“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy.
And cooking done with care is an act of love.”
~ Craig Claiborne
Almond Layer Cake with Orange White Chocolate Ganache Filling and Frosting
If you’re as crazy about anything with almond paste in it as I am, then this Almond Cake is definitely the cake for you. This dense, extremely moist cake is to-die-for delicious and it’s super easy to make. I’ve baked this cake many times and it has turned out perfectly every time. While I’m normally not attracted to cakes, especially frosted cakes, I’m nuts about this cake—the first morsel always makes me swoon.
I typically serve this cake very simply, with just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, a smattering of fresh berries and a dollop of whipped cream. Even if this is all you do, it’s a winner. But for our special family Thanksgiving celebration this year I decided to kick it up a notch by making a yummy orange white chocolate ganache frosting, which I also used as a filling between the two layers. I decorated the top with plump fresh blackberries, which pair beautifully with the citrus notes in the orange white chocolate ganache. I also fashioned a few homemade chocolate garnishes for the top. The result was nothing short of sublime.
The Almond Cake was a big hit at our Thanksgiving dinner and several people asked me for the recipe. As promised, I’m posting it here on my blog. But before I could do that, I had to bake another cake to get some photos for this blog post (I didn’t have time to take any photos of the cake I took to Thanksgiving dinner). This time around, I decorated the cake with some of my homemade candied orange peel.
My partner couldn’t have been more delighted that I baked another Almond Cake so soon, as it is arguably his favourite cake and he didn’t get nearly his fill at Thanksgiving. My neighbors were very happy about it too, as I delivered slices around to several of them.
Almond Cake Recipe
Adapted from David Lebovitz
• 1 1/3 cups (265g) sugar
• 8 ounces (225g) almond paste (see note below)
• 3/4 cup (105g), plus 1/4 cup (35g) flour (140g total)
• 1 cup (8 ounces, 225g) unsalted room temperature butter, cubed
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 6 large eggs, at room temperature
• 1 teaspoon orange blossom water—optional (see note below)
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF (162ºC). Grease a 9 x 3 inch or 10 inch (23-25 cm) cake pan or springform pan with butter and dust it with flour. Shake and tap out any excess flour. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
Whisk together the baking powder, salt and 3/4 cup (105g) of flour in a small bowl.
Place the sugar, almond paste and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour in food processor bowl and process until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles the texture of sand.
Add the cubed butter and the vanilla extract, almond extract and orange blossom water and process until the batter is smooth.
Add the eggs to the batter one at a time and process, letting each egg incorporate into the batter before you add the next egg.
Add half the flour mixture and pulse it only a couple times. Add the remaining flour, pulsing only until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Be careful not to overmix at this stage. You can also transfer the batter to a bowl and combine the dry ingredients in by hand—this will ensure you won’t over-process it.
Pour the batter into the floured cake pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. The top should be a deep brown and the centre of the cake should not leave an impression when you press it—it should feel set and spring back. (I use a 9 x 3 inch round springform pan and bake for 60 minutes).
Remove the cake from the oven and let cake cool completely in the pan.
Once cool, run a knife around the outside of the pan and tap the cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set on a cake plate until completely cooled. (Tip from David Lebovitz: if you are having difficulty releasing the cake, warm the bottom of the cake pan directly on the stovetop for just a few seconds as this helps the cake release.)
Cut cake into two equal layers. Carefully remove top layer and place it on parchment paper. If you’ve never cut a cake into layers before, check out the ingenious dental floss method in the YouTube video below. It sounds crazy but it works perfectly!
Using an offset spatula, evenly spread a layer of orange white chocolate ganache on the bottom cake layer. Spread the filling right out to the edges.
Carefully replace the top of the cake layer on the filled bottom. Frost the entire reassembled cake using the remaining white orange chocolate ganache.
Decorate with candied orange peel or fresh blackberries and dark chocolate garnishes or drizzle with dark chocolate.
Store cake in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.
White Chocolate Ganache Recipe
- 16 ounces (454 g) of good quality white chocolate (I use Bernard Callebaut white chocolate drops, see note below)
- 8 ounces (250 ml) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure orange extract
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water; optional (see note below)
1. Place white chocolate pieces or chips in a large heat-resistant bowl.
2. Heat heavy cream to a simmer in a heavy bottomed pan. Make sure to stay put so the cream doesn’t boil over.
3. Pour the heated cream evenly over the white chocolate chips and allow to sit for a minute or two.
4. Stir to incorporate the cream and melted chocolate together. If all of your white chocolate has not melted, put in the microwave for 10 – 20 seconds. DO NOT overheat. Stir until all the white chocolate and cream are completely incorporated.
5. Add almond extract, orange extract and orange blossom water. Stir well to incorporate.
5. Cool the ganache and place some cling wrap directly on the surface of the ganache to prevent the top from drying out. Allow to stand at room temperature for 24 hours. If you refrigerate it overnight, it will get too hard to work with, so it’s best to prepare your ganache the day before you want to use it.
Note About White Chocolate Ganache
Several online sources say that you can use white chocolate in place of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate in ganache recipes. This is not true. White chocolate does not act the same as regular chocolate in a ganache. It took me 3 lbs of white chocolate to figure this out. After following two recipes online, both of which erroneously stated that their recipes worked with white chocolate, I was left with runny ganache that did not set.
