Almond Cake

almond cake

Seeing as I don’t get out as much as I’d like to, I’ve never really thought about what would be my “desert island” cake. Or should I say “dessert island” cake? As in, what is the one cake that I would want with me if I couldn’t have any other kind. Chocolate figures largely into the equation, but as much as I love Chocolate Orbit Cake or a custard-filled Coconut Cake, I’d have to say that this Almond Cake would be the one that I would choose to sustain me through thick and thin.

We made almond cake at least once weekly when I baked at Chez Panisse, which I’ve adapted from one of my baking bibles, Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere. Lindsey was the executive pastry chef of the restaurant, and co-owner, since the beginning, and she told me she used cook and bake everything in a home oven stowed away in a shed behind the restaurant, which is those days, was akin to the backyard in Berkeley. I always imagine something like a kid’s rickety fort, except one that smelled a little better.

This cake is endlessly adaptable, and once I baked it in loaf pans, split the cooled cakes horizontally four time, and smeared a bit of dark chocolate icing between each layer, and stacked them back up. I frosted the whole thing in more chocolate icing and when I gave a slice to Lindsey, she asked me where I got such a delicious recipe. Ha!

almond cake almond cake

Although chocolate is wonderful with this rich, moist almond cake, this cake shines equally bright when paired with lightly sweetened fresh peaches, plums, apricots, or whatever berries were the most spectacular at the time. I’ve also served it successfully with quick-candied cherries or poached pears with chocolate sauce, and for those who like tea-time cakes, it can be split horizontally and filled with a thin layer of raspberry or apricot jam, reassembled, and brushed on top with bit more jam and a layer of toasted almonds, then finished with a dusting of powdered sugar.

almond cake

This is one of those cakes that’s hard to mess up. There’s no sifting or folding or tricks, and it keeps well for several days. In fact, it gets better if it sits a day or two before serving. Occasionally it will sigh a bit in the center, which is normal and adds to its character. You will need to get almond paste, not marizpan, which is softer and sweeter, but I know that most supermarkets in America and France carry it. If you want me to find it in your neighborhood, if you live near a sunny beach, for the prices of a plane ticket, I’ll help you hunt for it.

(But I do require an ocean-front balcony.)

To get the paste fine enough, you enlist your food processor. When I wrote my first cookbook, even though I had one, I assumed most people didn’t so I didn’t include instructions for one in the recipes. Then I realized that many people do have them, they just don’t use them enough because they’re stored away in the back of a cabinet. When I had a larger kitchen, I kept mine on the counter and used it all the time. But now I do need to reach for it from time-to-time, and this is one of those times that using it really makes a difference.

If you don’t have one, be sure the really get the almond paste broken up as fine as possible in your stand mixer. (Depending on the model, you could likely pulse it in the blender as well.) When I worked in the restaurant, we’d let our big, heavy-duty Hobart stand mixer go for around ten minutes or so, to make sure everything was well broken up; large clumps of almond paste will diminish the chances of the cake having a fine, almond-rich crumb.

almond cake

Interestingly, in France, I’ve only been able to come across pâte d’amande that has 33% almonds in shops, but you can find it online. Supermarket varieties available in America generally are stronger and have around 50% almonds. I’ve used both successfully, but whichever one I use, I add a dash of pure almond extract, never the artificial stuff. The best pure almond extracts are made from bitter almonds and impart a clean, sharp almond flavor, so it’s best to read the label at the store before buying to make sure you’re using the real deal.

Almond Cake

One 9-inch or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake

Adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere

As mentioned, this cake is best made in the food processor. If using a stand mixture, use the paddle attachment and let the mixer run until the almond paste is finely broken up. There’s a few notes at the end of the recipe, including some almond paste tips and suggestions.

I dialed down the butter from the original recipe, which had two more ounces (55g), for a total of 10 ounces (280g) since some feel the cake was a bit heavier and too-buttery with all that butter in it. But if you do wish to go that route, I’d be interested in knowing what you think.

  • 1 1/3 cups (265g) sugar
  • 8 ounces (225g) almond paste
  • 3/4, plus 1/4 cup (140g total) flour
  • 1 cup (8 ounces, 225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (162ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper. (See Note, below.)

2. In the bowl of a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup (105g) of flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Once the almond paste is completely broken up, add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts, then process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.

5. Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition. (You may wish to open the machine and scrape the sides down to make sure the eggs are getting fully incorporated.)

After you add all the eggs, the mixture may look curdled. Don’t worry; it’ll come back together after the next step.

6. Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times, then add the rest, pulsing the machine until the drying ingredients are just incorporated, but do not overmix. (You can also transfer the batter to a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in, which ensures the dry ingredients get incorporated evenly and you don’t overbeat it.)

7. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.

8. Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.

Once cool, tap the cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set on a cake plate until ready to serve. (Tip: Warm the bottom of the cake pan directly on the stovetop for just a few seconds, which will help the cake release.)



Storage: This cake will keep for four days at room temperature, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

Note: For this cake, I used this 9-inch cake pan, whose sides are 2-inches (5cm) high. Some readers noted that the batter rose higher than their pan, although I’ve made this cake well over a hundred times and have not had that problem. So use a standard size cake pan whose sides are at least that high, not a layer cake pan, which is shallower.

Tips: If your almond paste has dried out, the Odense FAQs (see below) recommends placing the almond paste in a plastic bag with two slices of bread or an apple half, and letting it sit overnight.

People often ask about making their own almond paste. To be honest, I’ve only done it successfully in pastry school, where we had a large rolling machine that makes a nice, smooth paste. Most home food processors won’t get the almonds fine enough so I recommend buying it. But there’s a link below if you want to give it a go yourself.

In the United States, Solo and Odense are good brands of almond paste. I’m partial to the almond paste from American Almond Products, which is marketed in home baker-sized containers under the name Love ‘N Bake.

Related Links, Post, and Recipes

Almond Paste FAQs (Odense)

Almond Paste Recipe (RecipeLink.com)

Lindsey’s Almond Tart

French Pear and Almond Tart

Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote (Smitten Kitchen)

Almond Cake (Amateur Gourmet)

Galette des rois

Olive Oil Almond Cake (Sassy Radish)

American Baking Ingredients in France

How to Find Food Products and Other Items Mentioned on the Site



133 comments

  • David,

    This almond cake recipe was also in Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. When I first saw the recipe, I wondered if I could reduce the butter from 2.5 sticks to just 2; thank you for answering that question.

    There’s a chocolate cake recipe in the Art of Simple Food, and I was wondering if that’s also a cake that you made a Chez Panisse. I didn’t see it in Chez Panisse Desserts, but I thought that I would ask anyway. If you have experience with this recipe, do you think that the sugar could be reduced? And what type of frosting (if any) do you think would be good for this cake? Thanks.

  • Well, I made the cake and WOW. So good. It was quite easy, too, though I wish I’d pulled it out 2 minutes sooner as the edges were a teeny bit on the dark/dry side. I have a very dark pan, too, and am under the impression that might have something to do with it.

    I served it with limoncello, creme fraiche, and blueberries, and frankly the sides were a bit too much. Next time it’ll be just some powdered sugar and nicely sliced fruit, I think – much like your photo above!

  • I made this cake for a World Cup Finale party and it was a huge hit! Folks were not expecting the almond flavor — I guess standard yellow cake is the norm. Thanks very much for sharing the recipe.

  • Hi David — I’ve made this cake about a zillion times — it’s a favorite among my friends & family (and it’s become the reason I keep those huge several-pound-cans of almond paste laying around). I grate the zest of one good sized orange into the batter, just to make it a little bit of my own thing. It’s deelish, and people always comment on the flavor of orange.

    PS — loved your post of the vegan strawberry ice cream — something else to include in the selection of desserts for my vegan friends …. cheers!

  • Made this cake the other night. Huge hit, delicious, easy. Perfect with macerated strawberries. Also perfect unadorned. And sturdy enough to be eaten out of hand for breakfast…. Thanks for another great recipe! (On another note, I made your mint stracciatella ice cream a few weeks ago, and it was also fabulous!)

