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}

Summer Plum Almond Cake

I’ve had a simple cake in mind made with fresh fruits. Something not too sweet, sort of on the line of a clafoutis, but not custardy and not too cake-y either. A treat I could snack on and not feel terrifically guilty about, and something that would be simple and easy to throw together.

I had been dreaming of peaches, but at the farmers market I spied some ruby jewel plums- just perfect for my little project.

I was not able to find a recipe for exactly what I was looking for, so I created my own. With delight and joy, it turned out quite nicely on the first go round. Certainly my years of cake making is a help, since batters are a balance of chemistry and there is a consistency that one can expect when all the elements are put together- but then again…

What I was also quite delighted about, was that it was the right amount of sweet and tart and chew that I was looking for- and so- I delightfully am sharing it with you.

The fruits turned out to be ripe to over ripe- perfect for my cake. They were not good for hand eating, and small enough to simply half and tuck into the batter. The only pain was de-stoning those tender babies (imagine ruby red pulp on fingers and my paring knife).

I did not reinvent the wheel here- and I am SURE there is a proper recipe out there for this- but my little beauty contains no butter or oil, and yet it’s moist and delicious. Like I said, a treat that you don’t have to feel too guilty about.

Summer Plum Almond Cake
serves 8
1c room temp milk
.75c sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
1t almond extract
1t vanilla extract
1.75 c flour
.5c ground almonds
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
.5t salt
1 pint of small plums, de-stoned and cut in half
Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease an 8″x8″ pan
In a side bowl combine milk, sugar, eggs and extracts and whisk smooth
In large bowl sift together flour, almonds, bs, bp and salt
Pour the milk mixture into the flour and whisk gently to combine
Pour batter into the pan, then arrange fruits, cut side up in the batter, not allowing them to sink below. If your fruits are too small and sink too deep, remove some of the batter and use to make extra small cupcakes
Bake for approximately 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and the center is springy to the touch
I am a touch baker. My years of baking have taught me that eggs at certain times of the year, humidity and devilish angels can affect baking times- so I’ve learned to go by feel and touch. Since oven temps and evenness of heat distribution can vary, I recommend you try this method too.
Enjoy! and Thanks once again for spending time with me.

Roasted Salmon Rosettes with Pistachio Cruda

Because it’s the simple little touches that can make all the difference. Tucking salmon into pretty little rosettes looks fiddly, but is really quite simple, and for so little effort, how lovely.

Cold Salmon is sliced into long thin strips and the rolled and tucked into little bundles. You could pin with a toothpick if you desire, but I find that they hold together just fine on their own.

I oiled them with a light olive oil and gave each rosette a healthy grind of pepper and splash of salt-Simplicity at it’s grandest.
The sauce is a sort of herby “cruda”, fresh chopped herbs tossed with lemon zest and pistachios. The result is a bright light sauce with a little crunch. Serve this sauce on top of just about any fish (including lobster or shrimp) or even a grilled lamb chop or chicken. It also takes to the addition of a chili or two, if you like that bit of bite.
The rosettes are also delightful served at room temp, making this a lovely presentation for a buffet or brunch party- a tray of pretty pink blossoms.
Salmon Rosettes with Pistachio Cruda
serves 6-8 depending on size of rosettes
(sauce adapted from Gourmet March 2005)
2# fresh Salmon filet, from mid section
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves and stems, chopped
4T chopped fresh mint
1 small clove garlic
.5 c shelled unsalted pistachios
1 lemon, zested and juiced
.5 c fruity olive oil
S & P
If your fish monger hasn’t done it for you, remove the skin from the salmon.
With a thin bladed knife, cut .25″ (or thinner) strips of salmon. The colder the salmon the easier this will be. Consider popping the fish into the freezer for a few minutes if it helps.
Starting at one end of a salmon strip, fold it over to make the center “bud”. If you can’t do this- let it go, it’s just a nice added touch.  Then wrap the strips of salmon around the center, overlapping the way rose petal do. I used 2 per rosette, but you can improvise here to make your flowers look good.
Place on oiled baking pan and sprinkle with a light olive oil, a healthy grind of black pepper and a sprinkling of salt. Roast in a 350˚ oven for ~ 12 mins
Rough chop the parsley and mint and place into a medium sized bowl.
Rough chop the pistachios and toss in on top of herbs.
Smash and finely mince garlic and add into bowl, along with lemon zest and juice. Stir in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
It’s best to make the salsa a little in advance to allow the zest and garlic to infuse into the oil. I’ve made this as far ahead as a day and it was divine.