Sometimes you can’t stop thinking about someone, which might be labeled as passionate, obsessive, or in the worst case scenario, as stalker-ish behavior. If that’s how we think of person fixating on another person, what do we call someone who can’t stop thinking about a recipe? More specifically a cake. Obsessive, compulsive, maybe even a little dessert crazy? Whatever you call it, let’s admit it isn’t completely normal. Which pretty much describes me for the last few weeks, making the Clementine Almond Cake again, and again, and again.
If you read about the Clementine Almond cake last month and had your fill then you may want to stop reading now. Or pop over and enjoy some other food blogs like Molly Yeh or Sara & Hugh Forte or Beth Kirby. Of course if you want to follow me down the rabbit hole come along…
One of the things I wondered about with this recipe is the almond flour. I started with Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour, which while yielding delicious results, was rather pricy (in my opinion) at $13/pound. In the weeks I’ve been testing and retesting this recipe Stop N Shop has the almond meal/flour on sale for $10/pound. Trader Joe’s has a version of almond flour with the skin still on which goes for around $6/pound. The skin off version is more delicate in both taste and looks, but the question remains if it is worth nearly twice the price?
According to two out of my three taste-testers (Dan our plumber, Bill our neighbor and Shawn) they liked the taste of the TJ skin still on version. It does give the cake a charming freckled look. My take is if I were making this for a tea party I’d go for skinless and if I was making this for a casual weekend snack I think the skin on version is fine.
The second thing I’ve been playing around with is the citrus. Both inside and on top.
Let’s talk about the cake batter first. The recipe my friend Jessica gave me called for clementines, so I made it with clementines, and it was pretty fantastic. My parents then sent Shawn and I a huge box of honeybell oranges so I tried a version with those. Equally good, but the taste was definitely not as sweet, and to my mind not quite as moist (though this could never be called a dry cake). A couple of weeks ago I was at A. Russo & Sons and picked up a handful of tangerines and they too they had their own unique taste. If I were to pick one citrus I’d go with clementines. Second choice would be a mix of clementine, honeybell, and tangerine.
This past week at my knitting group this cake was served and Hilary brought up question of what you do when clementines are out of season. The question got me thinking – Cherry Almond Cake? Pear Almond Cake? You wouldn’t boil those fruit for two hours, but I can imagine pears being cooked into a sauce that would be close to the consistency of the boiled clementines. If any of you adventurous cooks try one of these variations (or another) let me know.
To decorate the top of the finished cake (which is completely optional) I’ve candied everything from kumquats to oranges. I love how the tartness of a kumquat still manages to come though, even after boiling in sugar water. I also like how the little grape-sized citrus hold their shape. With larger citrus I found myself just using the candied peel. I know the NYT article showed a mountain of candied clementines on top of the cake, but it’s both ridiculous (who the heck can cut through three inches of candied clementines without making it look like a chainsaw massacre) and more germane it’s the wrong proportion of cake to glaze to decorative topping. Of course if you can’t be bothered to candy anything no worries since the cake is still yummy with just the chocolate glaze.
The last thing I discovered through repeated bakings is that you should “flour” the pan with almond meal to keep if from sticking. I’ve added this suggestion to the original blog post because it wasn’t something I considered the first time around.
The cooling process is a tiny bit fussy in this cake in a Goldilocks kind of way. You can’t take it out of the pan the minute you pull it from the oven (too hot) or it will fall apart, yet you shouldn’t let it cool completely in the pan (too cold) since it will want to stick if you leave it too long. I’ve found that letting it cool in the pan 20 – 30 minutes on a wire rack, then carefully using a thin knife to loosen the edges seems to work best (just right). I also sit the pan on its side on top of some kitchen towels or a wooden cutting board, and with my knife pull gently up from the bottom of the cake before letting it fall back. I repeat this process, scooting around the entire circumference of the pan inch by inch. By the time I’ve gone all the way around the cake I can be pretty sure nothing is going to stick. Then I use the two wire rack method to unmold the cake. The two rack method has you gently unmolding the cake onto one wire rack (so it is now resting on its top) then placing the second wire rack on the bottom of the cake and flipping it over so everything is now right side up, then gently taking away the first wire rack.
Honestly this is probably waaaay more information than you needed, especially since most of you are just going to eat this cake with your eyes. Still it seemed worthwhile to share the knowledge acquired after baking
five well actually seven okay I’ll be honest, eight of these cakes. Perhaps I should apply for a job as a recipe tester at Cooks Illustrated where they love to test, test, and test again.
While this cake is so delicious I find myself wanting to share sometimes all you need is a little something. This amount makes a six-inch cake.
Clementine Almond Cake (the small version)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
shy 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup almond flour/meal
3/4 cup clementine purée (click here for how-to)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a six-inch cake pan with vegetable shortening then line the bottom with parchment paper, greasing that too. Sprinkle in some almond flour/meal, tilting the pan to make sure it is evenly distributed and goes up the sides.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together for a minute, then add the rest of the ingredients and whisk a bit more so everything is nicely combined. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for one hour, or a bit more. You want the cake to be “quiet” when you listen to it.
Let cake cool in the pan, on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge to loosen and stuck bits. Then tilt the pan on it’s side and again using the thin knife pull gently on the bottom of the cake to make sure it is released. Since this cake is small you can either turn it out onto your outstretched hand then right it onto a cooling rack or you can use the two cooling rack method described above. Cool completely then frost with chocolate glaze and candied citrus if desired.
Chocolate Glaze (for a small cake)
2 ounces chopped dark chocolate
Generous 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons organic corn syrup or agave
Candied Citrus (click here for how-to), optional
In a small saucepan over low heat start melting the butter then add the chopped chocolate and corn syrup. Stir gently until melted and let cool for a few minutes.
When cool enough to still be runny, but not so warm it will run all over the place pour onto the center of the cake. It should spread out just to the edges if you are careful. Or you can go wild and pour however you want. If you want to add the candied citrus let the chocolate glaze set up for a few moments then add.