Monday, May 14, 2012
This cake actually has another name, a given name: Almond-Rhubarb Snack Cake. That's also a good name; as I think we've discussed before, "snack cake" is a magical phrase, summoning visions of small, soft little cakes, perfect for one and suitable for consumption any time of day.
I made this cake once before, in its original incarnation, and posted about it. (Now, as I did then, I left out the nuts in the batter, as I don't like nuts in cake.) It was quite good with rhubarb. However, this time around, I had quite a few strawberries to use up. Strawberries are the tomatoes of the berry world: one day they're perfect, the next, they're mush on your counter. So, strawberry cake.
One of the best things about this cake--in addition to its perfect crumb and perfumed, almondy scent--is the almond topping, which is why I renamed it for this post. What you do is this: you mix a little melted butter, cream (I had half and half and that worked fine), flour, and some sugar. You then pour it over the cake when it's about 10 minutes from being done, and sprinkle it with sliced almonds. Together, they form a crunchy little frosting crust. Flo Braker, you're a genius. How do people think of these things? It's hard to imagine what this topping wouldn't be good on.
Honestly, I think the cake was even better with strawberries than with rhubarb. I feel like rhubarb benefits from macerating in sugar--the way it usually does in a pie or crisp. With this cake, you're getting unmacerated bits of fruit throughout. Strawberries are better for that than rhubarb, in my opinion, which can seem a little stalky. I mean, it is a vegetable.
Ultimately, you could swap nearly any fruit in here. I do think something with a little color is best--apples might taste good but they woudn't be as pretty as ripples of blueberries or raspberries running through. No matter what you use, though, the cake is impossible to resist and, like a good snack cake, is appropriate for devouring at breakfast, in the afternoon, or for dessert.
This recipe has a number of steps and rather specific directions, but I maintain that it is an easy cake to make. None of the steps are difficult, and having made this cake twice, I can vouch for the validity of the directions. They seemed to collectively result in a perfect, light, moist, and totally addictive cake.
Strawberry Almond Crunch Cake
Adapted slightly from Flo Braker's Baking for All Occasions
1 3/4 c. cake flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. baking powder
4 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. almond extract
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c. well-shaken buttermilk
1 c. strawberries, trimmed and either halved or quartered
2 T. unsalted butter, melted
1T. all-purpose flour
1 T. heavy cream (half and half worked fine)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. natural or blanched sliced almonds
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan with 2 3/4 or 3-inch sides. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
To make the cake: Have all ingredients at room temperature. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder onto a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the sugar in a steady stream, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat on medium speed until the mixture is very light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Add the extracts during the final moments of mixing.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, about 3 T. at at time, beating after each addition until incorporated. When the mixture is fluffy, reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing after each addition only until incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Fold the strawberries in with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the pan, and spread evenly with the spatula.
Bake the cake until a round wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of cake, 40-45 minutes (mine was done in 40).
About 15 minutes before the cake is ready, begin making the almond topping. In a small saucepan, mix together the butter, flour, cream, and sugar and stir over low heat until just blended.
About 10 minutes before the cake is ready, remove the cake from the oven, pour the topping mixture over it, and sprinkle the almonds over the top. Return the cake to the oven and bake until the topping spreads over the cake and just begins to bubble, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in pan for 20 minutes.
Slowly release the springform clasp and carefully remove the pan sides. Let the cake cool on its base on the rack for 10 minutes longer. Then invert a wire rack on top of the cake, invert the cake onto it, and varefully lift off the base. Slowly peel off the parchment liner, turn it over so that the sticky side faces up, and reposition it on top of the vake. Invert another rack on top, invert the cake so it is right side up, and remove the original rack. Let cool completely.
Serve at room temperature, cut into wedges. Cake keeps, covered and at cool room temperature, for 2-3 days.