I haven’t been home for my mother’s birthday for years – not since my Freshman year in college, when my parents forced me to live at home so I could finally get my driver’s license (to this day, I am thankful that they made me do that). But my trip coincided with her birthday (no, I’m not allowed to say which birthday it was), and I was very excited to have the opportunity to make her a birthday cake.
My mother is a big fan of lemon desserts, so I was determined to make something with a lemon accent. I’ve also been hankering to have the almond cake from The Cake Bible again, ever since I made those almond cupcakes for my coworker. And since it was berry season in Oregon, I decided to include a berry accent. I originally wanted to use raspberries, but since blueberries were half the price, I went with those instead.
In the end, I decided on making a double batch of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s almond cake, and baking it in 8 inch by two inch cake pans, which created a marvelously towering cake. I filled it with lemon curd (store bought – I didn’t have time to let my own set up) and blueberries.
I also thought long and hard about my frosting options. Like me, my mother isn’t a fan of classic, all-butter buttercream frostings, and she’s always thought that powdered sugar frostings were too sweet (she doesn’t share my love of Safeway cupcakes). So I opted for a whipped-cream, marscarpone frosting. I was really excited about it, and flavor-wise it was spot on. But I did something wrong, because the frosting texture was all off. Instead of being light and creamy, the frosting had an unappealing grainy texture – as you can see from the photos. I think that I overwhipped something at some point – although I swear to God I tried as hard as possible to not overbeat the mascarpone.
It was still a beautiful cake – and one that I would make again, although perhaps with a cream cheese frosting instead. The almond cake really tastes of almonds – the almond extract subtly enhances the flavor of the nuts themselves. And the sweet almond cake pairs nicely with the tart lemons and blueberries. The frosting isn’t too sweet, and has a nice tang and complexity to it – if the texture had held up it would have been perfect.
Almond Cake With Lemon Curd, Blueberries and Marscarpone Frosting
Adapted from The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Makes 2 8 inch by 2 inch cake layers
4 large eggs
1 and 1/3 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 and 1/3 2 and 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
2/3 cup unblanched sliced almonds, toasted and finely ground
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
24 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup lemon curd
1 pint blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8 inch by 2 inch cake pans with parchment paper, then butter again and coat with flour.
In a medium bowl lightly combine the eggs, ¼ of the sour cream and the extracts. In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining sour cream. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 ½ minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure.
Scrape batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cake layers cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, before gently transferring them to a rack to cool. When cool, frost each half with a thick coat of lemon curd. Top one half with blueberries, then place the other cake on top, lemon curd side down. Frost with marscarpone frosting (recipe follows).
Adapted from 52 Cupcakes
1 pound marscarpone cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
Beat the marscarpone, cream and confectioners’ sugar until medium-soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful no to overbeat. Use immediately.