03 September 2012

Almond Cake with Apricot Whipped Cream

It's gotten terribly hot here again in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.  Summer is giving us one last reminder of its brutality.  I haven't really felt inspired to cook anything because it's so hot.  It takes away one's appetite.  I had to make a cake last week, though.  It was Traci's birthday.  She's one of my best and oldest friends.  She just moved to Kansas, so we celebrated in her honor, rather than with her.  This cake is for Traci.  She loves just about anything I make, but I happen to know she loves lighter desserts, especially ones that have fruit in them.

Almonds and apricots are best friends.  It's because they are related to one another.  In the food world, if things are related they work terrifically together.  I didn't eat too many almonds growing up.  Since pecans and peanuts are grown locally, they are the primary nuts consumed here.  When I was a fashion designer I went to Paris.  It was in Paris that I fell in love with all things almond.  They make magical things happen with almonds in France.  I can thank the Parisians for broadening my food horizons and also for gaining eight pounds in five days.  

This cake is my little tribute to Paris.  I can guarantee it won't be my last, but I think I did them proud with my almond cake.  This cake is rich and deeply flavored with almond, but still almost unthinkably light.  The filling is a simple whipped cream with tangy, sweet apricot bits in every bite.  You can double up the whipped cream and also use it to frost the outside of the cake.  You could also make twice the whipped cream and eat the leftovers with a spoon.  It's your call.  I won't judge. 

Almond Cake with Apricot Whipped Cream

makes two 8" round cakes

Print me, Please!!!

for the cake:

1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz almond paste, room temperature
12 T unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 Tbsp lemon juice

for the whipped cream:
2 cups whipping cream

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup finely chopped apricots

To make the cake:  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Lightly grease two 8" round baking pans.  Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the almond paste, butter, sugar, and oil.  Beat on medium until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla and almond extract until well combined, another 30 seconds.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after the addition of each egg.  Lower the mixer speed to low and add half the flour.  Beat until just combined.  Add the milk and lemon juice and beat until just combined, then add the rest of the flour.  Beat until just combined. 

Divide the batter between the two prepared pans.  Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned and springy to the touch.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  (It is important to let this cake cool in the pans for a little while.  They are very, very delicate when they are hot.)  Turn the cakes out onto wire racks and let cool completely.

To make the whipped cream:  Pour the whipping cream into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip the cream, starting on low and increasing the speed of the mixer as the cream thickens and won't slosh out of the bowl.  Once the cream just starts to hold its shape, slowly add the powdered sugar followed by the almond extract.  Once the cream reaches soft peaks, turn off the mixer.  Fold in the chopped apricots with a rubber spatula, being very gentle.  Put the cream in the refrigerator until the cakes are cool.

Once the cakes are cool, pile the whipped cream on top of one layer of cake.  Top with the second layer.  Serve.  This cake will keep for 3 or 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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