  • David,
    This cake is absolutely amazing. Just thought you might like to know. :)

  • For the love of all that’s delicious, if you bake this in a 9″ pan, make sure it’s medium-tall or tall. A lot of places like Target sell those 1-1/2″ stackable pans–awesome if you bought them when you were a poor college student with little storage space. I’m baking this cake for my birthday party tomorrow. The tragedy wasn’t coming in to see that about 2 cups of batter have overflowed onto the bottom of my oven, but that I’ll have to spend the next 30 minutes smelling that beautiful, tasty batter burn to the bottom of my oven while I wait for the cake to finish baking before I can take care of it, then wait for the oven cool enough so I can stick my head into the oven and clean it before I can go on with the rest of my long night of baking. Ah well. If the cake tastes as good as the batter, it will be worth it. I should’ve listened to my instincts, though, when I saw the batter reach the top of the pan and just split the batter. Two cakes that promise to taste so good are definitely better than one. ;D

  • Hi Julie (and others): I was surprised to hear that your cake batter rose above the top of the pan, because as you can see in the photos, mine rose nicely to the top..and stayed there. But I added additional information to the end of the recipe about cake pan sizes.

    (I checked the sites of 2 companies: Wilton calls them the classic cake pan (which have 2-inch sides), and the pan from King Arthur is also 2 inches deep, so those are the standards I generally use when calling for a ‘cake pan’.)

  • Hi Dave,

    Just wanted to thank you for sharing this recipe. When I saw you post this I knew I had to make it cause it sounded so good. Made it for a potluck today and served with fresh peaches and of course there was none left at the end of the pot luck. Love the simplicity of the cake yet it has so much flavor. Also, baked it in a 9 x 2 pan and 30 minutes into it it was really rising up high and I was thinking it was going to over flow but I trust your recipe and kept it in and it turned out perfect! Thank you David!

  • Interesting about the rising problems! I made the cake in a springform pan (is that what you call the pans with the removeable bottom?). Mine leaked out the bottom a tiny bit, so I stuck some foil underneath it, but otherwise had no problems. It did rise a fair amount but the pan tolerated that easily.

  • Thanks so much for adding your note on the cake pan size, David! It really would’ve been all right if the batter, before baking, hadn’t filled the pan to the top–that extra half inch a standard pan would’ve granted would’ve taken the batter that overflowed from my pan. I cut the muffin top and lava fall away from the cake and munched on the leftover bits, then piled the cake itself with fresh berries. It’s the best almond cake recipe I’ve ever had, and my friends and family loved it!

    Have you tried Amanda Hesser’s almond cake? If you haven’t seen the recipe, it’s easy to Google up. I want to try that recipe, too.

  • Fantastic cake. I made it a few days ago. Nicely photogenic too!
    http://picasaweb.google.com/LisaBergtraum/IBakeErgoSum#5500566445626799938

  • Oh, and of course I acknowledged that it’s your recipe! as caption to this photo:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/LisaBergtraum/IBakeErgoSum#5500555276712513586

  • This looks delicious!
    I promised my mother an almond cake, and was going to make one with lemon zest and limoncello, but my niece despises anything that resembles citrus, so this cake sounds wonderful!

    I think i’ll make it with your candied cherries to serve on the side, along with some fresh whipped cream.

    Yummmm, and thank you, David!

  • OMG. I have a dozen different recipes for almond cake and have baked — and loved — every one of them. But this one…this moist, perfectly balanced, endlessly delicious cake has made me toss all the others away. I make it every week, topping it with sliced peaches or sliced mangoes or….just eat it out of the pan. David, you are a freaking genius!

  • Can’t wait!

    Although I refuse to use food processors, so I’ll grind down the almond paste etc. in my mortar and then squish in the butter with my fingers.

    And I’ll definitely be adding orange blossom water rather than vanilla.

  • I just tried the recipe, the cake looks good, though the batter definitely expanded beyond the pan. I kindda had a mini dough explosion in the oven (and I’d used a 9″ pan, with 2″ high sides). I wonder if it’s due to the difference between the baking powder and what the French call “levure”. I’ve never understood that difference, may be baking powder is more potent?

  • Hi Olivier: Hmmm, I use American baking powder (Rumford) when I test recipes, as well as in my home baking.

  • Hi David,

    I just made your almond cake recipe and it was delicious, I mean is delicious. Surely I haven’t snarfed down the whole thing already! The crust on top of the cake is out of this world gorgeous. I just love the almond fragrance and flavor. It’s a very heavy cake and I just realized, it’s quite expensive too! If I were to buy it from a store I wonder how much they would sell it for.

