So, I totally forgot to mention this in my last post, but I’ve decided that November is going to be Cake Month ’round here!
Cake is a huge part of pastry school training — aside from bread, cake is one of the most historically rich and diverse pastry traditions. In class we’ve been making chemically leavened cakes, egg foam-based cakes, cakes that rise using only steam, mousse cakes, cheesecakes, cakes, cakes, cakes.
Cakes on the braaaain.
And, while I love all cake, my favourite kind of cake tends to be “American-style” cake, which is denser and moister than French chiffon and sponges — so I bet you can guess what kind of cakes I’m going to posting all about!
Speaking of cake and pastry school, in case any of you are wondering, classes are going pretty well.
There were some serious tension that all came to a head the other day, though — mostly over the fact that not everyone has been pulling their weight when it comes to cleaning up at the end of the class (and there’s a ton of cleaning up to do).
The biggest do-nothing is this older guy in the class, who shall remain nameless, with a bad attitude.
He tends to be overly competitive, unwilling to help others, not interested in doing dishes, makes inappropriate comments towards some of the women in class, etc. He prefers to check his cell phone and pick at crusty bits on the stove top by his work station instead of pitching in.
Anyways, so we have this round table discussion about cleaning up and responsibility at the end of day and whatnot, and we (read: me and a couple other people in the class) call him out on his apparent cleaning allergy.
To fold his arms, deny all responsibility, and call us “lazy females” in a voice oozing with indignity and disgust!
Now, normally I’m not one to lose my cool, but when I lose it, I really lose it, and sexism is one of my only hot buttons.
Scratch that — sexism is my 5000°C rage button!
“YOU’RE A SEXIST PIG!” I roar, and half the women turn red from holding back their laughter at seeing Mr. Lazy get what’s been long comin’, a couple others jump in with me, then our “civil discussion” all goes downhill from there. Oops.
Guess I can have a bad attitude, too… sometimes. Harr harr.
Now, about this next cake — it’s cake that has nothing to do with bad attitudes, bitch fests, sexist comments, or any kind of negativity (because cake is love, people).
These almond cakelettes are single servings of incredibly soft and delicious almond goodness, and the type of cake that’s leavened with steam alone.
That said, you don’t have to actually steam these cakes! Cakes leavened by steam are cakes that get their rise from one crucial factor: how well you cream the butter and sugar together.
The science: creaming the butter and sugar until it’s incredibly light and fluffy traps tiny air bubbles in the creamed ingredients, which, when heated above 100°C in a hot oven, causes the moisture seeping out of the butter to fill the air bubbles in the batter with liquid, which then evaporates and causes those air bubbles to expand and give the cake its lift.
Whew. Get all that?
Anyways, I’ve included photos of how the process should look when it’s successfully done — get it right, and you’ll be surprised by how much a cake without any meringue or chemical leaveners can puff up!
*slightly adapted from Thomas Keller
- 7 oz./200 grams almond paste (1 small tube)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 4 tablespoons amaretto liqueur, divided
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- sliced almonds and icing sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Butter and generously flour a 12-cup muffin tin.
Sift the flour and salt together. Set aside.
Use your hands to break up the almond paste into small chunks, then combine them with the white sugar in a mixing bowl, and beat on a low speed with a paddle attachment for a minute or two. Increase the mixing speed to medium and mix until the largest pieces of the almond paste have broken up into bits no bigger than peas.
Slowly add the pieces of cold butter to the bowl and cream until the mixture is very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl often to ensure even mixing.
Add the honey, almond extract, and eggs, one at a time, and continue to cream on medium speed — keep scraping that bowl!
Turn the mixer speed down to low and add 2 tablespoons of amaretto liqueur and the lemon zest.
Mix until the amaretto and lemon zest are incorporated, then turn the mixer off and use a spatula to gently fold in the flour until the batter is smooth.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling two-thirds of the way full.
Bake for 18 ~ 20 minutes, or until the edges are well-browned and the top-middles of the cakelettes are golden.
Cool in the tin for 30 minutes before gently running a knife around the edge of the cakelettes to loosen and remove.
Lightly brush the top of each almond cakelette with the remaining amaretto liqueur and sprinkle with slices of toasted almonds.
Dust with icing sugar with desired and dig in!
Depending on how you fill your tins, this recipe yields 9 ~ 12 little almond cakelettes, which are best enjoyed the day of!
Next week I promise to post a cake recipe that DOESN’T contain any alcohol.
Yeesh — all this booze hounding I’ve been doing… let’s just blame it on school-induced stress and my tendency to be irresponsible even at the best of times. Ha!