Zesty Lemon Almond Cake with Spiced Tangerine Sauce

Moist Lemon Almond Cake

The winter winds have me looking for excuses to turn the oven on. Since my future Mother-in-Law was coming for dinner, the decision was finalized. Cake for dessert.
When I had my wedding cake business I always had pounds and pounds of butter, stacks and stacks of eggs, and never ending bins of flour and sugar at my disposal. Whenever I wanted to get creative in the kitchen I never had to stop to think about what was in the cupboard.
Now I find myself, for the first time in 25 years, purchasing butter at the supermarket- but I rarely eat it. I trend to the healthier olive oil in my cooking, and that is including baking as well. In many recipes oil and butter may be interchanged, but not always to the best advantage. It’s the buttery goodness in brioche that makes the difference, the same-of course- in a sugar cookie.

Last minute baking may require some forgiveness, in a pinch you could get away with plenty. This cake does not need any apologies or excuses- The oil makes for a moist delicious cake that easily waves a dismissive hand at butter.

When it came to deciding what flavor cake to make, my cupboard yielded plenty of flour, sugar and eggs. There were some almonds, a lemon on the counter, and an ambitious stack of tangerines in the fruit bowl. {I promised I would eat them all when I hoisted that big bag into my cart, but they were starting to best me} I also had a container of buttermilk, something many southern women keep at the ready.

As I acquaint myself with southern living I am amazed at the cultural differences in the market aisles. At my regular store I was amazed to see that there were 8 varieties of buttermilk and mostly in half gallon sizes. In contrast there was one option for ricotta, offered only in 16oz containers. On my NY shelves the offerings are the exact opposite. Perhaps this is just a quirk of the store manager, but I was still baffled to think how was all that buttermilk being used?

I have a few “out of the cupboard” cake recipes that everyone should have up their sleeve. This is a pretty nice one. You can substitute the almonds for other nuts, or simply leave them out. You can also switch up the fruit for the sauce- frozen fruits being a perfect thing.

This particular cake was tangy due to the soaking of a lemon juice simple syrup. It’s a great cake for simple gatherings, coffee klatches and, in my case, my Mother-in-Law.

Zesty Lemon Almond Cake with Spiced Tangerine Sauce
makes a 9″ single layer cake- 10 small slices
2.5c ap flour
1.5t baking powder
.5t baking soda
.25t salt
10T vegetable oil
1.33 c sugar
3 large eggs
1c buttermilk
.5c almonds, toasted and rough chopped
zest and juice from one lemon, separated
.5c water
.5c sugar
2 tangerines
.5c sugar
1c water
.25t cinnamon
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350˚ and prepare a 9″ cake pan with cooking spray
In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs into a thick emulsion. Add the lemon zest.
Add the egg mixture and half the buttermilk to the flour and stir until mostly smooth, then add the rest of the buttermilk and the almonds. Stir gently until smooth.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and the center of the cake is springy to the touch. Approx 25 mins.
While the cake is baking, prepare the lemon syrup and the Tangerine Sauce.
In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh lemon juice. After the cake is removed from the oven, and still warm, evenly pour the syrup over the top of the cake, and allow to soak in.
To prepare the Tangerine Sauce, using a knife cut off the tops of the tangerines and then slice off the sides. Following along the membranes, remove the sections of tangerine flesh and drop into a small saucepan, allowing any juices to drip into the pan as well.
Add the sugar, water and cinnamon and bring to the boil. Allow the sauce to gently boil for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Serve the sauce either warmed or room temperature. 
{A splash of Cointreau or Grand Marnier would be a lovely addition if you’re so inclined}

Incredibly Easy and Twice as Delicious: Almondine Cookies- Day 3 of Sweets with Irene’s Beans

You are either going to love me or hate me for this recipe. These Almondines are so crazy easy to make, and the crunchy and yet chewy texture of the cookies are frighteningly addicting.

This past Mother’s Day I was delighted to celebrate in my new apartment. It was the first time that I had my Mother over to see the new place and I looked forward to entertaining her. It was a beautiful day spent with my three children and my Mom. The weather was warm and sunny in NYC, warm enough for us to take a walk along the river in Riverside park after we shared a cold lunch that I had prepared: Cold poached lobster served on green sauce, Shrimp ceviche with melons and mint (similar to my previous post), Israeli cous cous salad with heirloom tomatoes and cumin and a romaine salad with bleu cheese dressing and bacon bits. I’m sorry that I didn’t take a photo, but sometimes guests need full attention and Mother’s Day was a day that I got to indulge myself in them.

