The little black dress: versatile, classic, easily dressed up or dressed down. No woman’s closet is complete without this go-to, never-fail, wardrobe staple.
And no cook’s repertoire is complete without the dessert equivalent. Even if you’re adamant you’re not a baker, you need just one easy, no-fail, any season, dress-it-up-dress-it-down dessert that you can be proud to present.
This moist almond cake is it.
Unlike so many other baking recipes, this one doesn’t require any magical chemical secrets to understand, no fussy techniques to master. Just throw all the ingredients in a food processor and hit the button. Don’t have a food processor? Use almond flour instead of whole almonds and you can stir it up by hand.
Almond cakes are the most versatile cakes on the planet. They stay moist for days so they can accommodate any schedule, and they can go from a simple, powdered-sugar-dusted snack to a fancy, fruit-compote-and-whipped-cream-topped dinner party dessert. The subtle nut flavor fits with any season, any menu and any occasion. Not only is it a blank canvas, it’s a canvas that’s easy to customize. You can swap out the almonds for hazelnuts, spike it with different liqueurs, add citrus zests or baking spices. You can even bake it in muffin tins.
After some experimenting, I’ve come up with this moist, tender cake, which forgoes the usual almond paste for whole almonds, because I always have a bag tucked in the freezer.
It’s been made by children and for children. It’s been made for new moms and old moms, friends with news to celebrate and friends with the blues. It’s been served from pretty cake stands in candle-lit dining rooms, and from plastic folding tables in the middle of a street party.
Like the perfect black dress, this recipe is one of those rare things in life you can always count to make you look good, no matter what the occasion.
Golden Almond Cake
Made with common pantry items and delicious with just about any accompaniment, or none at all, this moist cake will quickly become your go-to dessert. It keeps for days wrapped in plastic at room temperature.
1¼ cups granulated sugar
5 ounces almonds (about 1 cup whole nuts)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sugar and almonds or almond flour. Process until nuts are finely ground. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, salt and softened butter. Process until thoroughly combined. Add the flour and baking power and pulse until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the sides. Invert the cake out of the pan, remove the parchment and set right side up on a platter for serving.
Dust with powdered sugar and, if desired, serve with sweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche, fresh fruit or fruit compote.
Mini cake variation: To make individual cakes, bake the batter in lined muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.