An apricot and almond cake for Esther
February 18, 2012 § 2 Comments
The evening of my nanna’s funeral I rolled up my sleeves and spent some glorious alone-time in the share house kitchen making my first ever off-recipe cake. An amalgamation of a cake from Serious Eats and another from Trotski & Ash, I had a bunch of ingredients, and was using almond flavours to go with a tapas dinner party the following evening.
For most of the twenty-four years that I knew my nanna, she did not eat a lot of cake, and she especially disliked big creamy extravaganzas. She was a bit of an ascetic, almost a hippie, and would give us grandchildren vitamin c and cloying apricot squares to chew on instead of sweets. This, despite the fact that she was a country girl and her four younger sisters were uniformally CWA types that brought boxes of chocolate slices and yo yo biscuits whenever they visited.
So an almond and apricot cake sounds nanna-appropriate right?
But near the end of Esther’s life alongside the dementia and whatnot, something in her food-brain changed. She started drinking tea with milk and sugar instead of hot water with lemon! She’d ask for a serve of cake at family events, and finish it! She had cream!
I hope this cake would have suited both Esther’s tastes and, if nothing else, I think she’d appreciate how terribly pretty it is, without being ostentatious. Nanna was quiet and interested, vaguely spiritual and sometimes very funny. She was never ostentatious.
225 g butter
225 grams or 1 cup caster sugar
½ tsp almond essence
200 grams or 2 cups ground almonds
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
60 ml or ¼ cup milk
⅓ cup apricot jam/conserve
2 tablespoons Marsala wine or similar sweet fortified wine, sherry… (optional)
250 ml cream, whipped with a couple of drops of almond essence
Flaked almonds, toasted lightly in a pan and allowed to cool
Preheat oven to 180℃. Don’t use fan force. Line with baking paper the bottom of a small circle cake tin, around 18cm across.
Cream butter and sugar till pale and fluffy. Add almond essence and eggs one at a time. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl with the ground almonds. Scrape butter mix into the flours, add milk, and lightly mix. Scrape the batter (it should be thick and sticky) into the cake tin.
Cook in oven at 180℃ for 40 minutes. Check cake is ready by putting a skewer in. If the skewer comes out clean it is cooked. If it comes out coated with batter, give the cake another 10 minutes in the oven and check again. Allow cake to cool completely, even overnight if you want to make the cake a day ahead.
Cut cake in half, a bread knife gently sawn through the cake tends to work best. Gently warm the alcohol and jam together, 20 seconds in a microwave will do. Spread filling onto cake base, put the cake top back on.
Top with whipped cream and just before serving, sprinkle generously with the toasted flaked almonds, dust with icing sugar by gently spooning icing sugar into a sieve and shaking over the cake.