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How it is

I think I might have told you about my father’s friend Michael. Sometime in the early ‘90s, Burg was on his way out of the grocery store, and being something of a car buff, he stopped to check out a Citroën in the parking lot. While he stood there with his grocery bags, the owner of the car came along - or maybe the owner was in the car; these details are long gone - and he turned out to be a man named Michael. They struck up a conversation, and something must have clicked, because for years after that, they were best friends. Michael was a native New Yorker, a former cab driver-slash-writer turned small business owner, intense and inquisitive and superhumanly well read. He and my dad would meet up on the weekends to a walk around the neighborhood and talk, and then one of them would make lunch, and they would talk some more. Burg must have told him that I liked to write, because the first time we met, Michael asked to see my poems - that’s what I was into then - and he told me about Adrienne Rich and her Diving into the Wreck, which wound up being the first book of poetry that felt like it spoke directly to me, 14-year-old me, just-starting-to-figure-stuff-out me.

I just realized that the way I’m talking makes it sound as though Michael is dead. I’m happy to report that he’s not. But I guess because Burg is, I tend to write about everything around him in the past tense. I should work on that.

In any case, Michael was - and is - a very good cook, and he and his wife Becky would have us over sometimes for dinner. In retrospect, I’m sort of surprised that they included me, seeing as I was a teenage punk at that point, but they did. And in some ways, I remember their cooking more vividly than my own parents’. Michael once put a whole chicken in a roasting pan, scattered a drained can of hominy around it, dumped a can of Coca Cola on top, and parked it in the oven until the juices were dark and caramelly, and though I have an uneasy relationship with superlatives, I have no problem declaring it the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. Michael now claims not to remember how he made it - or even that he made it - and despite a number of tries, I’ve never been able to produce anything remotely like it. He could also make a platter of hard-boiled eggs with wedges of tomato and sweet onion - a sort of composed salad, dressed only with olive oil and salt - taste exceptional, like no egg, tomato, or onion since. The same goes for his boiled yucca. Boiled yucca! And Becky, for her part, made a perfect almond cake: a damp-crumbed, camel-colored loaf that, though she insisted it was easy and absolutely no big deal, I still think about all the time.

When I was in college, they moved away. They had never seemed at home in Oklahoma, and they live in France now. And of course, here I am in Seattle. I don’t see them often, but the last time I did, Brandon was with me. The four of us went to dinner at a restaurant that turned out to be terrible, but getting there, we took a nice walk. It was a long walk, and we wound up in pairs, Michael with Brandon and Becky with me. The guys were a few strides ahead, and I could tell that they were deep in conversation, and at one point, I saw Michael lean in and loop his arm through Brandon’s, grinning, cackling conspiratorially, the way he always did when he was talking to Burg. And not long after, it occurred to me that meeting Michael might be the closest Brandon ever gets to meeting my father, and vice versa.

We’ve had a lot of out-of-town visitors in the past few weeks. First came Brandon’s parents, then a friend from New York, and then, last weekend, my mom. I haven’t been doing a lot of memorable cooking - not unless you count the soup I made last Thursday, which was memorable in the sense that it was virtually indistinguishable from pond water. But one night, I wanted to make us a nice dinner, and I had a new dessert recipe that I wanted to try, a type of souffle flavored with almond paste. I went to the store to pick up the ingredients, and when I got home and started unpacking the grocery bags, I noticed that the back of the almond paste box had a recipe for an almond cake. I once asked Becky where she got her cake recipe, and though I don’t really remember what she told me, as I stood there last week with the box of Odense brand almond paste in my hand, I suddenly felt very, very sure that it came from the back of that box. So I scrapped the souffle plans and switched to cake, and that night, with Brandon’s dad and our friend Sam, we tried it. It was okay. The almond flavor tasted muted somehow, lacking in salt. I sent the leftovers home with Sam, and as further evidence of how only-okay the cake was, I should tell you that the last half of it showed up at Delancey four days later, when Sam tried to pawn it off on the cooks.

But you haven’t read this far to hear about an only-okay cake, and actually, a lot of you probably haven’t even read this far, so if you have, this is the part where I thank you. And tell you to go preheat the oven and get out a springform pan, because by now, you probably need reinforcements.

The cake you should make is not the recipe on the back of the Odense almond paste box, but rather the recipe that follows, the one I should have made in the first place. It comes from Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte, and I am certainly not the first person, nor the last, to sing its praises. It is a lot better than okay. I first heard about the recipe years ago, maybe when Adam made it, but I remembered it only after putting the Odense cake in the oven. The truth is, it bears a resemblance to the Odense recipe - the basic ingredients (butter, flour, baking soda, and almond paste) are used in the exact same quantities - but Hesser’s recipe uses a proper amount of salt, and some sour cream, and almond extract. What you get is a big, sturdy cake with enormous flavor and fragrance. I don’t know what’s going on in there, but the texture is incredible: so tender and tightly woven that it slices with no crumbs, but also pleasingly chewy. Its only flaw is that it caves in the middle as it cools, but that’s just how it is. It’s still fine to look at. Of course, it’s not exactly like Becky’s cake; hers baked in a loaf pan, for one thing, and I don’t remember it caving. But making it made me think of her, and of Michael, and it made me get out Diving into the Wreck (which doesn’t speak to me now the way it did when I was 14, but that’s probably for the best), and it made me want to write this down for you, which also means writing it down for me.

