Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Apricot almond cake -- make it while they're still in season

Make this cake now, while apricots are in season.  You don't have much time.  Later in the summer, you can try it with peaches, nectarines or plums.  It is a wonderful addition to a Friday night dinner or a 4th of July picnic.  If you are in need of comfort food, this is comfort cake -- it reminds me of things that my mother-in-law used to make.

I am not much of a baker, and am just getting to tinkering with some of the few things that I actually do bake.   One of my goals is to increase my repertory of pareve (non-dairy) cakes to serve after meat meals.  Also, under the influence of Nancy Sinkoff, master of modern Jewish history and much else, I try to eschew margarine.  Various oil cakes may not be as good as butter cakes, but they can be good on their own terms.

One of the few cakes that I have been baking for several years is the  Ukranian apple baba from Anya von Bremzen's Please to the Table, her first cookbook devoted to the food of the former Soviet Union.  (This is one of those cookbooks that is not only fun to read, but every recipe in it seems to come out well.)  I have been playing with the baba for a few months, mostly adding nuts and dried fruits.  Once I substituted some pears for half the apples, and it was quite good but not what I would call a daring variation.

Recently, we found ourselves with a box of apricots that weren't getting eaten by anyone but me, so I decided to use them in a dessert and hit upon this cake.  I added some toasted slivered almonds to the filling and substituted almond flour for some of the regular flour.  It worked quite well since almonds and apricot have a particular affinity for each other and, in fact, Amaretto almond liqueur is often made with apricot pits.  For spicing, rather than cinnamon doing a solo, I combined it with
cardamom,which also went well with the almonds.

I was very pleased with the results.  The apricots are tart so the cake makes a great ending to heavy mean.  You could make this with other stone fruits as well, after the brief apricot season is over.

Apricot Almond Cake

  • 3 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup almond meal or ground blanched almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (ideally Ceylon, or true cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted in a skillet (be careful not to burn)
  • 10-12 fresh apricots, quartered and pitted
  • confectioner's sugar to dust before serving


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, ground almonds, baking powder and spices in a bowl and stir vigorously with a fork to combine.
  3. Whisk the eggs, stir in the sugar and whisk for about a minute.  Add the juice, oil, and extracts in order, whisking well after each addition to combine.
  4. Add the flour mixture, about one cup at a time, stirring with a large spoon to combine but trying not to overmix.
  5. Spray a 10-inch bundt pan with baking spray, and your cake will pop out beautifully.  Otherwise, oil the pan, sprinkle with a bit of flour and rotate the pan to coat it lightly with flour, shaking out the excess.
  6. Pour in about 1/3 of the batter and distribute with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle in the tasted almonds and arrange the apricots over them and the batter.  Pour the remaining batter over, smoothing it with a spatula to distribute it evenly.
  7. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Test after about 1 hour and 10 minutes with a skewer -- it it comes out clean, the cake is done.  It may take up to an hour and a half, depending on the precise temperature of your oven and the ingredients.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack for about 15 minutes.  Turn the pan over and remove the cake, and let it cool on a rack.
  9. When cool, dust with confectioner's sugar (put about 2 tablespoons of sugar in a sieve and shake it over the cake).  Serves 12.  It keeps for several days if covered.

Variations:  Substitute underripe peaches or nectarines for the apricots.  Depending on size, you will need 6-8.  You can also use plums, but I would omit the cardamom and use 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, use substitute ground walnuts for almond flour and toasted chopped walnuts for the almonds and use 2teaspoons vanilla extract and no almond extract.

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