I'm probably not the only one whose most ingrained memories of the holiday season revolve around food. There are certain recipes that bring me right back to a lifetime of crowded Thanksgiving tables and bustling Christmas Kitchens. My Grandfather's lobster bisque, my Mother's eggnog sugar cookies, and my Dad's Belgian waffles are just a few that come to mind.
It's not just the memories, or even the flavors that designate certain recipes as holiday foods. It's also the time and care involved in the preparation of these treats. It's not everyday that we spend hours working on a meal for our loved ones. (At least it isn't for me.) In a world where almost anything can be delivered to your door the act of cooking something from scratch is truly an act of love. That's what the holidays are all about, right?
Over the years I've noticed a few new recipes making it into the holiday rotation. I guess that's a sort of rite of passage in our family - making your own mark on the family table. I wonder which recipes my son will remember when he grows up? Maybe his mama's Almond Cake?
Nut cakes, like this one, have become coveted holiday treats in our household over the past few years. My husband is especially fond of them so I make sure to bake one for him every Christmas. They take a little extra effort and the cost of ingredients is on the dear side, so this isn't the kind of cake I throw together for just anything. It is a decidedly celebratory confection, and with over a full pound of almonds in every batch it is more than gift-worthy!
One step in this recipe that may be new to you is blanching almonds. It is a little bit time consuming, but like I said, this is holiday baking, so pour yourself a nice little glass of something, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to embrace the extra effort. The result will be well worth the extra ten minutes this step will take you.
How to Blanch Almonds
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.
- Drop the almonds into the water and boil for three minutes.
- Drain the almonds into a colander and rinse with cold water until they are cool enough to handle.
- Pick up a small handful of almonds and rub them between your palms. The peels should slide off easily.
- Separate the peels from the naked almonds and repeat until you've disrobed them all.
I used Organic Whole Wheat Flour to bind this cake. Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour is stone ground from organic hard red wheat and has all of the nutritious bran and germ still intact. Nothing is lost in the process of grinding the flour! I often replace all or part of the flour in my baking recipes with Whole Wheat Flour. It's robust flavor does a great job of toning down baked goods that are overly sweet and adds a boost of vitamins, minerals and protein to my recipes.
If you are new to using Organic Whole Wheat Flour in sweets and desserts, fear not. The rule of substitution is fairly simple. In most cases you can swap Organic Whole Wheat Flour for the entire portion of All-Purpose Flour in a recipe. Using the Organic Whole Wheat Flour will result in a slightly nuttier, and somewhat heartier final product.
In my opinion, this added nuttiness often improves things like fruit cakes, quick breads, muffins, and chocolate chip cookies. For more delicate recipes, like cupcakes or sugar cookies, try substituting only half of the All-Purpose Flour with Organic Whole Wheat Flour. Bob's Red Mill is offering a printable coupon so you can give this a try with your next batch of baked goodies.
After you are finshed making these cakes you will have plenty of Organic Whole Wheat Flour leftover to experiment with. It is perfect for bread-baking. I highly recommend blending it into your pretzels, pizza crusts, and stromboli.
Whole Grain Mini Almond Pound Cakes
Makes five mini loaves
This rich, buttery pound cake is made with whole wheat flour and blanched almonds. Try replacing all or a portion of the almonds with another nut such as pistachio, hazelnut, or pecan. This cake is delicious the day it is baked but reaches its prime about three days after baking. The nut oils condense the cake, making the texture extra dense. Serve alone, or with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
For the cake:
- 16 ounces blanched almonds
- 1 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- the grated zest of 1 lemon
- 3 sticks (3/4 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- the grated zest of 1 lemon
- the juice of 2 lemons
- 1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
- Preheat the oven to 325 F.
- Grease and flour five mini loaf pans then set them on top of a baking sheet. Set aside.
- Finely chop the almonds using a food processor. They should be chopped until they reach a uniform, sand-like texture.
- Combine the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Whisk together.
- Mix the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Once blended, add the butter and cream on medium-high until light and fluffy (about three minutes).
- Reduce the speed of the mixer then add the eggs one at a time. Follow with the extracts.
- Add the chopped almonds followed by the flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
- Scoop the batter evenly into the five loaf pans.
- Bake for sixty minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of one cake. The toothpick will come out dry when the cake has finished baking.
- Allow the cakes to cool on the pan for about fifteen minutes. After that, turn them out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
- To make the topping, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and juice in a small saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and allow the syrup to simmer for ten minutes. Turn off the heat, add the almonds, and stir to coat them well.
- Spread the coated almonds over the tops of the cooled cakes.