P.S. Annnnnd now that I wrote all this, I went back in my archives and found that I did indeed write about Michael and Becky years ago, more than six years ago, with a different almond cake recipe that I had since completely forgotten about. Going to go curl up and die now. Goodnight. (But I do think today’s almond cake is better, and it uses more standard ingredients, which is nice.)

Almond Cake
Adapted from Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte, and from her mother-in-law, Elizabeth

It would be tough to improve upon this cake, but next time, I might cut the almond extract back to ½ teaspoon, rather than 1 teaspoon. I love almond extract, but sometimes it leaves an aftertaste.

2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 (7-ounce) tube almond paste, cut into small pieces
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure almond extract
Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter (or spray with cooking spray) the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. The line the sides and bottom with parchment paper, and butter (or spray) the paper. In a small bowl, mix together sour cream and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste a few pieces at a time, and beat on medium speed for 8 minutes. (Yes, this seems like a long time, but do it. The mixture will get gorgeously fluffy.) Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. (If it looks curdled, don’t worry.) Beat in the almond extract and the sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter a couple of times to make sure there’s no unincorporated flour lurking around.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly with the rubber spatula. Bake for about 1 hour: the cake is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also when it shrinks from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack, and cool the cake in its pan.

When ready to serve, sift powdered sugar over the top, if you like.

Yield: about 10 servings


Blogger A Plum By Any Other Name said...

There is something about a recipe that doesn't ask for much. A recipe without pretense. And yet a slice of this cake looks like perfection. Damn. I hate when it's that easy.

6:50 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Junsui said...

You can never have too much almond cake! In writing this post, you're just expanding our horizons and giving us more almond cake options. Love the simplicity; the best cakes often have a humble, unassuming look about them.

7:07 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Blackboard Kitchen said...

I can't wait to make this. Love your posts, Molly. Your writing and storing telling always gets me. Every time.

7:52 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Sprout said...

Lovely cake and even lovelier story! Reminds me of the Marmalade Cake you shared with us last year, and how delicious that was. Thanks for sharing, as always.

7:56 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Pei-Lin said...

Molly, I've been waiting for a new post from you! Look at what I've been rewarded with: a very personal post about you and Michael and Burg. And the almond cake, too. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

I think the trick to a BIG, BIG flavor in any almond cakes is pure almond extract (not the imitation one, yuck!)? That's what I think, at least. Even when I'm supposed to be something maply, with GLUGS and GLUGS of PURE maple syrup poured in (which is very expensive in Malaysia, apropos), the end product doesn't taste intensely maply at all. I have to use Mapleine to make up for that, just like what my American "mom" does with hers - her famous pumpkin bars with maply frosting. I wouldn't consider that cheating. Haha!

P.S. I've been enjoying reading your book. =)

8:00 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Swiss said...

Lovely cake and a thrill to see the family story telling again.

8:02 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Rebecca said...

You just made me cry. When I was reading your book I cried a lot, because your story with your dad was so similar to my story with mine, except mine was fresh and raw and sore. And now I'm married and my dad never met my husband and so I'm a snivelling wreck here at the computer. I should probably get a tissue so I don't short circuit the keyboard.

Of course that was meant to sound like a good thing. In retrospect I have no idea why...

Oh yeah, the almond cake sounds great too :).

8:06 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger ars.arboreous said...

I loved reading the story of your friends. And I'm going to make the cake this weekend. Thanks!

8:06 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Amanda Laird said...

I'm going to bake this cake in hopes that it is as lovely to eat as this was to read.

8:08 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger dairokkan said...

What a touching story, especially that part about Brandon and Michael. Thanks for the recipe, I'm going almond paste-chasing this weekend.

8:20 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Jackie said...

What a great story - I'm a big weepy mess too (like Rebecca). Love your writing and the wonderful way you talk about your dad. Can't wait to try the recipe!!

8:27 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger natalia said...

thank you for this beautiful entry. i was brought to tears by it.
your gift of storytelling is a magical thing.
as is this cake, i am sure!

8:35 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Michelle Stiles said...

My goodness Molly - I am not really sure what it is, a misplaced PNWener or your beautiful writing but I love this post for it reminds me of the style of your book which I adored. MMMmmmm... The perfect twist of almond via a cake. Delightful....

8:56 PM, April 28, 2011  
Blogger Megan said...

