Sunday, February 6, 2011

Almond cake with chocolate glaze for winter magic

At first, this almond cake seems a humble cake. No curlicues, just a shower of melted chocolate over a dense, earthy cake. It is not spun sugar or light chiffon. This is not tiptoeing through the tulips. This is Scarlett O'Hara, digging up turnips vowing she will never be hungry again.




The chocolate caresses, it does not star. The almonds come center, Their scent permeates the cake. The chocolate may entice and bring you in. But it is the cake that makes you at home and begs you to stay.
Every culture has a nut cake. Just as we share variations of dumplings, breads and cheeses, so we have all devised ways to make nuts part of cookery and cuisine.

Cooking transcends boundaries. We all speak the same language when we devise ways to nurture and delight with cooking. Cooking has always been my time machine and personal jet. I wonder if cooking is also diplomacy.

The almond cake hails from Pescara in Abruzzo. It was a great favorite of the controversial and dramatic poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. It is said he ordered it regularly when at home and devised ways of having it sent to him when he was not in Pescara.

There are many versions of the cake - some use bitter almonds, some have chocolate throughout. This recipe comes from La Cucina: the Regional Cooking of Italy. It is a treasure trove of Italian recipes and their variations from region to region. It is my bedtime reading, my awakening of how Italian cooking developed - the realization that poverty created a cuisine. And that necessity brought forth art in cooking by focusing on what was available, local, fresh and if not always free, certainly cheap (and for most - free was better - Italians foraged.)

When you bite into the cake, you are taking a bite of the countryside. It's firmness is its strength. It's heartiness makes it a winter cake - perfect for the February days that continue under clouds with promises of wind and snow still to come.
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I have come to the realization (which my family has known for years) that I am not a winter person. I welcome it for three weeks and then I am done. Unfortunately, winter is not. But the baking and serving of the cake made me feel as if I took at swipe at winter. That I warded it off as I folded stiff egg whites into the nutty dough.
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Almond Cake Glazed with Chocolate Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup blanched almonds
  • 5 large eggs - separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup corn starch

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Chocolate Glaze
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate




Almond Cake Glazed with Chocolate Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Butter a cake pan (about 9 inches by 1-2 inches).
  3. Sprinkle the almonds with 2 tablespoons from your 3/4 cup of sugar. Pulse them in a processor or use a mortar and pestle if you want a workout. Do not grind it into paste or flour. You want the nutty specks sprinkled throughout the cake.
  4. Melt the butter on the top of a double boiler.
  5. Add the egg yolks and the remaining sugar. Cook, stirring until thickened. (Be careful that the egg yolks do not curdle).
  6. Remove from heat and add in your nut mixture. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Add the flour and cornstarch in increments and again - blend it in well. It will be very thick. And if you are like me and don't use corn starch very often, you may be surprised how easily it puffs into your face, onto the counter and all over your clothes. And covers the cat.
  8. Whip the egg whites until they are stiff and then fold them into the dough. At first it may seem that the dough will not incorporate it, but be persistent and bossy and the dough will succumb.
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 45 minutes.
  10. Cool for 5-10 minutes, remove from pan and cool completely.
  11. When cake has cooled, melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler and pour over the center of the cake letting it ooze wherever it pleases.
  12. If you like, you can top with additional almonds. Cool and serve. Because this cake is thick, I store it covered and don't refrigerate it.
While winter rages out side, the almond cake keeps us cozy. There are no spices in the cake and it is the flavor from the almonds that begs for another forkful until it is gone.

It is the almonds that bring solace from the winter. It is the almonds that cast their spell and enchant the chill from your being. I was sturdier with every bite. I swear my balance improved.

It's crumbs are delicate and stalwart. A steel magnolia or an iron orchid.

Which bring me winter smiles.

59 comments:

Ann said...

Beautiful post, beautiful cake. Love that!

5 Star Foodie said...

I love how you describe this cake! I love that the almond is the star here, this is an excellent cake for sure!

Chow and Chatter said...

wow great cake and I second Natasha you describe it so well

Treat and Trick said...

Such a tempting cake! Love the way you've described it. Wanna a slice of that for my teatime...

Kate @ Diethood.com said...

