let me just say that simply swapping in 40 g. of almond flour for the 40 g. of all-purpose flour sadly does not work. it seemed so promising! more almond flavor! what could go wrong?! (all the experienced gluten free bakers are rolling their eyes right now.)
alas, in retrospect, i should have anticipated that a flour that contains fat (almond) is not going to soak up as much butter as a dry flour (all-purpose). the cake was edible, but quite dense and oily and not nearly as good as the lighter and fluffier cake made with all-purpose flour. if you’re a savvy gluten free baker, please share your wisdom in the comments! with just 1/3 of a cup of flour in the cake, it seems like such a contender for being gluten free…
even when we stick with all-purpose flour, though, this almond cake is not super tall (by which i mean it’s less than an inch high (2.5 cm) in the center). just wanted to mention that, so you don’t think yours came out wrong. also, this almond cake is quite sweet and i was tempted to start reducing the sugar but it is complemented by the tangy strawberry rhubarb compote so well, i decided to leave it alone. just promise me you’ll make the the compote and that you won’t skimp on the lemon zest/juice!
and speaking of that compote, one final note: you may think that the strawberry rhubarb compote recipe below yields too much. don’t worry, my friend; we have a plan for that. stay tuned on thursday…
for now though, off you go to bake this almond cake that has the most amazing, almost caramelized edges. i swear, the edges are my favorite part…
- 7 oz. (198 g.) almond paste, cut into roughly tablespoonish chunks, see notes
- ¼ cup (49 g. / 1 ¾ oz.) granulated sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick / 113 g. / 4 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons amaretto, see notes
- 1/3 cup (40 g. / 1 3/8 oz.) all-purpose flour
- 16 oz. (454 g.) fresh strawberries, tops trimmed off
- 16 oz. (454 g.) fresh rhubarb, cut into ¾” (2 cm) pieces
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¾ cup (149 g. / 5 ¼ oz.) granulated sugar
- select roughly ¼ of the strawberries, ideally the smallest ones. cut them into quarters lengthwise then set them aside.
- cut the remaining strawberries in half or quarters, depending on their size, so that they end up roughly the same size as each other. put these strawberries into a large saucepan.
- add the rhubarb, lemon zest and juice, and sugar to the pan. stir everything to coat the fruit in sugar.
- heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar and keep the bottom from burning. keep cooking and stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved (this will take just a couple of minutes). the fruit will release a lot of juice as it cooks; boil the mixture for about 4 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit. turn the heat down to keep the mixture at a simmer for another 2 minutes, or until the rhubarb is softened (don’t worry if some of it totally falls apart).
- take the pan off the heat and stir in the reserved strawberries. let the whole thing cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate it. the strawberry rhubarb compote is begging to be made in advance of the cake, as it keeps for 2 weeks, which also gives us time to use up the leftovers.
- preheat the oven to 350° F. butter the bottom of an 8” (20 cm) round cake pan and butter and flour the sides. line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper. set aside.
- combine the almond paste chunks and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, ideally fitted with a scraping beater blade or, if not, the standard beater blade. start the mixer on low (speed 2 on a kitchenaid) and mix for 2 minutes, until the almond paste and sugar are evenly combined. then turn the mixer up to medium (speed 4 on a kitchenaid) and beat it for another 4 – 5 minutes, until the mixture is at least a little bit light and airy (mine never got very light or airy). if not using a scraping beater blade, scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed to ensure everything gets evenly mixed.
- mix in the honey, then the eggs one at a time. beat well after each egg is added. add the amaretto and flour and mix on low speed just until combined.
- pour the batter into the cake pan. bake for 25 – 33 minutes, checking the cake after 25 minutes and keeping a close eye on it thereafter. you may need to drape a piece of aluminum foil loosely across the top of the pan to allow the center of the cake to cook thoroughly (clean toothpick) before the top gets too dark. once a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, remove the pan from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack to cool.
- let the cake cool for about 10 – 15 minutes (longer is fine) then run a thin spatula around the edge to loosen the cake before inverting a plate or wire rack over the cake in the pan and turning the cake out onto the rack or plate. use another plate or rack to flip the cake again so that it is right side up.
- serve the cake either warm or at room temperature, with the strawberry rhubarb compote. leftover cake keeps at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days, though, as with most cakes, it’s best the first day or two.
almond paste a bunch of notes…
- my local grocery store and my local whole foods both stock almond paste in the baking aisle. if you can’t find almond paste locally, you can order it from amazon. or you can find recipes for it online (i haven’t tried this myself!).
- almond paste and marzipan are not the same thing – marzipan is much sweeter and this cake is already quite sweet.
- if you have allergies or food intolerances, check the labels on different brands. odense is labeled gluten free but contains wheat. solo brand does not contain wheat. as written, the recipe contains wheat flour, but if you’re a savvy substituter, please let us know how it goes in the comments! as i said in the narrative above, just subbing in almond flour 1 for 1 with the all-purpose flour is not a great strategy, sadly.
- if you’re buying almond paste in person and it’s not in a can, give the package a gentle squeeze. odense brand, for example, is a foil tube inside a cardboard box and should yield to pressure. if it feels rock hard, either shop elsewhere or follow the directions below to soften the paste.
- if you open your almond paste and discover that it is as hard as a rock, treat it like dried out brown sugar: use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the paste into discs, put it in a microwave safe bowl with a damp paper towel covering it, then microwave it for 30ish seconds, just until it softens. immediately transfer it to the mixer bowl with the sugar and start beating it, before it cools off and hardens again.
amaretto a little 50 ml nip has the perfect amount of amaretto for 2 cakes. alternatively, you could just leave the amaretto out, if you don’t want to buy it or don’t want to bake with/consume alcohol.
adapted from almond cake with strawberry rhubarb compote, which was originally printed in bouchon, by thomas keller with jeffrey cerciello, though i found the recipe in my beloved best american recipes 2005 – 2006 cookbook.
nutrition facts are for 1 of 12 slices of cake
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