You know what I’d like to bring back?
Tea time, and not the golf kind. Those British are on to something. I mean, I’m not the biggest fan of tea unless I’m sick–I’m much more of a debilitating coffee addiction kind of girl. But the tea time ritual itself, that’s what I want. Because you get to take a break in the middle of the day and socialize. And more importantly, you get to eat cake. (Or at least you do in my version of tea time).
The best coffee/tea-time cake is deliciously simple. Butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, maybe a little flavor, (I am all about almond!), or jam filling. Everyday cakes are truly spectacular without the fuss. Unfortunately these kinds of cake don’t always satisfy as an after dinner dessert. They shine much more brightly mid-day, shared with a friend or two over coffee and tea.
Which is why we need to bring back tea time. And while we’re at it, afternoon siestas. I would advocate for brunch too, another excellent reason to make one of these cakes, but it is already a recognized and well-practiced tradition.
In conclusion, everyday cakes are a largely ignored yet glorious treat. I’m a big fan and you should be too. So I’m going to share with you three fabulous cake recipes that I made on a whim and was ever so glad I did!
(in descending order by simplicity–the easiest to make is first)
Swedish Visiting Cake
from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours
1 cup (7 oz) sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling
Grated zest of one lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
1 tsp pure almond extract (optional)
1 cup (5oz) all-purpose flour
1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
About 1/4 cup sliced almonds
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a seasoned 9-inch cast iron skillet (or well buttered cake or pie pan).
Pour the sugar into a medium bowl. Add the lemon zest and blend the zest into the sugar with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Whisk in the slat and the extracts, if you’re using them. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the flour. Finally, fold in the melted butter.
Scrape the batter into the skillet and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top and sprinkle with a little sugar. If you’re using a cake or pie pan, place pan on a baking sheet.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until it is golden and a little crisp on the outside, the inside will remain moist. Remove the skillet from the oven and let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a think knife around the sides and bottom of cake to loosen it. You can serve the cake, warm or cooled, directly from the skillet or turned out onto a serving plate.
Italian Crumbly Cake
from Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano
1 1/4 cups (6oz) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
1 cup (7oz) granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick/4oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the topping:
1 1/2 cups sliced blanched almonds
1 large egg white
3 tbsp granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter, dust it with flour, and tap to knock out excess. (Or just go with the nonstick spray and you’ll be fine).
To make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon and set aside.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg, egg yolks, and sugar on medium speed until they are thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla extract, followed by the melted butter. Switch to medium speed and beat for 30 seconds.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
To make the topping: Put the sliced almonds in a medium bowl. Lightly beat the egg white in a small bowl with a fork until t is foamy and light, then pour half of it over the almonds, stirring to coat them evenly (discard the rest of the egg white). Sprinkle the almonds with the sugar and toss to coat. Spread the almond topping evenly over the surface of the batter.
Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes, or until it is springy to the touch and golden brown on the top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove the sides and allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
To serve, carefully remove the bottom of the springform pan with an offset spatula and transfer the cake to a serving plate. Any leftover cake can be wrapped in plastic and served the next day.
Almond Cake with Boysenberry Jam
from Bon Appetit February 2011
(I almost forgot where this recipe was and went through half my cookbooks before I remembered it was in the magazine).
3/4 cup sugar (5.25 oz)
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp almond paste
1 cup (4.5oz) cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks/8oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup boysenberry or any other flavor jam
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 8-inch round cake pan with 2-inch high sides (or regular 9-inch cake pan if like me, that’s all you’ve got.) Line the bottom with parchment and butter/spray the parchment. Blend sugar and almond paste in processor until finely gorund. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat almond paste, butter, and vanilla in large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating on medium high speed until incorporated. Fold in dry ingredients. Transfer to pan.
Bake cake 40 minutes without opening oven. Rotate pan; bake until top is golden and cake is firm to touch, about 8 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Run knife around pan sides. Invert cake; remove parchment. Turn cake over; cool on rack.
Using a long serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally. Using tart pan bottom as aid, transfer top half of cake to work surface. Spread jam over cut surface of remaining cake layer. Place top layer, cut side down, atop jam. (Can be made 8 hours ahead and covered at room temperature). Dust with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream.