Almond based dishes are a staple of Cucina Italiana from beverages to decadent desserts. Almond paste or pasta di mandorle is the basis for popular sweets throughout the Italian peninsula. On my last visit to Italy my cousin surprised me with a supply of Italian almond paste, so fragrant that when I arrived home the sweet smell of almonds perfumed the contents of our luggage. I simply had to do something special with it. A classic Italian Almond Cake or Torta di Mandorle would be a spectacular way to pay tribute to this wonderful gift.
The Italian almond paste was supple and less sweet than the brands readily available in the United States; a natural product consisting of almonds and sugar from Calabria. Not to worry, the varieties commonly available in your local supermarket will do just fine in this recipe.
Even through the dog days of summer Italian Almond Cake is a breeze to prepare – a one bowl torta. The other ingredients are more than likely in your pantry: eggs, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, sliced almonds, and an orange (ok you may not have an orange, but this is easy to remedy).
This moist, tender cake highlights the almond paste magnificently. It is rich enough to serve on its own or with some fresh berries on the side along with a nice espresso.
Grazie da cuore bella cuginetta – I only hope to prepare this for you some day. Why not bake Almond Cake for someone you love in the coming week?
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- 8 ounces of almond paste
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 10 tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature
- Grated zest of one large orange
- ⅔ cup of cake flour sifted
- 4 fresh large eggs, room temperature
- ¼ tsp. baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 6 ounces of sliced almonds
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
- *Freshly sliced strawberries or other whole berries marinated in a few tablespoons of granulated sugar, optional
- Preheat the oven to 325º and arrange a shelf in the middle.
- Butter the sides and bottom of a 9” springform pan, then line the bottom with a circle of buttered parchment.
- Place the almond paste and granulated sugar in the work bowl of a standing mixer on medium-low speed and cream until the almond paste has been uniformly broken into soft granular like pieces. This could take some time so please be patient.
- Add the softened butter and grated orange zest, cream on medium-high speed until the mixture is uniform and somewhat fluffy.
- Begin to add the eggs one at a time beating for one minute after each addition, scraping down the bowl midway. Continue until you have incorporated all 4 of the eggs. The batter should be homogeneous and creamy.
- Remove the work bowl from the mixer stand and begin to add the cake flour by hand using a sifter over the work bowl. Gently incorporate the flour using a rubber spatula with deep strokes to be certain that the flour has been added uniformly. Continue to fold in the flour until no traces of white powder remain, the batter will be quite thick.
- Turn the batter into the prepared springform pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Top the cake batter with the sliced almonds; this is a rather heavy coating of almonds, resist the urge to skimp.
- Place the cake pan into the preheated oven and after 30 minutes quickly open the oven door to test doneness with a wooden toothpick. The cake is done when the toothpick comes out clean, generally about 45 minutes depending upon your oven.
- Remove the cake to a wire rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. At this point run a sharp knife around the sides of the springform pan, being sure to press the knife against the sides of the pan as you go around. Release the spring and carefully remove the sides of the pan. Allow the Italian Almond Cake to cool completely on the wire rack.
- Once the cake is cooled, use two large spatulas to lift it off of the springform pan bottom. Carefully pull of the parchment paper and place the cake on a decorative platter. Dust heavily with confectioner’s sugar and serve with sugared berries if desired.