Reviewing The Cake Bible: Golden Almond Cake
Baking – like reading and blogging – is an activity I enjoy immensely, and one of my goals for the year is to bake my way through The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, an infamous (U.S.) dessert recipe book and baking guide. I thought it would be fun to incorporate my love for baking into my blog, so the idea for Reviewing The Cake Bible was born. The following review, as the title of this post indicates, is for the Golden Almond Cake recipe.
I’ll get right to the point: this cake is delicious. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe makes one layer, but it would be so good as a double layer cake. And as the introductory paragraph states, it indeed “has a soft and dissolving texture, with a beautiful golden crust.”
Granted you have toasted and finely ground almonds handy, the cake batter is quick to whip up. I do not have toasted and finely ground almonds in my cupboards, so I had to plan ahead a little bit before making this cake. I found finely sliced almonds and measured out a little more than what the recipe calls for (1/3 cup ground) to toast them (350°F for about 10 minutes). After they were mostly cool, I worked off some stress by pounding them with a rolling pin. I ended up with a little more than 1/3 cup, and they weren’t as finely ground as they would be if I used a food processor (I don’t have one), but I like a cake with a bit of texture so I was happy with how they turned out.
Almond extract is another ingredient needed that some novice bakers might not have on hand; I do because I love and have made almond flavored baked goods before. Sour cream is also a main component, which elevates the flavor and tenderness of this cake (and nearly every cake, really). So with these ingredients prepped alongside the other [typical] ingredients (eggs, vanilla, cake flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, unsalted butter), it took less than five minutes to produce a beautiful batter.
The recommended range of baking time—35 to 45 minutes—is perfect; my cake was done right in the middle at 40 minutes. Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends “ignoring the safety precaution of cooling the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before unmolding” and instead cook it for the full 45 minutes, “unmold it onto a rack [immediately], place it in the freezer for 10 minutes and then cut a piece to eat. Still slightly warm, it is at its most tender.” I did not do this, because I planned on topping this cake with a buttercream or whipped cream, so I kept it in the pan for ten minutes and unmolded it to cool completely. While it was still a little warm, I cut the caramelization off the top (not necessary, especially since it’s so beautiful!) so that my topping would sit better on the cake. I did not waste what I cut off, of course; the golden brown “scraps” were delicious.
After the cake cooled, I decided to go the whipped cream topping route (because it’s convenient and I like it more than frosting). After my last encounter with one of the more intensive whipped cream recipes from The Cake Bible, I was wary to try anything more than standard whipped cream (heavy cream and sugar). However, Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends (among other toppings) Crème Fraîche for this Golden Almond Cake, so I embarked on a Crème Fraîche journey—which was not convenient nor do I think it came out right (a post for the Crème Fraîche recipe will be coming). I made a batch of American Buttercream in case the Crème Fraîche didn’t work out, and while I was able to work on my frosting skills, I regret trying to incorporate a topping at all. Oh well, I think it looks okay and frosting can always be scraped off to enjoy what’s underneath.
So there are two things I would do differently, in addition to doubling the recipe and making a two-layer cake.
- Reduce the almond extract just slightly. Anyone who has used pure almond extract knows that a little goes a long way, and while the 1 teaspoon did not overpower the overall flavor of the cake, it does taste like if I had added even a minuscule amount more than 1 teaspoon it would have been bitter. I hope that makes sense, and I have noted to try it with 3/4 teaspoon of almond extract next time (the toasted almonds do help enhance the almond flavor, so I don’t think the cake would be lacking in almond goodness).
- Either use whipped cream as a topping (and/or filling in a double-layer cake), sprinkle with powdered sugar (recommended in the recipe notes), or leave it plain.
Overall, I’m happy to have another type of cake on my list of favorites. And as always, thank you for reading as I make my way through and reflect on these recipes. Any other almond baked good lovers out there?
This is a book I’d like to get!