1.11.2014

A Wedding Cake

For its flavor, this cake has been one of our favorites since the first time I made it ten years ago for Mark's birthday. Filled with apricot jam, and glazed with orange blossom water, it is a winner. But the original recipe for the cake itself is flawed. It sinks badly.

For these ten years, I have made this almond butter cake and have experienced frustration each time. It tastes so good that we generally don't care what it looks like, but there are times that I want it to look beautiful, too.

I sent the recipe to my friend Billy (who went through culinary school) for his input, and he suggested beating the heck out of the batter to aerate it. I did, but it continued to sink.

Pat, a research scientist here in Tucson, made some suggestions about temperature and pan size. I gave those a try, even changing the oven temperature midway through the baking, but none of his suggestions did the trick.

No one single bit of advice seemed to make a difference.

David put out a beautiful spread in our honor...
In July of 2013, after 18 years together, Mark and I got married and this cake was our choice for the wedding cake. We sent my recipe to our friend David (also a culinary school graduate) - he and his partner David hosted the wedding at their home in San Diego. (The minister was also David...)

David's touch of whimsy using the tomato can, and perfect groom cookies from Heather!
He had the same sagging issue with the cake, and brilliantly masked the problem but putting more apricot jam in the middle to hoist up the center of the round cake. It tasted wonderful, and everybody asked for the recipe... but it still sinks each time. I vowed to make the cake again and again, with different variations each time, until I got it perfect. I decided that once I perfected the recipe, I would share it with you.

Gorgeous photos of the wedding taken by OFB (Our Friend Barbara).
My attempts continued.

When whining about it to our friend Lynn in New York, she found a website that suggested I might be overbeating it. I tried this advice - and it worked. But I had to admit that with that version I also used a combination of different egg sizes - 4 large and 2 jumbo. The next time, I used only large eggs and it sank just a little. I wasn't fully happy...

Then, professional chef Michelle, visiting her parents here in Arizona, reiterated something Mark had once suggested: beating the whites separately, then folding them in. I tried again, this time beating the whites of 3 eggs until stiff, and folding them into the batter. Still, it sank a bit, if only just enough to frustrate me.

So, for our one month anniversary I made it again combining many bits of the advice given by friends above. (My fifth time since the wedding.) I thought I finally had it down, but no such luck. It sank worse than ever.

My attempt last week - and what has turned out to be my most successful to date - was to put together the batter in a food processor à la David Liebowitz and then bake it in two rectangular loaf pans (my idea). It actually worked! So this is the recipe you are getting today. (Note: it really worked pretty well for a round cake pan, as well - it only sank a little...)

San Diego David, by the way, "upgraded" the finishing of the cake for the wedding by adding toasted and sliced almonds on top of the orange-blossom glaze... It looked beautiful and added much to the final presentation, texture and taste. We will make it this way from now on.

In the end, I guess this post could also have been called, "It Takes a Village." From the original recipe (from Odense), to my addition of the apricot jam, to Mark's suggestion to use orange blossom water in the glaze, to the advice I received from Billy, Pat, Michelle, and Lynn, to San Diego David's addition of the sliced almonds, to David Liebowitz's method of processing it, to just figuring it all out, this cake HAS taken a village... but it was worth all the calories in our trials and errors.

However it looks, it remains Mark’s favorite cake, and I made it yet again for his birthday, the version you see here.

~ David

Wedding Almond Butter Cake

1 1/3 cups sugar
7 ounces almond paste
3/4, plus 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 jar best quality apricot preserves
2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed and strained orange juice
1 tablespoons orange flower water
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Grease 2 9-inch x 4-inch loaf pans and dust it with flour. Line the bottom and the two long sides of both pans pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor, process the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of flour until the mixture resembles sand. Add the butter and vanilla extract, then process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition, scraping the sides down to make sure the eggs are getting fully incorporated.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times, then add the rest, pulsing the machine until the drying ingredients are just incorporated, but do not overmix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake the cake for 50 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.

Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the ends that do not have parchment to loosen the cakes. Let the cakes cool 10 minutes in the pan.

Once cool, tap the cakes out of the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set each on a cake plate until cool.

Using a serrated knife, cut the two cakes in half horizontally. Slater the bottoms with an ample amount of apricot preserves, then replace the tops.