We miss you, you know. Come back soon.

8:57 PM, April 28, 2011  
Anonymous DChandler said...

I made this cake years ago and made it for my Dad who was visiting me. It's a great cake and made it soon after reading about it in Cooking for Mr. Latte. I just finished your book and loved it. I can hardly wait to try the recipes.

9:53 PM, April 28, 2011  
Anonymous Janae said...

This was such a wonderful story, Molly. Also, I finally just read your book and loved it. I found your book so touching (and if you consider the fact that my husband and I were not able to have a wedding, and I was kind of able to live that experience through your book while I read it, it was especially moving and sweet). Thank you!

10:33 PM, April 28, 2011  
Anonymous Heidi - Apples Under My Bed said...

I loved reading about your friends, Michael and Becky, and their wonderful food. This almond cake looks lovely. Thank you for the recipe, I will most certainly try it out.
Heidi xo

10:43 PM, April 28, 2011  
Anonymous Barb F. said...

You may want to try Lindsey Shere's Almond Torte (from Chez Panisse Desserts) -- it looks much like the one in your snapshots. It's beautifully moist, dense with almond paste, and yet it's still light. I've tried to make it somewhat my own by adding the zest of an orange -- the flavors go together very well.


10:53 PM, April 28, 2011  
Anonymous Michelle said...

Molly, I simply adore your writing and your posts. You have this extraordinary gift of making me (and I'm sure all your readers) feel as if we know you, as if we're friends and tomorrow we will walk into Delancey or your kitchen to share some food and conversation. And I adore your recipes as well. My favorite being the delicious French sauteed carrots with thyme and onions. Love love love. Thank you for doing what you do and making me smile and especially for inspiring me to meld my two loves: writing and food.

12:01 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger erica said...

what a nice story Molly! and the cake looks great--sounds like it comes out with the perfect texture! would you recommend any garnishes like whipped cream or fruit? and to drink--tea or coffee or a little dessert wine? i would be curious what your recommendations would be :)

12:21 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Pete said...

Good the share this almond cake with good friends!

1:30 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Patty said...

Great writing! A really good friend is such a wonderful thing and I love how they found each other. I am also happy to hear that you can make soup that tastes like pond water and cakes that are only okay, because not all my cooking is outstanding, either.

2:58 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Katie said...

I'm reading my way through the archives of The Amateur Gourmet right now, and I recently read his discovery of Amanda Hesser's cake. Sounds great, and so is your story about Michael and your father. I cried when I was reading your book; you are a beautiful writer and one of the inspirations for my own blog, which I just started about a month ago.

By the way, do you still live in Ballard? That is where my boyfriend is from, and he went to college in Bellingham. We were just there for Christmas with his parents, and had I known about Delancey I would definitely have insisted we eat there! Next time I fully intend to.

4:19 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Honestly Good Food said...

Lovely. Just lovely.

4:25 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Patrice said...

I'm tearing up into my morning coffee with your sweet, sweet story & recipe. Thank you for sharing it with us. It sounds similar to the cake my family loved when we visited friends in France -- Gateaux Basque. I remember it being moist and almondy. Can't wait to try the recipe.

4:32 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Molly said...

In my teenage punk poetry writing years, it was Anne Sexton's "Transformations" that spoke to my just-starting-to-figure-stuff-out self. Two decades later (egads!) I'm not sure how her words would affect me, although there are a few things that do remain the same for me: my small nose stud (a reminder of my teenage punk self) and my unbridled love of all things almond.

4:41 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Kim said...

Almond cakes are so good. This little cave in the middle is tempting me a lot. I'm printing this recipe right now!

4:44 AM, April 29, 2011  
OpenID panther said...

This might be pretentious and/or stupid, but why don't you call/write/email Becky for her recipe?

I absolutely LOVE your book, your blog, and following you on twitter.

I'm kind of a fangirl.

5:21 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous LimeCake said...

There's always space for almond cake, no matter how many times you've written about it before. This is incredibly lovely!

5:51 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Nancy said...

Beautiful post. There is nothing quite like the fragrant simplicity of an almond cake. And roast chicken with hominy and cola - priceless!

6:20 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Nicole said...

And to think I just looked in my baking cabinet and thought, "maybe I'll make something sweet today". And my eye caught the tube of almond paste! And we got strawberries from the CSA yesterday! Good morning fate! :)

6:23 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Lauren @ Spiced Plate said...

Ha -- I love stories like that, of people becoming friends instantly in the most random of ways. That's sort of how my husband and I met. I liked his beard, we were at a dance party,and we started dancing. I found out he liked red wine, and knew he must have other good qualities. As they say, the rest is history.

Almond cakes are so lovely. Thank you for the story, and the virtual slice of cake. I can almost taste it.

6:25 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Sense of Home said...

Molly, you have a gift for telling a story, of course we kept reading. The almond cake sounds like a wonderful accompaniment to a good story.


