FLOURLESS ALMOND AND PORTO CAKE
Pastel de Almendras con Porto
Serves 12 to 15
2 cups slivered almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Porto wine, optional or more to taste
1/4 cup apricot marmalade
1 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Whipped cream, optional
Fruit of your choice, optional (I love it with berries!)
Butter a round 9 to 10 inch spring-form pan, and cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the almond and sugar into a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Crack the eggs on top of the mixture. Pulse until well combined. Stir in the vanilla extract and Porto wine, if you will use it. Drop in the butter chunks, and process until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the cake pan. Place on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. The top will be nicely tanned, the cake will feel springy to the touch and a toothpick should come out clean if inserted in the cake.
Remove from the oven and let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Unmold the cake, invert onto a platter and remove the parchment paper. Invert the cake again onto another platter to have the top of the cake right side up.
In a small saucepan, mix the apricot glaze with the lime juice. Set over medium heat and simmer for a couple minutes, just until it dissolves.
With a brush, spread the apricot glaze on the outer circumference, about 1 to 2 inches in depth, on the top of the cake. Sprinkle the glazed area with the toasted almonds. You may serve the cake with whipped cream on the side, or on the top of the cake. Any fruit of your choice will be lovely too!
This cake is a treat. What’s more, being flourless, it is perfect for both gluten free eaters and the coming Passover week.
As a fan of marzipan this cake feels like a fluffy, smooth, tasty piece of marzipan that has turned into a cake to become a bigger, lighter and longer lasting version of itself. It can be served as a dessert, with some whipped cream on top. If you are lucky to have some leftover, it makes for a decadent breakfast with a side of berries and some hot coffee or tea.
The recipe comes from the Mexican convent of San Jerónimo, where Mexico’s most famous nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was settled. It dates to the late 1600’s. Spanish nuns who came to help establish the different convents, had an indomitable sweet tooth, which paired with Mexico’s exotic ingredients, made for some of the country’s dearest and sweetest desserts. Centuries later, these desserts are staples in Mexico’s kitchens.
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Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk’s Cake, is one of the most, if not the most popular and sold cake throughout Mexico. It is also amongst the most requested recipes I have been asked for after Pickled Jalapeños and Piggie cookies. So dear readers, I am sorry it has taken this long but here it goes! I promise to get to the other requests, which I love getting on your emails, as soon as possible.
Tres Leches is a sweet, practically wet, homey cake. Its base is a vanilla sponge cake, completely soaked in a sauce traditionally made with three kinds of milk: La Lechera sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and regular milk. Some versions substitute regular milk with heavy cream. The cake will sometimes have a topping like fresh whipped cream, which I seriously consider of utmost necessity. Sometimes the topping turns out to be meringue or even chocolate ganache.
Growing up in Mexico City, there was a bakery called La Gran Via, which sold such delicious Tres Leches that even though it was far from home, we used to drive many Sundays to get one. These days La Gran Via has become a large chain store of bakeries… it has been years since I have eaten one of their cakes. This recipe, is as close as I get to my nostalgic memories.
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It seems that when it comes to birthdays and cakes, most of us grown ups are like little kids too. So this year, I planned my husbands’ cake with a little help from my three young boys.
The night before, as I tucked them in bed, we talked about making an irresistible I-want-to-jump-into-that-cake kind of cake. It had to be something that could WOW him away and could also feel yummy and soft when they dipped his face in it (yep! that was their plan).
This talk led me, once again, to tell the boys stories about cakes from my childhood. Most of those cakes came from Sanborns’, a chain of stores that sells almost anything you can imagine: books, DVD’s, make-up, electronics, luggage, candies, the best ever chocolate covered raisins, marshmallows and toys. It also has great coffee-shop style restaurants with some of my favorite molletes and enchiladas. Not to forget its perfumeries and pharmacies. It is a serious knock out one-stop-shop. But most importantly, it was, and may still be, one of the most popular places to get a birthday cake.
One of the cakes that left me with a permanent impression went something like this: A couple layers of fluffy and moist vanilla cake, a foamy and soft meringue filling paired with old fashioned strawberry jam and pecans, the same soft meringue layered all over the top, some more pecans and whatever decorations you fancied.
That cake, by itself, made a party happen. It was a creation worthy of its own celebration.
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“Bandido!” My late grandfather would scream, with his wide smile and the most endearing eyes, to my youngest son, if he were here to see how Julian messes up the kitchen.
As soon as a thought of cooking appears in my head, he drags a chair, climbs on top, asks what are WE going to make, and without waiting for an answer announces that it is “yo, yo, YO…,” who will cook and experiment. I shall be of assistance.
Needless to say, it takes much longer than needed and the kitchen looks messier than my husband likes to see it. But if you ask me, it is worth every extra second and extra spoonful of crumbs on the floor.
Well then, what cake to make for his birthday? Of course chocolate! His brothers tell me with a tone of disbelief. However, I know it has to be spongy, fluffy, gooey, sticky, moist, extra messy, sweet and truly decadent to be worthy of the three candles in its middle.
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