Monday, February 10, 2014

Heaven on a plate.

There are certain tastes, textures, aromas which combine to transport you to a place where everyone's eyes are closed and words are stilled, unneeded. This dessert brings all of that together in a perfect blend.

And it's easy. I mean, REALLY easy. Like five minutes and in the pan easy.

For my money, it doesn't get any better than that.

Chez Panisse Almond Torte (you know it's fancy when it's a torte and not a cake)

For those of you who don't live in California, Chez Panisse is the restaurant in Berkeley made famous by Alice Waters who defined California cuisine. If you can get any of her cookbooks -- do.

1¼ cups sugar
⅞ cup (7 oz./200g) soft almond paste
1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
6 eggs, room temperature
1 cup (4.5 oz/130g) flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
powdered sugar for dusting

Fresh fruit

1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Beat the sugar with the almond paste until the almond paste is in fine pieces. A stand mixer is best, but a food processor will beat everything into submission as well. Beat in the butter and the vanilla and cream the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition so the eggs are thoroughly mixed in.

2. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl, and beat into wet ingredients just until thoroughly blended. (If you are using a stand mixer, just add the mixed dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and blend. If using a food processor abandon its take-no-prisoners-power-grind now and transfer the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and blend just until it all comes together.)

3. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and turn the batter into it, smoothing the top evenly. Bake for 1 to 1¼ hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the center feels springy when you push it gently. You should also look for the a uniform dark gold color. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out SLIGHTLY moist, not wet. I have a convection oven and it took roughly 55 minutes at 300 degrees.

4. Let cool for about 20 minutes before releasing the sides of the springform pan. If you want to dust the torte with powdered sugar, wait until it is completely cool or the powdered sugar will "melt" and lose its beautiful white coating.



  1. Yuuummm! Nothing else need be said..

    1. You can NOT believe how impossibly good this cake is. Out.Of.This.World.

  2. 2 sticks of butter? *faints*

    1. I know...I know...and SIX eggs. But it is so deliciously rich that you only need a little slice. It really does make too much for just a few people. I made it for a dinner party and then gave half of it away to guest who insisted on the recipe. So my husband, daughter and I only had a quarter of the cake to eat ourselves, which was fine.

    2. Creaky, what do cardiologists know any way? Their only function in life is to tell you not to eat stuff. Hell, if I listened to my cardiologist, I'd have to get chlorophyll implants and stand outside naked to photosynthesize. And friends, THAT is a visual you definitely DO NOT need.

  3. I use butter in all my baking. Cookies, cakes, biscuits, pie crusts, they all taste so much better with butter instead of margarine or shortening.
    For example, my buttermilk biscuits are made of buttermilk, butter, and self-rising flour. That's all. And, they are light, fluffy, and just sinfully wonderful in taste.

    1. YUM!!! I concur. Butter makes it better.

      Besides, after cardiologists told people to eat polyunsaturated fats to prevent heart attacks, everyone started getting cancer because those fats are freaking UNSTABLE and become carcinogenic rapidly. NOT. GOOD.

      Eat what you want and die like a man.

    2. My signature line on one of my e-mail accounts is "Keep Fit, Eat Healthy, Die Anyway."
      Because no matter how healthy you eat, no matter how religiously you exercise, sooner or later you're gonna die. So, enjoy life for as long as you have.