6:35 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Lindsay said...

I love this story, and the beautiful photos. I look forward to your posts all week!

6:36 AM, April 29, 2011  
OpenID echolage said...

beautiful story telling thank you for sharing a little beyond the food.

6:50 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Ena said...

What could I use instead of almond paste? Marzipan, perhaps?

7:09 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Apricot said...

I read that Amanda Hesser made this cake in a food processor when on vacation and didn't have a mixer available. Anyway, she described the resulting cake as having a more "downy" texture. I'm not sure what that means, but thought I'd pass it along.

7:49 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Rocky Mountain Woman said...

So I wasn't a reader of your blog six years ago, and I am so glad you wrote about these lovely folks again because I really enjoyed reading about them and a good cake recipe is always a welcome thing!

7:51 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Sri said...

I have only occasioanlly dropped into your site. I saw a picture of a cake and started reading the post. After having read the whole post, have to tell you that yuo have a wonderful free flowing style of writing. Very engrossing :-). And thanks for the cake recipe as well.

8:01 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Catherine said...

Oh Molly, I do love the way you write about your father. The part about the walk to dinner and how it was the closest Brandon would get to meeting Burg had me half teary and half smiling-such a lovely thought.

The cake looks delicious, though I am a complete sucker for anything almond. I would make the most of that crater by piling it full of berries.

8:06 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Laura. said...

um, yep! i cried too. don't curl up and die, i love reading whatever you post, even if you manage to repeat yourself approximately every six years. and i'm sure i'm not alone :)

8:47 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood said...

That is lovely, just lovely. We didn't get to do much baking at culinary school, but when I see your almond cake, I do wish we had. But, no, the focus was savory (I wrote about it here, if you are interested: Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood http://amzn.to/eOKJWw).


8:49 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger GirlSavorsLife said...

I've never been a big fan of how almond paste tastes, but might give this recipe a try. Even better than the recipe was the story leading up to it. Love the writing.

9:19 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous marichu said...

I got stuck reading your story about your dad's friend. Memories of my dad and his best friend who was like a dad to me came back.How i miss them! But your simple almond cake recipe was an extra bonus from your article. Looks deliciously good and i am sure i'll give it a try one of these days. Great post!Thanks for sharing

9:37 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Joy said...

The cake looks so good. thank you for sharing the recipe.

9:43 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Ruth said...

I love it when you tell a good story. Love the recipe too! Thanks!

10:04 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Kasey said...

Molly, how lovely. I was touched by your description of Michael and the sense that you felt of your father somehow being present during your walk. It's funny how sometimes you just get this sense from a person -- how they really, really knew someone so well, they sort of carry the other person with them somehow.

11:16 AM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Renee said...

I'm new to your blog and wow, your writing style just brings me in.
Where are my memories from long ago? Weird that they are so few, which I guess makes readying about someone elses so intriguing. Thank you for sharing and I'm looking forward to making this marmalade cake too!

11:48 AM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Conny said...

Reading to the end of the post was absolutely worth it! I love your story (and I secretly hope that Michael reads it too). I'm not sure I'll make the almond cake, but I sure will be thinking about it for the rest of the day.


12:15 PM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger California Laurel said...

This cake recipe looks delicious. I have been following your blog for somewhere around a year now, and I met you in Bon Appetit, where I fell in love with your article. Your blog inspired me to start mine (actually, as much as I hate to say it, I sort of modeled mine after yours...)I love your weaving of food and personal life, and I believe I even attempt to replicate that on my blog. I love that your writing makes me want to cook more. Maybe its not even the item that you're writing about, but it sends me to the kitchen.
Your blog is definitely my favorite. Thank you for your recipes and your inspiration.

1:00 PM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Justine said...

Anytime that a baking recipe calls for sour cream, I think of my Meme. She makes the best sugar cookies and I think it might be because of the sour cream. I have never been able to get the recipe exactly right when making it by myself, but it was an every weekend affair when I was little for a very long time.

(Also, I am, sadly, almost finished with your book. It is such a lovely little thing. I am so happy for your success, Molly.)

1:13 PM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Flavor of Italy said...

Too funny about the Coca Cola chicken story! I love Coke and I also love chicken, but using Coke to cook with well...NO. No thanks.

I said too funny before only because I JUST was told about using Coke to cook. Isn't it funnyhow you hear something or learn a new word and it then seems to keep popping up all over the place?...

1:16 PM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Today's Gift said...

This sounds delicious! I love almond flavoring and I even have a springform pan!

1:41 PM, April 29, 2011  
OpenID girlseeksplace said...

You definitely have a way with words. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to reading your book.

2:05 PM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous molly said...

Oh, sweet citroens. My father fell in love with them, and owned two. My first ten years of riding around happened in citroens. They were the most magnificent cars to look at, and ride in. Save the fact that they never worked, never drove. Still, they were lovely. Much like an almond cake, I suppose, lovely to eat, if a little dimpled in the middle.