Mix confectioners sugar and orange juice over low heat until smooth and evenly blended. Add the orange flower water and mix well. Cool slightly.

Pour glaze evening over both cakes, using a spatula to smooth it out. Allow some drips to go over the sides. Top with sliced almonds.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Each cake serves 6-8.

33 comments:

  1. The wedding is so beautiful David and all that lovely food. So wonderful! I also adore this cake, a perfect choice I think. I love any kind of citrus and I have an obsession with orange blossom water too! Just curious, did you ever try decreasing the baking powder? I see you have 1.5 tsp for only ¾ cup of flour. BP is known to rise quickly and then sink if there's too much causing the sinking of cakes in the middle. Just a thought if you really like the cake in a round pan. Have a great weekend David and thank you for sharing your wedding with us! Loved seeing it.

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    1. Thanks, Nazneen! It was a really perfect day in so many ways! Now, to the baking powder. The original recipe (which sank most) had only 1 teaspoon baking powder. The best version was with 1.5 teaspoons, but I think this gives us a good reason to make the cake once more with only 0.5 teaspoon bakin powdery! (As if we needed an excuse!!!)

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  2. Again congratulations on the wedding David and Mark! You wedding cake looks beautiful and I would love to try the making the cake.
    That Ovenex pan!! I want to get one of those, were did you find it??
    xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Magda! Even unadorned this cake is just amazing - buttery, almond-y goodness! I have several Ovenex pans from my mother, but I see them from time to time in antiques shops here. I will keep my eye out for you! The cake and pie pans have the most wonderful slider to release the cake and pie!

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  3. Hi David, Many congratulations and best wishes to you on your wedding ! This is a perfect cake, i am so touched by its perfection and presentation... ! This is a terrific post ! It's wonderful to see your each and every post. Hope to see more of your creative endeavors ! bookmarked this recipe and shall try soon. Wish you and your family a very Happy and Blessed New Year!!!
    Thanks & Regards, Sonia !!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Sonia, for your kind wishes and compliments on my blog. I just fond yours and look forward to your posts this year! I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and wonder-filled New Year! (Loved your photos from NYC!)

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  4. I feel your pain David, I have a recipe for a lemon buttermilk cake, every one I give it to loves it but it always sinks in the middle - it takes a fair bit of camouflage and creativity to hide the sinking in the middle - so frustrating. Congratulations on the wedding, the cake looks amazing and I can't wait to make it.

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    1. Karen - it is nice to know that YOU have cakes that fail - it gives people like me hope! But isn't it fun to do all the camouflage and present it looking perfect?

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  5. Isn't the food processor amazing? I make everything in it, and think I would choose it over my kitchen aid if I had no choice (which I do, thank god!). I'm making this asap, or as soon as I bear to crank up the oven! I love how you don't go for the usual flavors. And Iove cakes with almond paste. Almonds are amazing. Love the groom cookies too!

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    1. I have had a food processor since I was 20. I insisted on it as a Christmas gift from my parents when I moved into my fist apartment in college. It was a cheap Robot Coupé (unlike their really, really expensive ones now...). Then, when my mother died, I inherited her Cuisinart and used it till it gave up the ghost a couple of years ago. To your point, I didn't even have a Kitchen Aid until three years ago! SO that is 35 years with a food processor, and only three years with a mixer. That says it all! Thanks, Paul - I think you will like the cake!

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  6. Oh, what a yummy looking cake. I love your story (and almond cakes, too). Thank you for your efforts and for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Nicole! I was so glad that Brad and Sue were able to be there - it meant so much to us! I hope you make the cake and enjoy it, although I am not sure how to make it GF! (I bet you can do it, though!)

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  7. Love the story behind this recipe…If at first you don't succeed, try, try again or in this case many tries. Thank you so much for sharing such a meaningful cake with us along with photos from your wedding. It looks like a perfect celebration.

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    1. Thanks, Karen - sometimes recipes can be frustrating but I prefer to take the challenge and make it fun!

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  8. What an amazing post David. I love the rich history behind this cake, the fact that you never gave up on it despite its tendency to sink (whether the sinkage is major or minor), the fact that it's continually been your favourite despite the frustrations. It's a bit like a marriage, really ;)

    The cake itself sounds gorgeous; moist and fragrant, crowned with apricots and toasted almonds. It looks wonderful as a wedding cake... the two-groom cake topper, cookies (and multiple Davids) made me smile majorly!

