Part of the readjusting is finding a job, deciding what you’re going to do with yourself now, in a new city. Cooking would be an ideal way for me to go, but it’s not a career you can just jump into, nor is it very lucrative (not that I’m in it for the money, but it’d be nice to not live with my parents forever). So one way I’m starting small is by cooking for friends at their events and functions. One of my sister’s friends is getting married and we were throwing a wedding shower for her, so I offered my services. My full and complete services, which means not just dessert but dinner too. It was a lot of fun and kept me busy for a few days, but I have to thank the people that cleaned the dishes for me. That would’ve been a whole lot more.
The beauty of arranging this myself was picking and choosing exactly what I wanted for the menu, not having to report for work and be given a to-do list that was already mapped out for me. For desserts, I knew I would do a cheesecake, and went with a chocolate coffee one that I had made before. At the last minute, I decided to do a peach pie for good measure. It was something I had made a lot before and definitely couldn’t hurt. For the third dessert, I picked something new from the Macrina Bakery cookbook, in Seattle, given to me by my friend Leah who has discovered the food scene up there. My one quibble with the book is that it doesn’t have any pictures of the food. I love to see big, colorful pictures of the finished product. And it would’ve been great for this recipe especially as it turned out beautifully. Just reading the name committed me to it: almond cake with mascarpone cream and fresh blackberries.
I changed a few things, as I tend to do. First of all, I was making this the night before the shower, you can’t wait till the last minute for everything. It tells you to put blueberries in between the cake layers, but I didn’t want them running and bleeding everywhere, especially through the icing, so I didn’t put them there and waited until just before serving to top the cake off with them. Also, I didn’t use just blueberries, but blackberries too and I think that’s even better, a mixture of flavors and sizes of berries. Oh, and it didn’t make enough icing but I had run out of mascarpone, so I used a bit of sour cream as a substitute. But a note on that: I couldn’t taste the mascarpone at all, and it tasted just like a regular whipped cream icing, so I was a little disappointed with that, although there were no complaints from any of the guests. This was by far the most popular, a surprise to me, and there was barely any left at the end of the night. Someone even said it could and should be a wedding cake. I think I’d try different icings with it though, cream cheese or perhaps just a regular whipped cream. I was also surprised that it was such a hit after only about 24 hours prior having almost thrown it away completely and ripped all my hair out. Words of warning: this cake is very fragile. You’re supposed to bake it in a springform pan and cut into three rounds, but my springform was occupied (cheesecake), so I put it in two round pans and cut those in half. It did not come out very thick, and one of the layers fell apart completely when I tried to lift it so I couldn’t even use it. So it ended up being three layers for me anyways, but handle with care.
Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream and Blackberries and Blueberries
Adapted from Macrina Bakery Cookbook
¾ c plain yogurt
2 tsp pure almond extract
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ½ c cake flour
1 ¾ c sugar
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ c finely ground almonds
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c sugar
½ c water
2 tsp pure almond extract
pinch of salt
mascarpone cream (I would double this)
1 c heavy cream
¼ c powdered sugar
8 oz mascarpone, room temperature (you can try other cheeses or sour cream)
pinch of salt
blueberries and blackberries
1 c fresh berries
1 tsp lemon zest
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease and flour your baking pan(s). Combine eggs, ¼ yogurt, almond extract, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Mix well with a whisk and set aside. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and almonds in a medium bowl. Place butter in the bowl of your stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed for 5 to 8 minutes. The butter will be light and fluffy (unless you’re in Texas and room temperature is more like boiling so the butter will be more melted than fluffy). Add the dry ingredients and the remaining ½ c yogurt. Turn the switch on and off a few times to start bringing the ingredients together, then increase speed to medium and mix for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg mixture and mix well, stopping to scrape down the sides and continuing until fully combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake on center rack of oven for about an hour or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick come out almost clean. Let cool on a wire rack for at least an hour.
For the almond syrup, combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and mix with a whisk to dissolve the sugar. Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, then remove from the heat and add almond extract. Let cool slightly before using.
When the cakes are cool you can make the icing. Whip the cream and sugar until medium-soft peaks form. Whip the mascarpone with a whisk for 1 to 2 minutes, and then fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone.
When you’re ready to put the cake together, I would suggest macerating the berries first. The book says just for a few minutes, but I did it for a few hours and it turned out great. So mix the berries, ¼ c almond syrup, and lemon zest in a bowl and put in the fridge until ready to top off the cake. Now take the cake and cut in half (if using two pans, very carefully), or in thirds (if using one springform pan). Put a layer on a cake stand and brush with the syrup, then spread icing on top. Top it with another layer, more almond syrup, and icing, until you finish the layers. Ice the top and sides (although the book says not to ice the sides and I would have left it too, but it did not look pretty uniced). Store in the refrigerator and when about to serve, pour the berries on top, letting some of the juice run down the sides. Enjoy. my trio of desserts