2:19 PM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Melissa said...

I made this today, based on your blog post, and it was delicious. Moist, and I used only half a teaspoon of almond extract, and it was perfect.

I used convection back, and could have taken it out at 53 minutes but left it in until almost 60. Next time... shorter.

5:01 PM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Bethany Harris said...

i must say...the last several months have been rough....there is no more rug to pull from under my feet....as of tommorow..i will be homeless...as of four months ago...my family fell apart...my boyfriend lost his job...i am holding onto mine with a pinky finger....but time and time again...my sense of home or place has been either in the aisles of a small market ..or reading orangette and my miscellaneous cookbooks/foodoriented literature (sidenote...my copy of a homemade life is dogearred and riddled with small notes).......anyhow...this last month has been the worst...and everytime i had internet access...i would check to see if something was posted....only to feel like a call went unanswered...today...on the brink of being broken....you were there.....and i thank you.

6:24 PM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Christine said...

Why is it that all nut cakes cave in the centers? And yet I make them over and over. They're that humbly, dependably delicious.

This one's on my weekend to-do list.

6:55 PM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger HarmlessColor said...

I love all things almond...sometimes I wonder if it because of the Italian in me...I wonder if almond flavor travels in my blood because I desire it at all times.

7:15 PM, April 29, 2011  
Anonymous Amy said...

I must have read about the other almond cake back in the day, but I don't remember and it doesn't matter.

This was a gem, Molly. Beautifully told.

5:16 AM, April 30, 2011  
Blogger Claudia said...

I think there's a proverb that you cannot have too many almond cake recipes. As it rains yet again (at least it's not snowing), I am pulling the almond paste out of my cupboard...

7:22 AM, April 30, 2011  
Blogger desertplantlady said...

What's interesting to me is the recurring search for the almond cake of your memory, trying to recapture that place and taste and feeling, as personal journey and quest. It's an even better story that you wrote of it before.

I also appreciate the beauty of simple ingredients. Gonna try this cake. I can almost taste it already.

8:36 AM, April 30, 2011  
Blogger bicoastal ennui said...

If Diving Into the Wreck no longer does it for you, maybe you'd like something by Dorianne Laux (Awake), Jack Gilbert (The Great Fires), Bob Wrigley (The Lives of Animals), or Kim Addonizio (Tell Me). Just some poetry suggestions to go with your cooking!

9:34 AM, April 30, 2011  
Anonymous kickpleat said...

My mother in law makes a very delicious almond cake for Christmas and I've always wanted to recreate it. But now, I think I'd like to bake up a new one and see how it compares. And this one sounds lovely - I love a dense good chewy cake filled deep with memories. Lovely.

1:03 PM, April 30, 2011  
Anonymous cait said...

molly, i have read your blog for years & years now, and you write so beautifully, like ive always hoped to write, and your little piece about michael just about made me cry. its lovely, and touching. just popping in to let you know.

4:22 PM, April 30, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry about having written about this topic before....it's all new to some of us even if we have read it before! You've made feel I can attempt an Amanda Hesser recipe, I've always been intimidated before.

7:20 PM, April 30, 2011  
Anonymous Amanda said...

This looks so lovely, simply dense and yet tender...your photos really bring it to life.

8:47 AM, May 01, 2011  
Blogger red ticking said...

i can almost taste it... d e l i t e f u l... xx pam

11:27 AM, May 01, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you thought of baking this cake/tart in a bain marie? That usually eliminates the sagging middle of a number of cakes. Now if that only worked for my middle... Norine

2:07 PM, May 01, 2011  
Blogger SeattleMommy said...

"And not long after, it occurred to me that meeting Michael might be the closest Brandon ever gets to meeting my father, and vice versa."

So sweet - made me cry! You are an amazing writer.

6:26 PM, May 01, 2011  
Anonymous Gadia said...

your writing is pleasure with a with bittersweet pangs. I read to the end and wanted to go straight back to the beginning.

2:41 AM, May 02, 2011  
OpenID lacaffettierarosa said...

Some recipes need to be cooked repeteadly for a lifetime, until you don't even remember how special they are, to taste that amazing. My parents are more hosts than guests to other families, and I do the same. But when people invite me over for dinner, and they prepare their best food for me (instead of feeding them crazy experiments, like I do all the time), they make me feel very special.
Always on the look for the perfect almond cake. Thanks for the entry :)

5:25 AM, May 02, 2011  
Anonymous Jen said...

I, too, wrote a lot as a child. My mother found a handful of floppy disks (!) in a cabinet last week and gave them to me on Easter. They are full of poems, short stories, and my attempt at a novel (60 pages, if I recall correctly), but how in the world can I get to them without taking them to a computer tech? Regardless, I'm glad you have people in your life who still connect you to your father in different ways. The image Brandon walking with Michel was touching.