What a great post! I loved reading it!
Your cake is also amazing ... looks incredibly good... I love that it is with almonds.

Bridgett said...

I can almost feel a bite in my mouth as I read each detail from the almonds to the chocolate. Wonderful post and a delicious looking cake.

Anna Johnston said...

Did you say Scarlet O'Hara vowing never to be hungry again sort of cake...., yep, pretty sure you did, doesn't get any better than this :)

Mister Meatball said...

Pass the milk.

Uh, the bourbon!

Pegasuslegend said...

This almost sounds like a form of a pound cake with the way your referring to this. We love almond anything as you know this is right up my alley for cakes. Will have to try this thats the frosting on the cake that caught my eye for sure, lusicious, the way it hugs the whole top!

Wanda..... said...

With this 'Almond Cake Glazed with Chocolate' and the 'Vegan Chocolate Cake with Orange Frosting' from last week.....I have some baking to do, Claudia! Wish I had some to go with my coffee at the moment!

Lizzy said...

You got my attention with that gorgeous chocolate glaze! What a marvelous cake!!!

Jill Colonna said...

I love that cake, how you brought us in to savour the whole experience and gave us some warmth in this LONG winter! Great writing.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Chocolate and almonds sound like a heavenly combination Claudia. Stay warm.
Sam

A SPICY PERSPECTIVE said...

Claudia, you just took this nut cake to a whole other level with the chocolate! What I would give for a little right now!

Mary said...

What a lovely cake supported by even more lovely words. I love almonds and almonds and chocolate together are almost more than I can bear. Your cake is wonderful. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary.

Rosemary said...

I wish I hadn't declared the day after the Super Bowl the first day of a real diet! This cake is beautiful and so well described. Wonderful combination of flavors.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I love the glossy chocolate glaze, on this cake, Claudia! It looks so pretty and sounds delicious. I bet it was the perfect dessert to your family's Super Bowl party!

I never thought I was a winter person but I have to admit I'm not looking forward to the humidity of summer. I'd rather deal with the cold. I do, however, like the longer daylight hours of summer.

Joy said...

That looks wonderful. I love the use of the chocolate.

Rachel said...

Just stumbled across your blog--have been trying to visit at least 5-6 new ones a day! I can't wait to take a look around--your cake looks delicious and I LOVE Italian food!

That Girl said...

I bet this cake doesn't even need the chocolate!

Angie's Recipes said...

Not all the fancy stuff taste good. And very often I find simple is the best! Love this simple nutty chocolatey cake, the glaze just shine through!

Choices said...

Makes me hungry for some cake right now. I am not really a baker, but this would work. I like how simple it is.
Thanks for sharing it.
Stay warm.
Smiles.

michelangelo in the kitchen said...

This is the ultimate cake for me after reading about it! Cheers!!!

Steph said...

What a yummy looking cake. The chocoalte dirpping down the sides is making me drool!

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

This cake certainly could ward off evil winter spirits. Poor thing, you have a much longer winter than the west coast. I could see how you would need a wonderful cake like this. I want to see if I can find the book, it sounds like something I'd love to read. I'm crossing my fingers spring is on it's way.
-Gina-

denise @ bread expectations said...

Gotta love a cake that's got more in common with a turnip digging Scarlett O'Hara than a fluffy ballerina tutu LOL

denise @ bread expectations said...

Gotta love a cake that's got more in common with a turnip digging Scarlett O'Hara than a fluffy ballerina tutu LOL

Julie said...

Sounds like a winning combination to me! Let's hear it for the Scarlett's of the world :)

Marisa said...

I love anything sweet that has almond in it--covered in chocolate? Even better! This cake sounds purely simple and delicious.

Catherine said...

I love almond cake! It is so delicious!
Yours sounds wonderful and looks so moist and yummy!

Lynn said...

Will have to add to my to do list!!! yummy!

Beth said...

I love your description of cooking as diplomacy. Yes it is!
And like you, I enjoy winter for about three weeks. Those three weeks have passed. Could I have some spring now?

Lori Lynn said...

Hi Claudia - great post, great cake.
Congrats on Top 9! YAY for you!
LL

Emily Malloy said...

Oh my! This does look like HEAVEN.