My “children” are all adults now, so gathering them all together in the same space and time gets harder and harder. The beautiful thing is when they do end up in the same room, it’s back to the old antics from their younger years. Seriously, I believe my children can take their “act” on the road. When they were younger I referred to them as The Flying Walendas. They are a three ring comedy act, and they move in sync without missing a beat. As a mother who was always in the kitchen, listening to my children play in the background (I had strategically placed doors and mirrors so I could keep an eye on them at all times), the raucous laughter brought back memories of those earlier days. They joke and tease, and break into song and little dances to punctuate a story, that to me is poetry in motion.

I’ve often thought of raising children as the same as enjoying an ice cream cone on a scorching hot day. There is so much effort spent on managing the drips, and then it’s gone before you can fully enjoy it as much as you should.

The years certainly have zipped by, and with three kids and a demanding business, I managed too many drips. So naturally, I feel blessed when I can recapture some of those moments.

My eldest, Olivia, brought us some apple hand pies (that being the hands of Paul Bunyon, they were huge and gorgeous!). Before we headed out into the sunshine, I made a quick batch of these cookies. They cooled while we strolled in the dappled sunlight and walked off a bit of the lunch. When we returned, I warmed the apple pies and served chunks of the pies with some ice cream with the Almondines on the side, while the coffee brewed.

With this sweet I paired Irene’s coffee from Papua New Guinea. The coffee has a caramel-y, nutty note, not too heavy to suggest an added flavoring, with a tinge of earth and smoke. A great coffee for any time of day and lovely with these cookies or not.

This is a great recipe to keep in pocket. Only 3 ingredients and 2 minutes to throw together. The only hard part is to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. The sugar and the egg whites make for a slightly chewing cookie, and the almonds give it some crunch and depth of flavor. I pulled it directly out of Ottolenghi: The CookBook, so I am sorry, I cannot, and will not, print the recipe- but I can attest, that the cookbook is well worth owning, if you don’t already.

These cookies are a bit of a metaphor for this next stage in my life. Keep it simple, keep it sweet, make it delicious, and share with the ones you love.


{Day 9} Fregolotta: A Dessert That Cracks Up

Crunchy Fergolotta enjoyed with some after dinner port

Fregolotta was a word that had never passed my lips until my lovely Lauren told me about it. It’s a lightly sweet, crunchy, nutty, biscuit cookie that is often served at the end of the meal in the Veneto region of Northern Italy.
Now allow me to digress about Lauren for a moment. Beautiful, fair curly haired Lauren has been my business partner at A Simple Cake for the past year and some and one of the best persons to ever happen into my life. She not only is so tremendously talented as a baker and an artist, but she is also an incredibly beautiful person, both inside and out. She and I share a similar passion for food, which has lead to some tremendous discoveries for me- as in the case here.
Lauren described to me this thin crackery treat and it was all new to me. Fregolotta is not just a treat, but an experience as well. It is meant to be broken at the table and eaten. The hard cookie is balanced on a reserved almond, and then with the back of a coffee spoon, tapped until it breaks into bite size pieces. She told me the story that is was her Mother that makes it in their family.
While traveling through Italy, Betsy Bohl and her husband became enamored with this treat when after each meal it was presented along with the coffee cups. No two restaurants made them the same, which is so typically Italian in my mind. Some more cakey, and some more grainy and powdery. Each baker made it to his or her own taste, following no rules. Betsy returned home and after researching several recipes, changed the balances to get the right texture and taste that suited her.
Thank you to Betsy for sharing her recipe with me, which I believe is an adaption from Lydia Bastianich. Fregolotta is packed with chopped almonds, but it’s the inclusion of corn meal that gives it a unique gritty crunch that is so satisfying.
The recipe called for spring form pans, but I used regular pans and lined the bottom with a paper doily. The cakes slipped out without any resistance. I used 6″ pans and the recipe called for 5″. Due to the way I divided the dough my cakes were a little on the thick side, so next time I would divide them into thinner batches. To transport and package them I would set them in a box, or place a cardboard round underneath to keep it from breaking. Be sure to include a little note on the cracking and almond technique.
Besty Bohl’s Almond Fregolotta
makes 4 5″ cakes
1.5c toasted almonds, chopped
.75c sugar
1c flour
.75c corn meal
.25t salt
1.5t vanilla
10T butter, softened
1 egg yolk
2T heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease pans and line with parchment or paper doily.
Combine almonds, flour and cornmeal and salt in a bowl.
In a mixer combine the butter and sugar and beat smooth. Add egg yolk and vanilla and stir.
Add butter mixture to the flour mixture and toss together with a fork to blend. It should be crumbly. Add the heavy cream to make a shortbread like dough.
Divide the dough between the pans and press lightly into an even layer.
Bake for approximately 20 mins and then check for doneness. The cakes should be nicely browned and pull away from the sides of the pan
Though wonderful just on their own, these are also fantastic served with ice cream or fruits. I can see grappa along side these or a nice demi tasse of espresso.