Can You Stand One More?

One more almond cake recipe, that is.

You may know that almond cake is my favorite cake. And you may know that we had one for our wedding cake. You may also know that I tried and tried to perfect the recipe... and was eventually happy with the results.

Then along came my friend Heather with a request for me to make her favorite almond cake, one that she gets in Pasadena from The Kitchen.

TheKitchen for Exploring Foods is a wonderful shop in Old Pasadena where one can purchase an entire meal - or simply a sinful morsel - to take away. Or one can call them to cater a special event.

I have been fortunate to have tasted many a dish from this wonderful "foodtique," the brainchild of Peggy Dark, whom I was honored to meet on this visit.

During Marks and my last visit, Heather and I popped in to visit Peggy, and to pick up some goodies to sustain us: a late lunch for Heather (some beautifully poached salmon and a Mediterranean salad), and some cookies... and almond cake for us all.

I used the cooling rack to make a diamond-shaped pattern on the cake.
There was but one piece of almond cake left, and we playfully whined to Peggy that we were bereft at the idea of sharing among four people. "If only I had the recipe." I sighed, hopeful that it was somehow available.

She handed me a copy of Fabulous Parties, a cooking and entertaining book she co-wrote with Mark Held and Richard David. "You could buy this - the recipe is inside." My prayers were answered.

We chatted while Peggy, Heather and I oohed-and-ahed over the goodies that beckoned all around us. Peggy asked, "Have you tried my butterscotch pudding?" We both shook our heads, then asked the young man at the counter to add a few to our growing tally.

 Peggy waved her hand and said insistently, "No, no, no. These are my last three - just take them!" It really helps to be there with a faithful customer like Heather!

Heather bought me a copy of the book, which Peggy graciously autographed for me. While Heather is one of the most generous people I know, I know she had an ulterior motive.

I now had the recipe for her favorite almond cake. I could make it for her anytime.

~ David

Almond Cake
This recipe is based on the one by Peggy Dark. I made a few changes, not because hers wasn't already perfect, but because I use what is available (almond paste comes in a 7-ounce package) and I made a couple mistakes that worked well.

7 ounces almond paste (not marzipan)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pint fresh raspberries
confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly butter a 9-inch cake pan, and line the bottom with a round of parchment. Butter the parchment and then lightly flour the sides of the pan and buttered parchment. Set aside.

Grate the almond paste into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter and sugar and beat until well blended.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add lemon zest and Grand Marnier, and mix to blend.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder, and add it to the almond mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes on a rack before removing the cake from the pan. Invert cake onto a cookie sheet, remove parchment, then invert again onto a cooling rack. When completely cool, top with berries and a dusting of confectioners sugar.

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