This impressive cake needs no frosting or other embellishment. The flavors of almond and lemon mingle deliciously, and the crumb is fine and buttery.
For this cake, you'll need to start with about 3 cups of cake flour and sift it twice. Then use 3 cups of the twice-sifted flour for the recipe. By the time you're done with the flour, you'll have sifted it four times. Don't be tempted to cut a corner here; the cake's texture depends on it.
Servings: 12 - 16
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
- 2/3 cup blanched almonds, to prepare the pan
- 3 cups twice-sifted cake flour (see headnote)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/2 ounces (1/3 cup) almond paste or marzipan
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 1/3 cups sugar
- 6 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
- 1 cup sour cream
- Finely grated zest from 1 large lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter the inside of a straight-sided tube/angel food cake pan with a 16-cup capacity. Pulse the almonds in the food processor a few times to break them up a little, then process steadily for about 30 seconds, until most of the nuts are rather fine, with a few still in small pieces.
Pour the ground nuts into the buttered pan. Hold the pan over paper and rotate the pan so that the nuts coat the entire buttered surface. To make the nuts stick to the center tube, you must pick them up with your fingers and sprinkle them onto the tube. Loose nuts that do not stick to the pan may be sprinkled onto the bottom of the pan.
Sift the flour twice more, along with the baking soda and salt.
Beat the almond paste or marzipan and the 16 tablespoons of butter in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft and smooth. Add the almond extract, then the sugar, and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat, stopping the mixer and using a flexible spatula to scrape down the side of the bowl as needed, until thoroughly combined.
Reduce the mixer speed to low. Beat in half of the sour cream, then half of the sifted dry ingredients, the remaining sour cream and the remaining dry ingredients, scraping down the bowl as needed and beating only until mixed. Do not overbeat.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the grated lemon zest.
In a separate clean bowl, use clean beaters to beat the egg whites until they hold a definite shape when the beaters are raised but are not stiff or dry, or they will be too unstable to fold properly.
Use a large flexible spatula to stir a few tablespoons of the whites into the batter. Then fold in the remaining whites in about 3 additions, without being thorough about the folding until the end.
Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. To level the top, briskly rotate the pan a bit, first in one direction, then the other. The pan will be only half-filled; it is okay.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours. During baking, the cake will rise to 1/2 inch or 1 inch below the top of the pan. When the cake is done, a cake tester inserted gently into the cake will come out clean and the top will spring back if it is pressed gently with a fingertip. There will be a shallow crack around the circumference.
Remove the pan from the oven and let stand for 20 minutes, during which time the cake will sink down about an inch.
Cover the pan with a rack, turn the pan and rack over, remove the pan, cover with another rack, and turn over again, leaving the cake right side up to cool completely.
Adapted from "Maida Heatter's Cakes," by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011).
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
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