Make Ahead

Buttery French Almond Cake

December 12, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by Margot Mustich
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • makes One 9-inch cake
Author Notes

There once was a very small gourmet shop in Amagansett, New York called Besart. Bess, the cook, turned out exquisite croissants, baguettes, quiches, and cakes while her husband, Arthur, testily relieved customers of exorbitant amounts of money for the privilege of taking said delicacies home and eating them. Luckily for us, my mother stopped in at the shop every Saturday morning of the summer for a bag of warm croissants and one of these cakes, which Bess called the Pain de Gênes.

Ah, the Pain de Gênes! It was an irresistibly rich, positively addictive almond cake. When Bess and Arthur closed the shop, in about 1978, Bess took the secrets of this, and all of her venerated desserts, with her. The memory of her Pain de Gênes has haunted me ever since.

About ten years ago, I tried to resurrect this holy grail of cakes. No published recipe, in print or online, had either the flavor or the texture I was looking for. Although I hadn’t tasted the original in more than 25 years, I knew I hadn’t found it yet. I didn’t give up; I just decided to wait for an epiphany.

A few summers ago, I decided I had waited long enough. I set to work again. (It is truly amazing how many variations one can produce, using the same basic ingredients, by making slight adjustments in quantities and employing different techniques.) Happily, after about a dozen tries, I found myself exclaiming, “By George, I think I’ve got it!”

Bess didn’t share her recipes with anyone, not even Craig Claiborne (who, by the way, was crazy about her walnut cake with chocolate frosting). I am happy to share my recipe for this utterly wonderful cake with you. Rest assured, I haven’t left out any secret ingredient. —Margot Mustich

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 ounces almond paste (see note)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon dark rum (I use Myers’s "Original Dark" Jamaican rum)
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
  2. 2. Butter a 9-inch springform cake pan. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Dust the sides of the pan lightly with flour. Set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Reserve.
  4. Place the almond paste and the granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is uniformly sandy.
  5. Transfer the almond mixture to a large mixing bowl. Pour in the melted butter, and stir gently with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring to incorporate each egg completely before adding the next one. Stir in the extracts and the rum.
  7. Add the dry ingredients all at once, and stir gently until smooth.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Lift the pan about 6 inches above the countertop and let it drop onto the counter. This will bring any unwanted air bubbles up to the surface of the cake. Repeat. If necessary, use a toothpick to pop any large bubbles that form.
  9. Bake on a cookie sheet—I line mine with aluminum foil, in case any butter leaks through the bottom rim of the pan—on the center rack of the oven for 65 to 70 minutes, until the top is a deep caramel color, the center is firm to the touch, and the cake has begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan.
  10. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  11. Note: Almond paste is not the same thing as marzipan or almond cake/pie filling. Be sure to use almond paste. I use Solo brand. You’ll find it in the baking needs aisle of the supermarket.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Margot Mustich
    Margot Mustich
  • Fran
  • Susan Carter
    Susan Carter
  • janice wolf
    janice wolf

10 Reviews

Fran February 4, 2024
A truly delicious cake! Have you ever used the full 8oz of almond paste in the Soli box?
Margot M. February 5, 2024
Thank you! I usually find other ways to use the leftover 2 ounces. Like slicing it thinly and putting it on puff pastry under thinly sliced apple for an elegant but easy apple tart.
Fran February 5, 2024
Thanks! It's a great cake - and even better the next day!
Susan C. January 7, 2024
Can you suggest an alternative to almond paste - in the UK? I love a good almond cake 🎂
Margot M. January 7, 2024
For this cake, not really. If you don’t find almond paste in the grocery stores in the UK, perhaps you will find it through an online vendor of specialty baking ingredients.
Margot M. January 7, 2024
This might work:
CaroleU26 January 23, 2024
You can make it yourself:
Susan C. January 24, 2024
Thanks for the link, will give it a go
Susan C. January 24, 2024
janice W. January 3, 2024
Absolutely delicious !