Fresh food. Simple and seasonal. Mostly Mediterranean.
Whenever I'm asked to bring a dessert to a gathering of any kind, I don't have to think too hard. I often go straight to "Cooking for Mr. Latte," Amanda Hesser's delightful memoir and thumb through its pages until I arrive at the most dog-earred one of them all -- the page featuring her Almond Cake. This cake never fails to wow guests at every House Warming, Baby Shower, High Tea, you name it. Her Almond Cake not only tastes moist and delicious, but it's also pretty and not cloyingly sweet like some party cakes with gobs of heavy frosting. With an entire tube of almond paste, its only for almond lovers, but who doesn't like the flavor of almonds? It pairs perfectly with a steaming mug of coffee or tea or in warmer months, with chilled lemonade or iced tea. It can be dressed up with whipped cream and berries on the side -- or not. As Hesser herself says, "If you ever get in a Martha mood, bake this cake." Need I say more?
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter sides and bottoms of one 9-inch springform pan; line sides and bottoms with parchment paper and butter the paper or, alternatively, butter the pan thoroughly. Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Sift the flour and salt into another bowl.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste, a little at a time, at medium speed, and beat for 8 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. It will look curdled; don't worry. Blend in the almond extract and sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, just until blended.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake about 1 hour. It is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool in the pan. When ready to serve, sift confectioner's sugar on top and slice like a pie.