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If you like the flavor of almond, this is your cake. If you like pastry cream and custard-y sweets (think vanilla bean-flecked creme brûlée), this is your cake. If you like astoundingly delicious desserts that happen to be light and delicate and easy to eat three slices of, then this is definitely your cake.
A classic Swedish recipe, this cake (known as mandeltårta in Sweden) is remarkable in a few ways. For starters, the layers are essentially oversized macarons. The batter consists mainly of sugar, beaten egg whites, and almond flour (there's a few tablespoons of all-purpose flour and some almond extract in there, too), yielding a cake that's chewy and nutty and reminiscent of those classic almond cookies. With just a touch of flour, it's light and doesn't leave you feeling weighed down the way a slab of chocolate layer cake would.
Then there's the icing: a billowy dream of a frosting that uses a very cool method. First, you make a classic vanilla bean custard by whisking hot cream with sugar into egg yolks and cooking it over low heat until it thickens and coats a spoon. You chill the custard until cold, then beat it into softened butter with a pinch of salt.
The frosting is ridiculously good and unlike anything I've tasted: like custard, but with the airy, whipped texture of an Italian buttercream. It's the perfect partner for the moist, nearly flourless cake which would be too delicate for a heavier, richer frosting.
Give this cake a try. It's one of my very favorite (and most surprising) things I've baked in 2017, and I promise you'll be bookmarking the recipe (especially the frosting!) to make again and again in the year ahead.
For the cake
- 6 egg whites (reserve the yolks for the frosting)
- 200 grams superfine (caster) sugar, divided
- 200 grams almond flour
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the frosting
- 200 milliliters heavy whipping cream
- 75 grams superfine (caster) sugar
- 6 egg yolks (from above)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 150 grams unsalted butter, softened