7:06 AM, May 02, 2011  
Blogger Deb said...

Couldn't wait to go home and make this over the weekend. I love almond but I thought the paste was potent enough so I substituted vanilla extract for the almond. A lovely, lovely flavor and texture. Thanks for another winner.

8:27 AM, May 02, 2011  
Anonymous Pip said...

Sometimes stories need to be retold and memories need revisiting. Michael and Becky sound like they are worth the second post. And this cake...well, this cake could be worth a third!

9:21 AM, May 02, 2011  
Anonymous Linsey said...

I love hearing your stories...and look how many of us DID get to the end! The almond cake is on my list for weekend respite. Thanks for the Monday-pick-me-up!

4:45 PM, May 02, 2011  
Anonymous JB said...

I LOVE this cake (and loved your story to go with it), and have made it as often as possible since I got the NYT cookbook. Someone asked about accompaniments: I think it's delicious on its own, but I especially like it with whipped cream and pomegranate arils in the fall and winter. I'm sure it will be equally great with strawberries or raspberries when they're in season.

8:50 PM, May 02, 2011  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Molly, I wonder if Dutch boterkoek might be any closer to Becky's cake?

Obviously, you've got a winner here for almond cake, but if you'd like to try boterkoek -- which is almost like marzipan baked into a cake -- here's my recipe: http://www.dollopofcream.com/2010/03/canadian-boterkoek.html

9:19 PM, May 02, 2011  
Blogger tawc said...

the first thing i loved about your cake was that it caved in--as if succumbing to its own dense moistness. like a fond little quirk

10:49 PM, May 02, 2011  
Blogger HRH Sarah said...

That cake is gorgeous, sunken middle and all. I think that's what I like about it. It's almost like it wants something poured into the middle... Your story about Michael and Becky was fantastic. I didn't read the post from 6 years ago, so I was glad for the new story. And I love the way you wrote it.

6:18 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger Dishy said...

Your storytelling is the perfect accompaniment to the cake! Thank you for sharing both with us.

6:35 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger Barbara said...

Molly, don't know if I'll try the cake, but I love when you talk about Berg! And that's what I loved about your first book, Homemade Life - all the stories of your dad, family, life experiences entwined with cooking, food, and good eating. That is the slice of life that is simply irresistible and delicious!

8:11 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger seattlewendy said...

For sister Seattleites--PFI sells almond paste in bulk for way less than grocery store tubes. A field trip to PFI always makes me happy.

8:33 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger Leila said...

It's a lovely story, even if it is long. Thanks for sharing!

I'm making violet jam today but maybe tomorrow will be for almond cake.

9:03 AM, May 03, 2011  
Anonymous Sarah@The Flying Onion said...

I don't know how you do it, but each new story that you share draws me in. And it's not just the tantalizing recipes, either.

The almond cake sounds fabulous. I think I know what I need to do this weekend. :)

9:54 AM, May 03, 2011  
Anonymous suzy said...

oh my. i made your *other* almond cake (pain de genes) and thought it was amazing, so i can only imagine how good this one is! can't wait to try it. thanks.

12:30 PM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger Adelaide said...

A beautiful and inspiring post as always, Molly. And I love almond desserts so made this last night. I have no idea how it happened--I swear I only used a tsp of baking soda!--but it was Volcano Cake City in my oven. Still delicious, however. x

12:33 PM, May 03, 2011  
Anonymous Merrycook said...

Have you ever used the almond paste in the can?.. by Solo....I prefer that almond paste when I make my cookies...Pine Nut Cookies...just wondering...

9:17 PM, May 03, 2011  
Anonymous rose said...

I got your book by mail today. I live in the Philippines, so it took a while. In fact, I'm thinking of giving it as a wedding gift to my best friend. If my greedy little heart will allow it. Beautiful book! Well worth the money and the wait!

2:30 AM, May 04, 2011  
Anonymous Philamark said...

I made this cake Sunday and it came out just like in your photos. It was very tasty! Another winner Molly! Thank you!

4:13 AM, May 04, 2011  
Anonymous Lori said...

I just finished your book and wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed it. I bookmarked the Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille recipe for the late summer harvest, and the Tarte Tatin and Butternut Squash Soup recipes for fall. I learned about your blog via your book and happily subscribed and bookmarked this morning!

6:22 AM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said...

hey, a lot has changed in six years, don't worry about it! :) Glad you warned me about the almond cake recipe on the Odense box - I have been meaning to try it, now I won't bother! xox

6:45 AM, May 04, 2011  
Anonymous Bad Home Cook said...

Reading you sometimes is like taking a little mental vacation. Loved this one, (Burg was your Dad?)...so vivid...you need to try your hand at fiction soon.
And yeah, I'm gonna have to try this almond cake...

9:59 AM, May 04, 2011  
Anonymous Nancy said...