It turns out that white chocolate ganache takes significantly less cream than regular chocolate. The amount of cream depends on the quality of your chocolate. Use a high quality white chocolate that has at least 28% cocoa solids (I use Bernard Callebaut white chocolate drops). Depending on the type of white chocolate used, and how thick you want your ganache to be, you may have to adjust the recipe, using either a bit more or less heavy cream. According to what I’ve read online, the amount of cream required for 16 ounces of high quality white chocolate can range from 3 ounces to 8 ounces of heavy cream. My recipe uses 8 ounces (1/2 cup) of heavy cream and this worked perfectly for the Bernard Callebaut white chocolate I used. If you are making white chocolate ganache for the first time for a special occasion, I suggest making a test batch prior to the time you’ll need it to make sure the ratio of cream to white chocolate works for the type of chocolate you have.
According to CraftyBaking, it is safe to store covered, properly made ganache at room temperature for up to two days. Make sure to place some cling wrap directly on the surface of the ganache to prevent the top from drying out as the ganache sets at room temperature. I always refrigerate my frosted cake as well as any leftover ganache as soon as I am finished frosting.
Decorating and Serving Variations
If you aren’t feeling inclined to make white chocolate ganache and layer, fill and frost your Almond Cake, be assured that it’s absolutely delicious simply dusted with a bit of confectioner’s sugar, garnished with a few fresh blackberries or raspberries and served with a dollop of whipped cream. This is most often how I serve it at home. But for something special try the white chocolate ganache filling and frosting and feel free to experiment with adding other flavours to it, such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or Crème de Cassis. Dark chocolate decorations add a lovely touch too—they are fun and easy to make and you can get as creative as you’d like (there are tons of excellent how to videos on YouTube).
This cake stays moist and delicious for three days (probably longer, but ours has never lasted that long!). It also freezes exceeding well, with or without the white chocolate ganache, so don’t be afraid to make this cake for yourself and freeze portions of it to enjoy later.
Note about Almond Paste
For some unknown reason, almond paste is not generally stocked in our Canadian grocery stores. I’ve made my own almond paste from scratch in the past but, while it is not difficult to make, it is an extra step that doesn’t allow me to be as spontaneous. Also, although homemade almond paste works just fine for most purposes, it’s impossible to grind it as finely as the commercial products, so the texture isn’t quite as good.
Love’n Bake Almond Paste is the commercial almond paste brand I’ve settled on. It was recommended by David Lebovitz and I love it because it doesn’t have any extra additives or preservatives—it’s simply almonds and sugar. I haven’t been able to find it locally, so I mail order mine. It’s available in 10 ounce cans or in 2 1/2 pound containers. For me, it’s well worth it to order the 2 1/2 pound container as I adore anything with almond paste in it, so it always gets used up quickly—in Italian almond cake, pignoli (Italian pine nut cookies), amaretti cookies, Italian almond tart, and another of my favourite desserts, Pear & Almond French Tart (see my previous post). Almond paste will store in your refrigerator in a well-sealed container for up to a year.
Note that almond paste is not the same thing as marzipan, which is much sweeter than almond paste.
If you live in Canada and can’t find a good almond paste where you are, here’s an excellent Canadian mail order source for Love’n Bake Almond Paste: Flour Confections.
Note about Orange Blossom Water
Orange blossom water is optional in this recipe, but I think it pairs exceedingly well with almond extract and adds a certain je ne sais quois to the flavour of this cake.
I first tasted orange blossom water in Italy, but didn’t know it at the time. I only knew I was strangely addicted to a particular kind of almond cookie we discovered in an amazing bakery in Sienna, Italy. I recognized the almond paste in the cookies, but there was also a slightly exotic note that I’d never tasted before. The cookies were so addictive, we made a special trip to the bakery the day before we were leaving Italy and bought four dozen, packed a dozen in our flight bags and the rest in our suitcase. It wasn’t until I bought orange blossom water for a homemade almond paste recipe that I was able to identify that exotic flavour I so enjoyed in those Italian cookies—it was orange blossom water!
Orange blossom water is wonderfully aromatic, with the sweet perfume of an orange grove in full bloom. It is made from a distillate of Seville bitter oranges from Spain and the Middle East and is traditionally used in a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes in Middle Eastern, North African and Mediterranean cuisine.
If you are like me and you enjoy hunting down uncommon ingredients, then do take some time to find orange blossom water. Look for it in any Middle Eastern grocer or in specialty food shops. If you live in Calgary, you can find orange blossom water at The Cookbook Co. in southwest Calgary or Almadina Grocery in the northeast.
If you can’t find orange blossom water where you live, there are many online sources. Here’s a good online source for Canada: Vanilla Food Company (as of the writing of this post they have a very reasonable $7.00 flat shipping rate within Canada).
How to Cut a Cake into Layers
Cutting a cake into perfect layers can be tricky. If you use the traditional method of cutting horizontally through the cake with a serrated knife, you can easily end up with uneven layers. I recently stumbled upon this ingenious dental floss method by Justin Chapple at Food & Wine. It sounds crazy but it works perfectly!
Mad Genius Tips from Food & Wine: How to Cut a Cake Using Dental Floss
All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife