Sugar High Friday #18: Almond Apricot Pound Cake with Amaretto

April 21st, 2006

Img_0501

I have a confession to make.

Although I have no aversion to pretty, colorful mixed drinks when I am out, my liqueur collection at home has been constructed entirely from my baking needs. The very first alcoholic ingredients to grace my shelves were, I believe, Kahlua and brandy, which were called for in the tiramisu recipe I was using. After the baking was over the bottles were relegated to the back of the pantry, until a visiting friend queried me in incredulous disbelief, "You mean you have no alcohol in this apartment at all?" (We were, after all, in college), to which I replied, "I think I have some Kahlua somewhere." Suffice to say I was not exactly equipped to host wild parties at my place. However, I did manage to add to my paltry beginnings as time went on and I learned the usefulness of having wines and spirits around to add dimensions of flavor to my cooking.

When I saw the topic for this month’s Sugar High Friday, I knew where I would look. Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen is both a tempting cookbook and a useful reference on baking ingredients – fully half of the book is devoted to discussions on fats, sugar, flours, etc, as well as flavorings such as liqueurs. Daley writes that "…liqueurs and spirits add depth, dimension, and complexity of flavor (not to mention a pleasant little kick, where desired)." This is how I prefer to use my collection of spirits – to add that extra fillip to flavor to my baking.

I picked one of her recipes I’d been meaning to try for a while: Almond Apricot Pound Cake with Amaretto.  Almond is one of my very favorite flavors, and I find its scent in the kitchen heavenly, even more than vanilla. Adding Amaretto is quite intuitive, since the liqueur is made not just from bitter almonds but from apricot pits, and thus enhances both those flavors in the cake. Although the recipe also calls for apricot brandy, I could not find any in the store that appealed to me so I left it out, preferring to emphasize the almond aspects.

Img_0505

This dessert is pound cake at its best: firm, with a tight but delicate crumb that collapses easily in the mouth into velvety goodness. It is also quite moist, most likely from the sour cream and the almond paste (The original recipe called for marzipan, but I prefer making almond paste from scratch; I’ve found the stuff in stores often has an odd tinned scent to it and has more sugar than almonds). Dried apricots studded throughout add bursts of chewy sweetness. The layering of flavors, from toasted almonds to almond extract to the Amaretto and the almond paste, create a marvelous complexity to the taste. It is quite sweet, more than most pound cakes, so it is very fitting for a dessert. As it is also a large cake, it will work quite well for the party I will be attending tomorrow. If I don’t eat it all myself, first…

Img_0508

adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley

makes about 16 to 20 servings

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, toasted

3 cups sugar

1 cup butter, room temperature

4 ounces almond paste, room temperature

6 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup Amaretto

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup cake flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sour cream

2/3 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. (I used a 9-inch springform pan with a bundt-style bottom; it made it easier to unmold the cake and there was enough batter left to fill a regular loaf pan).

Grind the toasted almonds and 3 tablespoons of sugar together in a food processor until very fine.

Combine the flour, cake flour, salt and baking soda together in a bowl and set aside.

In the mixer bowl combine the butter and sugar together on medium speed until very fluffy and pale. Add the almond paste and combine until well blended. (It is best to add the almond paste in small pieces to allow it to incorporate more easily. Be sure it is soft enough to blend; you don’t want to break the mixer!) Add in the ground almond-sugar mixture.

Add the eggs one at the time, scraping down between each addition. Add the almond and vanilla extracts, and the Amaretto.  The mixture should be very fluffy by now.

Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with sour cream in two additions.  Be careful not to overbeat the mixture at this point or the cake will become overly dense and flat.

Fold in the apricots. Turn the mixture out into the tube pan, filling it up a little over three-quarters of the way.

Bake the cake in the oven for about an hour to hour and a half, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Run an offset spatula or knife around the edge of the pan and the center tube. Unmold the cake unto the rack and let it finish cooling. You should wait until it is cool before serving because the cake is quite crumbly and delicate while it is still warm. However, I could not resist eating some of the bits that fell off – and they were very delicious!

Store the cake either in a cake container or wrapped in plastic.

Tagged with: + + +

Tags:

19 Comments so far ↓

  • Bea at La Tartine Gourmande #1

    Hi Anita,

    I fully am with you. Liqueurs in the house have been supplied for baking needs! ;p-) As to the almond flavor as well, I just love it. In view of your pictures and the ingredients, your cake really rocks!!! I can feel the moisten flavor from here! I wish!

