I sourced recipes for this book from everywhere, and I mean everywhere: friends, mothers-in-law, abandoned magazines in hotels, strangers, newspapers, antique cookbooks, stained handwritten notebooks, the Internet, and even from the back of a generic brand of almond paste sold at the grocery store around the corner from my house.
I can explain: My assistant, Maja, and I had tried a couple of apple–almond paste cakes earlier in our testing, but they were nothing special. In fact, after the most recent lackluster one, I’d decided to omit this cake, even though I love the combination of almond paste and apples and I was sort of surprised we hadn’t cracked that particular code. Three days before the manuscript was due, Iwas looking on the back of a packet of almond paste and out of the corner of my eye I saw a little recipe. I mean really little; it was printed on the short side of the 4-inch- /10cm-wide rectangular packet. It was less than a knuckle’s length of printed information, but as soon as I saw it, I knew we’d have to try it.
We had almond paste. We had apples. We had an hour between one loaf rising and another cake baking. So we made a few tweaks (more apples, for one, and adding almond extract and salt for better flavor plus brushing a hot apricot glaze on top to give the cake a special sheen) and an hour later we had the world’s best apple-almond cake in front of us. No joke. This cake is epic.
The crumb is so incredibly tender, it’s almost creamy (don’t skip the cornstarch!), and tastes of both sweet cream and faintly boozy almonds. You can’t taste the almond paste outright, but it gives the crumb an ineffable richness. The apples add lovely little punches of juicy tartness here and there, since they’re both cubed and folded into the batter and also sliced and laid out attractively on top. Baked in a 9-inch/23cm pan, the cake is a satisfyingly full 2 inches/5cm tall. The apricot glaze gives it a gorgeous, company-ready finish. And it keeps well, if wrapped in plastic, for a couple days on the counter. So in every way, this cake was worth the wait.
(200 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
(150 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups
scooped and leveled, minus 1 tablespoon/150 grams all-purpose flour
9 1/2 tablespoons
(85 grams) cornstarch
(75 grams) apricot jam
In This Recipe
Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180°C). Line the bottom of a 9-inch/23-centimeter springform pan with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pan.
Peel, halve, and core 3 of the apples, and cut each half into 6 even slices. Toss the apple slices with half of the lemon juice and set aside.
Peel, halve, and core the remaining apples, and then cut into 1/3-inch/8-millimeter dice. Toss with the remaining lemon juice and set aside.
Grate the almond paste and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment. Add the salt and melted butter; beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth. Then beat in the sugar and almond extract. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. Beat into the almond batter, and then fold in the diced apples. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Distribute the sliced apples decoratively in concentric rings on the top of the cake. Then, using the flat of your hand, gently push the apples into the batter; they should not be submerged, but rather lightly anchored.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a rack to cool.
Immediately heat the apricot jam over medium-high heat until just bubbling. Brush a thin layer of the hot jam over the still-hot cake. Let cool completely before removing the springform ring. The cake will keep at room temperature, lightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for several days.