I have a cake recipe that calls for a 9-inch round cake pan, and that cake, too, always falls in the center. One time I tried using a 9x9 square pan and voila! It worked! Not sure why it works, as the area of a 9x9 (81") is actually greater than the area of a 9-inch round (63.6) but it does. So it might work for the almond cake.

11:36 AM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger logan said...

Such a sweet post. I alway smile at the way you weave stories about about the simple things into such rich descriptions of people. It makes me feel like your family and friends are neighbors.

12:09 PM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger tori said...

Gracious you make me giggle. Have been itching to make that cake ever since I finished reading Mr Latte a few weeks ago. Think you just gave me the kick in the bottom I needed. Ta muchly!

12:38 PM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger Michelle said...

What a lovely story, with beautiful photographs. I am dying to know more about that Coca-Cola chicken. And as soon as I get my hands on some almond paste I am whipping this up. Thanks for sharing!

9:24 PM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger Sarah said...

For the record, your newer readers won't mind you repeating a few stories or recipes or even new takes on old recipes, from time to time. And hey, probably the older readers won't mind either since they've known you a lot longer. Keep up the great work!

11:35 AM, May 05, 2011  
Blogger Denise | Chez Danisse said...

I love almond cake. I've only tried making my own once. It was David Lebovitz adaption of Lindsey Remolif Shere's from Chez Panisse Desserts. Even forgetting the almond extract, it was superb. Now I have a new recipe to try. Thanks. I have Cooking for Mr. Latte, but somehow forgot about the almond cake recipe.

1:39 PM, May 05, 2011  
Anonymous Allison said...

The cake sounds delicious - but my favorite part of this post is probably the fact that after you wrote it you went back through your archives and found a similar post. :)

9:59 PM, May 05, 2011  
Blogger Katia said...

I can't wait to try and make this Almond Cake! Love your blog!
Here's my food blog - hopefully one day it will be as good as yours!


2:18 AM, May 06, 2011  
Anonymous Alice at Northeast Locavore said...

What a lovely, personal post...I can't wait to try the cake.

8:45 AM, May 06, 2011  
Blogger jenmolin said...

This cake looks amazing! Almond paste is so common in Sweden but had to really hunt it down here ... whole foods! I love how simple this is.... garnished with strawberry compote and whipped cream mmmmmmmm

8:55 AM, May 06, 2011  
Blogger jenmolin said...

I am so excited to finally be able to post!

8:56 AM, May 06, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly! I am currently in-midst of your book. An old friend recommended it to me thinking we'd 'get along'. As each chapter and recipe passes, I am starting to think she's right. The last few days of Washington rain have given me good reason to read and drool over the pages.
And um, finally getting online to read your blog - welp. I must say it's kind of magical getting to read a book (which is a thing in itself) but then breaking down that 4th wall and seeing currently/recently written material from that very author.
It's just neat. You're just neat. Be well, take care, and thank you for making food even better.
Janna Rose

9:07 AM, May 06, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And you own Delancy!?

Why am I just putting this all together.


You are wonderful!

janna rose

9:09 AM, May 06, 2011  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I'm with ya on the almond extract :) I typically halve it in any recipe I see it in. This looks awesome though. Sitting here thinking about what kind of ice cream I can make to go with it...

11:44 AM, May 06, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone help me. I have a hand mixer. The old fashioned (still electric) with the double stick blades attachment. I don't have access to paddle mixer called for in so many recipes. Can I still use what I have? Any adjustments if I do?

1:02 PM, May 06, 2011  
Blogger Tyler said...

I like that your post gives us some backstory before introducing the recipe. It's little things like that that set you apart from the blogs that just post recipes all day. We like to know where you come from :)

1:16 PM, May 06, 2011  
Blogger janna said...

I loved this story -- just like I loved the stories in your book. And I'll definitely try the cake, with the lesser amount of almond extract -- I think I'm overly sensitive to almond extract, or something, because I always have that aftertaste...

4:16 PM, May 06, 2011  
Blogger Molly said...

Anonymous, you can definitely use your handheld electric mixer! That's what I grew up with. I worry a little about it overheating with the long mixing time here, but just keep an eye on it. I think it'll be fine.

6:27 PM, May 06, 2011  
Anonymous Chutneyandspice said...

I had no idea you could eat a yucca - how strange and fun! Sounds like a great cake to make, I love almonds and almond essence reminds me of Christmas. Love the blog, its in a class of its own.

12:31 PM, May 07, 2011  
Blogger jerbear said...

I love almond desserts so much, so thank you for this recipe! I have a question- what are the different options for buying almond paste, and how much do they cost? are there any inexpensive options?

12:53 PM, May 07, 2011  
Anonymous PhdYogi said...

Just made this today for a Kentucky Derby party - it is taking all of my (admittedly little) willpower not to cut into it before the party starts. It smells amazing...