Victor said...

This must taste heavenly good!

Juliana said...

Claudia, this cake looks delicious, love the shiny chocolate on top...great combination, almond and chocolate :-)

Chef Dennis said...

hi Claudia

now thats a cake I could love!!
That chocolate glaze on that wonderful cake is just calling to me!
Thank you so much for sharing your creation with us, and congratulations on your top 9 post today!
Dennis

FOODESSA said...

Ohh, Claudia...this is a ckae I know very well. My Father's side of the family is from Pescara where I spent many summers.
Wow, what memories you've brought back for me.
Strangely, as much as I've eaten this wonderful treat, I have yet to make it myself...go figure.

Thankfully we have Italian Foodies like yourself that help to bring us back to our roots ;o)

Ciao my dear...have a great week ahead,
Claudia

Sortachef said...

Beautiful, Claudia. I feel a little breath of spring just now. Thanks so much!

girlichef said...

Honestly? Humble cakes are my favorite kind. And with your description...this is anything but boring. Sounds amazing!

Reeni said...

I love that almonds are the center of attraction here Claudia! Their flavor is unmatched. I love the way you describe it. I'm glad it made you feel better!

Mari said...

How delicious this cakes looks. I love the recipe. Thanks for sharing it.

Have a fantastic week.

Torviewtoronto said...

delicious combination
beautiful orchids Claudia

tasteofbeirut said...

Claudia

Everything you wrote about how Italian cuisine was created could be applied to lebanese cuisine as well. In a country that was poor, people only had what they could grow, and the rest they foraged.
I love this cake because unlike the French pain de gênes (which I love, don't get me wrong) it is lighter and not as dense. The chocolate couverture is a splendid idea, and marries so well with the almonds. Perfect.

Dulce Dough said...

What a lovely cake!

Monet said...

I loved how you wrote about how biting into this cake was like biting into the countryside. So poetic and so true! Thanks for always making me smile with your words, photos and recipes. This cake looks and sounds just perfect. I hope that your Wednesday is full of joy!

Tammy said...

This cake looks lovely and delightful!
Thank you for taking the time to drop by my site and leave a comment!
xx,

Barbara GF said...

I am warmed just reading about this luscious confection, Claudia. (And seeing your heavenly orchids!) I have been itching to make an almond cake after seeing Lidia make one Sunday on her show - hers was studded with chocolate chips. Yours is oozing with a sensuous glaze that is drawing me in - this would be a perfect Valentine's Day treat. That seems like a lot of cornstarch to add to a cake, but it must add to its delightful denseness.

Cakewhiz said...

I would love to make cupcakes with this recipe and just cover them in chopped almonds! Yummmm!

joe@italyville said...

Hi Claudia... love the cake and the new blog look! Haven't been doing my rounds in a while. Hope you're well! Joe

Island Vittles said...

You write so beautifully. I hope that one day I am lucky enough to see one of your plays performed live. I would love to see your words come alive on stage! Theresa

pigpigscorner said...

Beautiful writing, beautiful cake!

Cake Duchess said...

Ciao Claudia-This cake is divine! That glaze and the almond cake must be incredible. Lovely photos:)

ladymorgiana said...

this cake look so yummy :) Thank you for a great italian recipe :)

Fresh Local and Best said...

That shiny glossiness of the cake is so beautiful! And I love the crumbliness of the cake. Baking desserts during winter is comforting, isn't it?

Spicie Foodie said...

Your description of the cake has left me in awe. I would love a large slice to go with me morning cup of tea. Thanks for sharing. Happy Valentine's Day!

OysterCulture said...

Wow, wow, wow, truly a spectacular cake, I got hungry just looking at the pictures. I can almost taste it, but now I must make it for myself just to confirm its as good as it looks. Its the engineer in me, trust but verify

Magic of Spice said...

What a beautifully written post...if I were not already in-love with almonds I would be now :) This cake sounds amazing!

roz said...

Almonds and chocolate in a cake, Claudia? You said it perfectly: winter magic! Oh yum, what a cake recipe, thank you so much for kindly sharing it! Ciao, Roz And I have almost the same orchids in my house that I was getting ready to post a few photos, so we must have like-minds!