Friday, July 20, 2007
Plum Frangipane Cake
For some time now I have told myself to make use of the abundance of almonds, one of California's largest agricultural exports. This is not only because they are brilliantly nutty, but their ubiquity makes them affordable (in New Zealand they can be prohibitively expensive, especially since I love them so much). I am a sucker for almonds, whether they be chopped and scattered over a sweet syrup as a finishing touch for baklava, infused in scalded milk before being added to a custard and chilled for ice cream, or used in their slithered form, incorporated in a tagine.
When I saw Molly's recipe for Almond Torte with Sugared Apricots over at Orangette, my mind was made up - now is the time to make use of those ubiquitous almonds and turn them into a frangipane. In the loosest terms, frangipane is any cream or batter made with almonds; in stricter terms, it is an almond cream filling for tarts and pastries. For a cake batter, almonds all but guarantee a dry but light texture and always add a nutty complexity.
Plum Frangipane Cake
For the ingredients and method, please see Molly's recipe.
If you have almonds, you need one third cup of them ground. This can easily be done in a food processor within seconds. If you're using a mini blitzing machine, like a Magic Bullet, be sure to keep an eye on the almonds as they may clump up. If you see this happen, stop blitzing - they are ground enough already. If you do not have almonds, substitute with 1/3 cup flour, but I suggest you give it a try, especially if you haven't before, for the texture is toothier, adding some gusto and substance to stand up to your chosen stone fruit. Also, I love to see the flecks of almond dotting the batter, much like sun-kissed freckles on a Summer face.
I veered from Molly's path just a bit. I don't particularly like apricots, so I went with plums, which had been picked from the divine poetess Suzanne's tree. I greased my vessel, a 9.5"/24cm oval stoneware platter, whereas Molly recommends an ungreased 9"/23cm springform pan. I wasn't sure of the logic behind ungreasing, but I was sure of the fact that I wanted nothing to stay behind in my pink Le Creuset stoneware dish. I used one egg and 1/4 cup full fat milk instead of 2 eggs. Into the batter also went 1 teaspoon of bitter almond extract, which, with this small quantity, has the taste of marzipan more than one of bitterness.
Although it was the middle of the day and potentially too la dolce vita, I served the cake with homemade vanilla bean and brandy ice cream. The combination of plums and almonds seem to bring out the Italinate desires within me. Elegant Marcello Mastroianni and charming Giorgio Locatelli, I am not, but this cake helps me live out my delusions of having an Italian afternoon tea.
I notice you are posting more often now that you're in the States. I hope your stay is a long one for many reasons.
Susan, lovie - Yeah, I'm a sucker for pretty pink food, too. I do find plums or cherries absolutely perfect with almonds, but they come from the same "family", so that is probably why. I have two more months in the US, and I hope the time doesn't pass too fast.
Nora B - I love it when plums and pluots (which I prefer to apricots) are in season. They are versatile and develop amazing flavours when baked. I was thinking of making a very run-of-the-mill crumble with the plums, but I was glad to have found Molly's recipe, which reminded me how much I love to use almonds in baking.
Veron - This is the perfect Summer dessert. Frangipane, of course, can be made year round in the US what with the almonds keeping so well; if only good stone fruit had a long season. At least varieties of plums ripen at different times, so one could get them for six months of the year.