12:53 PM, May 07, 2011  
Anonymous Kimby said...

Molly, this was wonderful. The cake photos illustrated the story beautifully and the recipe was a nostalgic happy ending.

As for the hand-held mixer question above, my 30 year old Proctor-Silex still holds up through "thick and thin" without overheating, FYI.

1:46 PM, May 07, 2011  
Blogger pam said...

I've had a hankering for anything with almond paste in it all week. thank you for obliging me. looks divine.

5:50 PM, May 08, 2011  
Blogger Christy said...

what a wonderful story! It's just so wonderful and loved how you weaved the cake into the story as well :D

1:19 AM, May 10, 2011  
Anonymous Lucy said...

I don't think I've ever eaten almond cake, though I am inspired to try it now. I love the way our memories of those we love and remember somehow get tied to food. That's part of what makes food blogging special, that we are leaving a legacy of the food that we love for those who come behind us. Thanks for sharing these memories.

6:33 PM, May 10, 2011  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks for the great Almond Cake recipe. I made it for Mother's Day and served with strawberries and homemade whipped cream. It was a big hit!

7:12 PM, May 10, 2011  
Blogger brock street said...

i love the WHOLE story.

i discovered ta wonderful almond cake from alice waters cookbook. very similar.

in my opinion best with some fresh jam..apricot is perfectly tart with the almond.

i think i will try this recipe for the weekend. thank you.

9:41 PM, May 11, 2011  
Anonymous Andrea said...

Hi Molly,

I have been making your French Yoghurt cake too, will be good to have another to take to summer bbq's to have with berries and creme fraiche! I am also reading your book and it has caused me to think of my own families recipes so, at the weekend, I went out to see if I could find a Babka pan, I did (thanks TKMAX) and found in my 1981 diary the recipe Cioca Ania (my Polish Aunty) gave me for Babka as made for every family occasion. Well, this weekend will find me trialing what my 15 year old self wrote down....fingers crossed....six eggs is a lot to waste!

9:57 AM, May 12, 2011  
Anonymous Angela said...

It's in the oven as I type. It was very easy to mix up. I cannot wait to taste it. I haven't clued the kids yet as to what Mom is baking.

12:41 PM, May 15, 2011  
Anonymous Hazel Eyes said...

Well. I made this over the weekend and it was amazing. When I removed it from the pan I left it upside down on the plate and no one was the wiser for the sunken middle. Unfortunately I could not resist eating three generous slices, and woke up the next morning with a cake hangover - totally worth it!

5:55 AM, May 17, 2011  
Blogger Cailin said...

The sentence where you describe how your father's friend looped his arm through Brandon's was my favorite. The imagery made me smile; it must have been such a warm and fuzzy moment (: lovely writing!

5:59 AM, May 18, 2011  
Blogger Olivia Benson said...

almond cake, that sounds extremely good. I have a thing for almonds right now. Made my home made almond butter recently and it tasted heavenly. Think I might try this cake next. Love your blog by the way, it´s wonderful inspiration! /olivia

12:22 AM, May 19, 2011  
Anonymous Rachel said...

I stumbled upon your blog while looking for random recipes. For some odd reason I thought you were a guy. But that is irrelevant! I love the way you write, and looking forward to trying your recipes. Definitely a blog I'll be following when I'm hungry... which is all the time!!

8:22 AM, May 19, 2011  
Blogger Rachel said...

I made this last week and my husband and mother agree that it is the best cake I have made. I think this is because the only almond paste that I could find within walking distance of my house was a $15 tube of Sicilian marzapan paste. It was such a delicate and delicious flavor! But I used less of it than the recipe called for as instructed by the store owner.

6:50 AM, May 23, 2011  
Blogger Christine said...

Delicious! I served it with sauteed pears and soft whipped cream. So good. Thanks for the recipe, Molly!

6:44 PM, May 30, 2011  
Blogger Sydney said...

Yum Almond cake sounds really nice. With pears and a homemade lemon curd ice-cream it would be perfect!


2:21 AM, June 14, 2011  
Blogger Jeka i Maja said...

It looks amazing! :)

3:28 AM, June 26, 2011  
Anonymous Darling Mimi said...

I made this to take to the lake this past weekend. What a hit! Served it with whipped cream but it doesn't need it. FABULOUS! Thanks!

3:57 PM, July 05, 2011  
Anonymous vincent said...


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Best regards,


11:51 AM, July 07, 2011  
Blogger ClaireAsbury said...

I made this in a flurry of inspiration last night - it's wonderful! Thanks Molly, a year or so late. :)

My English professor showed us your blog my freshman year of college (I was in a food writing class) and I've recently found you again, which I'm so glad about!

6:20 AM, June 26, 2012  
Anonymous Vanessa said...

I finally attempted one of your cakes and this was a hit. Thanks for the lovely story and recipe!

9:55 AM, February 17, 2014  

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