Some days, you just need to bake a cake. No birthdays or anniversaries to celebrate, just a certain late summer light coming through the trees that is worthy of pulling out layer pans and a mixer. This almond butter cake adapted from Susan Purdy's "The Family Baker" is a lifesaver. If you keep butter, sugar and flour on hand and teeny bottle of almond extract, you can pull this cake out of your hat at the drop of a...hat, I guess. Apricot preserves made a pleasant contrast for the filling and I just so happened to have sliced almonds to stick on the sugary glazy top.
Almond Butter Cake
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup milk (if fresh from the fridge, put measuring cup with milk in micro and zap for about 20 seconds to take the chill off.)
1. Preheat oven to 350 and position a rack in the center. Generously grease bottom and sides of pans and dust with flour (there are some cakes you can skimp on this step; not this cake, be diligent). Go to the cake release insurance extreme and use parchment paper as well.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar and extracts until soft and blended, then beat the eggs in, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl and add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Scrape down the bowl and incorporate the jetsam into the batter.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared into the prepared pan or pans, smooth the top and bake fr up to an hour for a tube pan and 35 minutes for layers. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, before turning out and completing the cooling.
The tube cake is the easiest version, and very nice as a last-minute (that is, if you have an hour to bake) or pantry cake. As a layer cake, with apricot preserves as a filling and an almond glaze over top, it's elegant enough for a grown-up birthday or special occasion cake. As a loaf cake, it's suitable for those times when you need "one for us, and one to share."
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1 or 2 tablespoons milk or cream or what have you
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, or a little glug
sliced almonds, for garnish, optional
Stir together, let sit for a few minutes to dissolve any lumps in the sugar. Pour over cooled cake. Top cake with slivered almonds.