    Eighteen years... almost at 19. You'll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of your relationship before you know it. Doesn't time fly? Thanks for sharing this gorgeous cake recipe with us, I'm going to give it a go... let's see if I avoid the sinkage! xx

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    1. Laura - Actually, on Valentines Day it will be 19 years ago that we met. Time does fly!

      Yes, garlic in restaurants can be tricky, especially since it has become the one thing that everybody puts in everything, The one place we can travel with no fears is (believe it or not) Italy. The use of garlic in many regions is minimal, and it is also only used when it was traditionally used. For example, it never appears in a Bolognese sauce in Italy, while it does in the U.S. - sometimes up to 6 cloves (from someone - a celebrity chef - who claims to be authentic in his Italian cooking...). Oh well, I don't suffer too badly! :) Much better than wheat, dairy, or wine allergies!

      Glad you enjoyed the wedding photos. It was really fun.

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  9. This is exactly why I'm a confident cook and a somewhat insecure baker! Science is not my thing -- in fact the mere thought of it makes me anxious. My 10 yr old son would understand this cake much better than me. Bravo for all of your attempts and for being successful on your most recent attempt! (If that photo of the slices is from your wedding, I must say it doesn't look like it sagged -- it's beautiful.)

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    1. Thanks, Valentina - I really did take this on as a personal crusade! The slices you see were NOT from the wedding - thus, no sagging!

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  10. First - A very late congrats to you and Mark!
    Almonds and apricots are such a wonderful flavor and your wedding cake looks fabulous! I sure admire your persistence in trying to keep it from sinking -but, I don't think the sinking would have kept me from noshing on a slice or 2 or 3 of this!

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    1. Oh, Shashi - the sagging in no way stopped us, either! (Of only it had...) But I did want this to be something that looked as good as it tasted! :)

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  11. Congrats again, David!
    These cakes look so gorgeous. I have to see what they taste like. xo

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    1. Coco - it does have a real Persian feel to it with the almonds, apricots and orange flower water! You will love it!

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  12. What a dramatic cake journey! I adore butter cake and something tells me I'd like this even more, thanks to the exotic flavours.

    Congrats on the wedding last year, and congrats on your anniversary in four weeks!

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    1. Thanks, John - we celebrate every anniversary we can! :)

      Mark has been wanting me to try rosewater in the frosting but I love the orange flower water so much.... why change?

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  13. A simply gorgeous cake! I love anything with almond paste, and I also love the exotic flavor of orange blossom water!
    Congrats on your wedding! It looks like it was a lovely affair! The groom cookies are fabulous, as are all the photos!

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! The groom cookies were such a special surprise from our friend, Heather, who got them from Girard Gourmet in La Jolla (CA).

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  14. Looks mouthwatering! Congrats on the wedding and for finally nailing the cake. I imagine it tasted heavenly given the time you took to perfect it. Of course, all it takes is patience and more practice.
    Jason Underwood @ La Patisserie

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    1. Thanks, Jason! Happily, the cake tasted great every time. It just looks as pretty as it tastes, now! As for needing patience and practice, were you referring to the cake or marriage? :)

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  15. Sincerest congratulations to you on your wedding! And there must be some good luck embedded in the number of David's present :)

    This cake sounds like my dream - all of the elements I desire most in one dessert. Thanks for the tips and for striving to perfect the recipe. It will undoubtedly be worth the effort to make!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by C&L, Yasmeen! Yes, I think having multiple Davids at any event is a good omen for all. :)

      I have just been enjoying meandering through Wandering Spice and love it. Look forward to much more!

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  16. Oh my goodness...what an incredible project and your final wedding cake appearance FANTASTIC! Well done :) therefore glad to possess discovered your site!When meeting your cake decorator for the primary time, bring the maximum amount data as possible; theme of the marriage, color of your dress, woman dress and inspiration from the area and flowers. it'll create the choice easier.

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    1. Thanks, Sanam - those are great tips for every bride and groom!

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  17. I love the way you write and share your niche! Very interesting and different! Keep it coming! california cakes in redlands

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