Almond Cakelettes

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.

His reaction?

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!

Almond Cakelettes

*slightly adapted from Thomas Keller

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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!

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21 thoughts on “Almond Cakelettes

  1. Janna Lynn says:

    Oh man, I can’t wait to hear about this. It’s always fun to watch you rage at someone else 😛

    And these look delish 😀 om nom nom almonds!!

  2. This was a very good read! That lazy guy did have it coming to him and I am sure your feelings were building with the last straw being his comment.
    This does look like an amazing dessert. I am partial to almonds, so of course, I have saved this recipe. Just the ingredients alone tell me that it is a winner. Glad I stopped in-great post.

    • Christine says:

      Thanks, Tina!

      You’re right about his comments being the last straw — tension had been building for a while. The guy HATES me now and won’t talk to me, which is ironic because I’m the person in class (other than his paired partner) who probably hates him the least, but he blames me for calling a spade a spade. Oh, well!

  3. dont worry about calling him out on what he says! tht sure was sexist of him!! most women arent lazy at all!
    i love this recipe–when i was a kid (before i developed lactose intolerance) i loved almond croissants. they were one of my fav foods and this cakelette totally reminds me of it! i can seriously taste it! ahahha 😉

    • Christine says:

      Aw, I’m glad this brought back some childhood memories for you. 🙂

      And, honestly, women tend to work harder than men do — there’s tons of empirical evidence to support this claim, too. Because of the way that labour is divided in most cultures, women tend to get less leisure time than men because they take on more domestic duties (which aren’t 9-to-5), sometimes in addition to having a job outside the home.

  4. A Tablespoon of Liz says:

    haha, I love how you told him whats up! And this cake looks delicious… almond is one of the those flavors that can stand on its own really well i feel.

  5. First off, I love cake. I wasn’t a fan growing up but that’s because there is so much bad cake out there and I wasn’t exposed to the good stuff.

    Your experience with students is so familiar to me. Culinary school is full of student tension and it only got worse over the course of the year. The competitiveness, the laziness, the lies, the stealing. Ugh.

    • Christine says:

      Yeah — WHAT’S UP WITH THAT!?

      My classmates mostly get along pretty well — other than this one guy, we don’t really have any serious personality clashes or fights. A couple other people in the class have a few bad habits that make everyone pretty irritated, but overall we’re usually really friendly to one another.

  6. ohshineon says:

    This recipe looks so delicious I’m basically drooling all over my computer right now. Could I substitute something else for the almond paste?

    – Katie at http://www.ohshineon.com

    • Christine says:

      I think you could, but you might have to make it yourself!

      Almond paste and marzipan are very similar — the only difference is the fineness of the almonds and the sugar content (marzipan is made of finer almonds and has more sugar). I’ve read this recipe for homemade almond paste and I think it looks pretty good: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Homemade-Almond-Paste — you would just want to stay away from really oily nuts, like peanuts or macadamia, when making it. I think hazelnuts or pecans could be interesting alternatives (especially with orange zest)!

      If you ever get around to doing this, please lemme know how it turns out. 🙂

  7. These looks so so good. Teach me your ways!

    • Christine says:

      Thanks, Chloe! I don’t know if I’m the best teach, though, especially since your recipes look awesome, too — but I’m betting we can learn from each other! 🙂

  8. Mmmm. I keep wanting to pair everything you bake with the perfect tea. This one would be perfect with something tangy and metallic, like an Earl Grey. Or something lemon-y.

  9. Arin says:

    Why you no give me mousse cakes?

    • Christine says:

      Cuz a lot of the cakes I make either 1) go to my class partner (who had never had mousse before!), or 2) get taken away to be sold. I’m not a huge mousse fan either way, so I haven’t been taking a lot of stuff home lately.

  10. Clara says:

    Will it be ok to omit lemon and amaretti?

    • Christine says:

      It’s more than okay to omit the lemon zest — although I might suggest replacing it with orange or lime zest, since citrus adds a nice burst of fresh flavour to almond. If you don’t want to use the amaretto liqueur, then I would just substitute with more honey. 🙂

  11. I just made an almond cake recently too–they are amazing. This one looks great with the almonds on top and the Amaretto just seals the deal for me. Good for you for telling that lazy slob what’s what!

  12. Beautiful cake. Unlike the previous writer, Amaretto is a deal-breaker for me — it reminds me of cough syrup — I might try the recipe with increased honey though, as you suggested above. This reminds me of a pastry we sometimes eat.

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