Archived entries for almond

Cranberry-Almond Olive Oil Cake

Every apartment in New York has its quirks. Our ceiling mysteriously cracks and the fireplace sometimes serves as a rainwater-delivery pipe. The scent of takeout food (and other substances) fills the stairwell, and the hookah bar across the courtyard keeps turning its music up higher in the hopes of luring some customers.

And in winter there are the cold drafts. Temperatures at foot level near my desk at home drop, and wind actually blows across the floor, I swear. That first cold whoosh has me shrieking and running back to the kitchen.

With the oven on and something fragrant baking, I tell myself I can face another winter. A slice of this lovely cake and a cup of tea helps a lot.

I am very into olive oil baked goods these days, and this is another winner. The recipe comes from Gina DePalma, the pastry chef at the famed Babbo restaurant, via my friend Olga of Sassy Radish. It’s a shockingly easy to whip up, but quite elegant when you’re done.

And it’s delicious. The delicate crumb and almond flavor are perfect on their own, though my addition of tart cranberries wakes it up a little. Along with citrus, cranberries are one of my strongest winter cravings, and this cake was a good vehicle for their bright flavor. In summer you could make a delicious version with red currants or sour cherries, but then you might not be quite so eager to turn on the oven.

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Not your standard birthday cake: Flourless Almond Poppy Torte

My parents came all the way “back east” (as Oregonians say it) this weekend for a quick visit in honor of my mother’s birthday. We packed as much New York into two days as you can, really, hiking across town to see an amazing show of Picasso’s late work at the Gagosian gallery, wandering through the West Village (and popping into a sample sale), and enjoying the patches of sun between buildings. We traversed Chinatown and looked in fancy boutiques on the Lower East Side. When my mom suggested we split up for a break in late afternoon, I snatched the opportunity to do a little surprise birthday-cake baking.

I’ve been eyeing this recipe on Chocolate and Zucchini for a long timeā€”it seemed the perfect halfway point between light poppy seed loaf cakes and the dense poppy filling of hammentachen. Exotic, yet humble. My mother doesn’t like desserts to be too sweet, so I knew she’d appreciate this one. I threw it together before we left for dinner, realizing I had nowhere near the original amount of poppyseeds called for. Luckily, I had plenty of almond meal to make up the difference. I emailed my father and let him in on the plan, scheming to skip dessert at the restaurant and take a casual walk after dinner that would just happen to end up at our apartment. Matt even went out to buy birthday candles.

The plan went off without a hitch. When I suggested we pause in our post-dinner walk “to use the bathroom” at the apartment, no one blinked. Upstairs, the candle-studded cake was a total surprise. She couldn’t remember the last time anyone baked her a birthday cake.

And it was good. Sophisticated and deeply scented with almond and citrus, this torte was just barely sweet and quite satisfying. It was actually even better a few days later as a snack in the afternoon with Orange Pekoe tea. The proportion of poppy to almond was pretty perfect as written below, Clotilde’s original might even be too many poppy seeds for many people. I would serve this at a brunch or after a light meal, and certainly would make it at least a few hours or even a day ahead. It was lovely topped with cherries, though you could fancy it up with some almond-scented whipped cream or maybe a citrus compote. Just make sure you are among friends, or sneak out and check for seeds between your teeth.

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