I'm right in the middle of that stretch of your late 20's/early 30's when everybody and their dog is getting married. It's hard on the wallet, but getting to see your friends from every stage of your life more than makes up for it. Sometimes, if you're known for the manly art of baking, generous friends will donate the spillover from their wedding gifts, and a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to receive this gorgeous cake stand.
Sadly, it's about an inch and a half too skinny to fit a standard 9" cake. Month after lonely month, the cake stand stood on its shelf, collecting dust. That is, until I made this amazing almond raspberry cake and realized that some cakes would just be more appetizing if they weren't towering monstrosities.
I latched on to the idea of making a 6" almond raspberry layer cake and slowly worked up to actually buying more cake pans. Boy howdy I'm glad I did -- it's a perfect candidate for a more toned-down cake experience.
As a matter of fact, this cake comes together relatively quickly, especially with half the batter to haul around the kitchen. By far the hardest part is tracking down almond paste. The first time I made this cake, I went to no less than five different stores, including Michaels (shudder), just to try to put my hands on some almond paste. It's in the baking section of your local grocery store, squirreled away on the bottom shelf, defying you to find it.
In other news, I made a pretty amazing discovery at a salvage yard in Oakland a few weeks ago -- a pristine top carafe for an old 8 cup siphon brewer. I cradled it like a newborn all the way back to Boise and, with a new 1000 mL boiling flask and some stuff from the brewer's supply store, created a fully functional siphon coffee brewer. I've been sketching out ideas for a homemade siphon brewer for a few months, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.
I can't say enough good things about this cake. The combination of almonds, raspberries, and dark chocolate is pretty tough to beat. Remember not to overmix and keep an eye on the baking time, and if you're not feeling chocolatey, cream cheese frosting would be a good option too. In order to make a full-on 9" layer cake, double the recipe below. Now go out and buy some unnecessary bakeware!
Almond Raspberry Layer Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 6-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set the dry ingredients aside.
- Place the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in another large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Begin to cream the mixture on low speed to break up the almond paste, then increase the speed to medium for about 2 minutes, or until the paste is broken into fine particles.
- Add the butter and almond extract and beat it well, then the egg whites, two or three at a time, beating just long enough to incorporate after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl several times to make sure it is evenly mixed.
- Dust about a third of the dry ingredients over the batter and fold in with a large rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in about half the milk. Fold in half the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining milk. Finally, fold in the last of the dry ingredients just until no streaks of white remain. Use a light hand and do not overmix. Divide the batter among the three prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out on to wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners and let them cool completely, about one hour.
- Assemble the cake: Place one layer flat side up on a cake stand or serving plate. Slide small strips of waxed paper under the edges to protect the plate from any messiness accumulated while decorating. Brush first layer with simple syrup, if using. Spread 1/2 cup of the raspberry preserves over the cake, leaving a 1/4 inch margin around the edges. Repeat with the second layer, brushing syrup if using and using remaining preserves. Add the third layer and brush with syrup if using.
- Spread a thin layer frosting of your choice over the top and sides of the cake. Let frosting set in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes (this is your crumb coat) then spread a thicker, decorative coat over the base coat. If you have any frosting remaining, pipe a decoration of your choice.
Whipped Bittersweet Frosting
- 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Melt the chocolate with the cream in a double boiler or metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk to blend well. Remove from heat and let stand, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate mixture thickens slightly.
- Place the butter in a large mixer bowl and with an electric mixer on medium speed, whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add the chocolate cream and whip until lighter in color and somewhat stiff, about three minutes. Do not whip too long or the frosting may begin to separate.