August 24, 2008
Parma Almond Cake
The name of this cake, also called "Bocca di dama" in Italian means "mouth of a lady." I don't know if it's because, as cookbook author Michele Scicolone (or, "leave that chick alon-eh" as my boss, Tom, likes to refer to her) says, it is so delicious it's fit for the mouth of a lady.
All I know is it's very easy to make and very versatile served plain or as we do at work, sliced into 3 layers with ricotta cream and peaches in between and covered in whipped cream. It's great like that, but I prefer to make it a one-layer, simple crumbly cake, sprinkled with sliced almonds and served with a dollop of fresh ricotta cream.
What makes this cake so easy is it's two-step process. Combine your dry ingredients, whip your butter and sugar, then add your eggs and beat in the extracts, then fold your wet into your dry. I like to do a couple of different things while I'm making this cake so that I can let it mix a long time.
I've learned that mixing well and properly is the key to perfect cakes. It's not so much the baking or the combining, it's the patience you exhibit in letting the mixer go longer than you may want to. I've had to learn to wait, then wait some more, and let it do its thing. Because if your butter and sugar are not well combined and your sugar remains grainy, or if you don't beat in your eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, you really will end up with a dense and stodgy cake, with no volume and no height.
On the other hand, mixing well and being patient pays off in a cake that's rich, yet light and fluffy, tall and uniform, something for a lady to be proud of.
Parma Almond Cake (adapted from "La Dolce Vita" by Michele Scicolone, my go-to book for all Italian desserts)
1 1/2 c blanched almonds
1 c sugar
1/2 c a.p. flour
1/4 t. baking powder
8 T unsalted butter at room temp. (Michele uses only 4 T of butter but I found it wasn't enough to really absorb the sugar and create a smooth, fluffy texture)
4 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. almond extract
3 T sliced almonds
1. Preheat oven to 325F. Butter and line an 8-in. round cake pan.
2. In a food processor, combine blanched almonds and 1/4 c of sugar. Process untily fine. Add flour and b.p. and pulse to blend.
3. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and the remaining 3/4 c. of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. (This could take about 20 min. total mixing time). Beat in the extracts. Gently fold in the
ground almond mixture.
4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with sliced almonds.
5. Bake for 45-50 min., or until top of cake is golden and tester comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Serve this cake plain, or with ricotta cream or whipped cream, or slice in half and fill with apricot jam or any kind of fruit preserves, fresh fruit, or whatever you desire.