TORTA DI MANDORLE : Almond Polenta Cake from DeLaurenti in Seattle
My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.
I hear you, Boris! I really love cake, too, and I bake one almost every weekend, so we usually have leftover slices hanging around for a snack or dessert. (Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to lose any weight??)
My favorite cake is called Torta di Mandorle. I use a recipe adapted from the DeLaurenti Cookbook by Pat McCarthy and Matt Snyder. This is a sophisticated, versatile cake made with almond paste, sour cream and polenta. It has a lovely, not-too-sweet flavor and the two types of polenta result in a tender, but almost-slightly-grainy-chewy texture. (Ok, that might not sound appetizing, but it’s very nice!). You can serve the cake plain, but I often top it with a simple, seasonal fruit compote.
In case you haven’t heard of it, DeLaurenti Food & Wine is a totally cool shop located in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. Foodies: don’t miss it if you’re ever in the neighborhood! Founded in 1946, it’s stocked with lots of yummy specialty items: wines, breads, olives and oils, beans, grains, pasta, pizza and baked goods, and tons of other fantastic imported foods. Further, their deli carries dozens of different cheeses and charcuterie, among other things. This place is like my Nirvana! We visited several years ago, and SLF bought me the cookbook. I make several of their recipes often, including this one!
Torta di Mandorle (Serves 8-12)
¼ cup fine cornmeal
¼ cup coarser cornmeal
½ cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup almond paste cut into small bits
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the finished cake
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup sour cream
Start by positioning a rack in the lower third of the oven, then preheat your oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9”cake pan.
Mix the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder) in a small bowl, then set that aside.
Add the butter and almond paste to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for several minutes until creamy and smooth. Lower the speed and add in the powdered sugar, mixing on low until the combination is light and airy.
Next, increase the mixer speed to high again and add the vanilla extract. Then, one at a time, beat in the eggs until the batter is fully combined. (No worries if the batter appears to have separated.)
Again, reduce the mixer speed, this time to medium. Add in the sour cream and the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until blended. (Careful not to overmix or the cake will be tough!)
Scrape the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula or a knife. Pop it into the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the pan cool for a few minutes until the cake begins to pull away from the pan. Remove the cake onto a parchment covered wire rack to fully cool.
Dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar and serve with a fruit compote or even diced apples sauteed with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
1 cup of fresh or frozen berries
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Put the fruit and sugar into a small saucepan. Over medium heat cook the fruit, stirring and mashing it until the sauce thickens and becomes syrupy.
Buy the DeLaurenti Cookbook here:
Ingredients: You can find almond paste in the baking section of well-stocked grocery stores. It comes in a thick foil-wrapped roll inside a box. If you don’t have both fine and coarse cornmeal (aka polenta), just use ½ cup of whatever you do have. If you don’t have cake flour, make your own using regular flour and cornstarch. Start with one cup of regular flour. Replace 2 TBSP of the flour with 2 TBSP of cornstarch, then sift them together.
-Plan ahead with your ingredients: this cake comes out best when you start with the butter, almond paste and eggs at room temperature.
-Torta di Mandorle is perfect for breakfast, dessert or served as a snack with coffee or tea. It can be made a day ahead of time, and it freezes well.