  • Julie #2

    You describe this pound cake in the most delicious detail. It sounds divine.

  • Ivonne #3

    Anita,

    Where do I begin?

    First of all the cake looks so beautiful. I don’t have Regan Daley’s book but every time I see someone bake something from it I think I must get it!

    The picture is so beautiful … great job!

    Like you, I have never had much need for liquer beyond what I need for baking (although I’ll never turn down some Disaronno mixed with cranberry juice and lemon).

    I’ll be holding that bottle of Disaronno extra close now that I have this lovely recipe to try!

    By the way, how lovely that you got to visit all the places in Paris Sweets … talk about a dream!

  • santos. #4

    i keep passing this recipe in the book and mean to get back to it; you’ve convinced me i should get to it sooner than later. beautiful job.

  • Brett #5

    Anita, this beautiful pound cake sounds right up my alley. I’ve never met a dessert flavored with almond that I didn’t like. Regan Daley’s book is superb.

  • sam #6

    Looks yummy… it probably tastes even yummier. Perfect with a nice cup of tea.

  • Kieran #7

    Cool site, and good photos! That’s a cake I must try!

  • Anita #8

    Bea,
    I’ll trade some of my cake for the desserts you made;)

    Julie,
    Thank you! I tried to do the whole experience justice:)

    Ivonne,
    Amaretto sours are one of my favorite drinks – so of course there will be some Disaronno in the house! I love your dessert as well!

    Santos,
    Thank you! It’s a great recipe – I’m sure you’ll enjoy making it!

    Brett,
    Thanks! Regan Daley’s book was one of the first “serious” baking books I bought, so it has a special place in my heart!

    Sam,
    This is definitely a good cake for tea-time, or warmed up and served with some ice cream!

    Kieran,
    Thank you for visiting! I hope you enjoy the cake!

  • Nicky #9

    Hi Anita,
    your cake looks wonderful, you can almost see, how moist it is! And the Disaronno bottle brings back memories of holidays with my grandparents near Milan – friends and family back home always placed an order for a bottle of this famous Amaretto ;)

  • Ivonne #10

    Hi,

    I couldn’t sleep so I just came to take another peek at the cake …

    sigh.

  • 100g de sucre... #11

    ôooo those pictures are beautiful !!!! your cake looks like very goog!
    lots of love ++

  • tanvi #12

    That sounds like the most decadent, gorgeous almond cake ever. I am quite the same- only liquers that can be used in baking can be found in my pantry!

    PS. Im new to your blog, but I love it already!

  • Kat #13

    wow this looks great too! I can almost smell it! :)

  • Anita #14

    Nicky,
    Thanks! Nice to know about your fond connections to the Disaronno!

    100g de sucre,
    Thank you! Your site is very beautiful, I miss Paris so much!

    Tanvi,
    Thank you, and I’ll be sure to stop by your blog too!

    Kat,
    I love how the kitchen smells when using almonds!

  • Eric #15

    Just found your blog and will spend time looking through your Pastry School photos! I made this cake over the holidays and enjoyed it immensely. Did you notice the recipe doesn’t say what to do with the ground almonds? Also, what were you looking for in an apricot brandy? There’s usually not much selection in the liquor store.

  • Anita #16

    Eric,
    Thanks for stopping by – I hope you enjoy the photos
    I’m glad you like the cake as well – well enough to catch the omission in the recipe! I’m pretty sure I put the ground-up almonds with the almond paste and added it to the butter – I went back to her recipe and she sort of indicated that in parentheses but it’s not that clear. Good catch!

    As for the brandy, I think it’s just because I don’t think I would have any other use for it after this recipe and I didn’t think the 1/4 cup justified the purchase! Did you find it added more flavor to the cake?

  • freddy #17

    your cake looks wonderful!

  • Michele #18

    Beautiful…I am going to scale this down to make muffin-sized baby cakes. What is your recipe for almond paste? I agree that the store-bought kind is unpleasant — so I always avoid recipes that call for it. But I have yet to settle on a recipe for the paste because the amounts of sugar seem to vary greatly. Thanks for your help.

  • {Giveaway}:Lazy Summer, Iced Tea and Peach Almond Cake #19

    [...] on top to emphasize their freshness and ripeness (for a similar recipe with apricots in the cake, see here). A little dusting of confectioners’ sugar is all the quick embellishment you really need, [...]

Leave a Comment