    I baked it in my mom’s kitchen and imagine my delight when I found she had a bit of amaretto in her pantry! I brushed the top of the cake with it and it was just heavenly. Thank you so much!

  • Hi David,
    I’ve made the previous version of this almond cake and am looking forward to making this one because I agree the other was a bit too buttery. But I have a couple of questions: I only have access to Odense almond paste which comes in a 7 oz. tube. Will it be a catastrophe if I use only seven ounces? Also, I noticed that you upped the salt quite a bit, from 1/4 tsp to 3/4. Is there a specific reason, beyond your personal preference? Also is there a reason the baking powder is also increased? (I’m less concerned about that one.)
    I am actuallu baking this tomorrow, so if by any chance you have a chance to respond before then, that would be great!
    Thanks, Kathy
    PS. The zucchini cake was INCREDIBLE.

  • Kathy: i don’t know about using 7oz of almond paste but would image it would work fine. If you do make it with that quantity, let us know how it works out. I like salt quite a bit, especially with the strong taste of nuts to counterbalance it. So that’s why I dialed up the quantity. Happy baking!

  • Thanks David. I made the cake with 7 oz of almond paste and I think it works just fine (actually I noticed the previous version called for 6 oz.). Unfortunately I baked it just a few minutes too long so it was not quite as moist as usual, but I don’t think that had anything to do with the quantity of almond paste. I didn’t check it until 1 hr, and probably should have removed at 55″.
    (I feel a bit dumb now after reading in the comments above that several others used a 7 oz tube of almond paste with good results!)
    The cake was consumed by two French friends, with whom I sent home the leftovers so they could have it for breakfast. I don’t know if it’s a French thing, but these guys love cake for breakfast!

  • Making almond paste is easy!!!
    David is right when he talks about using a food processor. Poor consistency and the risk of generating oil form all that friction.
    The answer?
    Standing mixer meat grinding attachment. Use the blade and the plate with the smallest holes. Operate the machine at it’s slowest speed. Feed the almonds into the feed tube slowly. They arrive for your use in a perfect powdery condition. Rejoice!
    You don’t have to spend $15.00 for some lousy tasting tube at the supermarket.
    Don’t forget to blanch and peel!!!!

  • Just wanted to say thank you for the recipe! I’m gluten intolerant, and was able to substitute the cup of flour easily for gluten-free flour. Turned out super moist – one of the best gluten-free cakes I’ve ever had! Thanks again.

  • ALL,

    It’s extremely easy do do almond paste.

    Get some almonds, boil them so you can remove the skins, then toast them a few minutes to enhance the taste, and then grind them in a food processor or in a nut grinder (Cuisinart has a good one). Or just buy the almond meal (hint: Trader Joe’s).

    Then mix 50% almond meal with 50% confectioner’s sugar, and add a few drops almond extract, and a LITTLE water, 1 tablespoon at a time. You want rather large lumps to form not a paste. When that’s done just knead it by hand and it will become a paste.

    Optionally you can add some color and shape it in a log.

    Maybe David can come up with an even more tasty recipe.

  • Hi David…

    I’ve made this cake about 10 times since July (parties, piggyness, etc.). Once I turned around after the cake was already in the oven to discover, I had forgotten to add all the butter. Sacre bleu! “What a waste”, I thought, of this beautiful (and expensive) 50% almond paste ($36/1000g). It was too late to add it – the sides were already rising.

    It was really good. It was really, really good. Still moist. A tad rubbery in texture. But the almond flavor shined. I later made the cake twice with 8 oz. of butter and though scrumptious, it tasted more of butter cake than of almond cake.

    I’m making it with less butter, today (a mere 4 oz.) for the birthday of one of the best peach farmers in California). I’m going to add Indian Blood peaches and the reduced peach syrup from the maceration process into the batter (reducing added sugar). I’m also going to top the cake with the requisite confectioners sugar plus the amazing salty sweet sliced almond brittle recipe you gave with your peach sorbet (also earth moving) recipe in the LAT some time ago. It’s addictive.

    Thanks for a great recipe and a great discussion.

  • Made three cakes with only 4 oz. of butter. Great texture. This the right amount for me. It really allows the almond to come through.

  • I really love this cake. I made it over the summer with spectacular results, and just took my second one out of the oven. I didn’t remember it rising above the pan last time, but it did this time. No sweat, it’s fine now. The top is a little browner than I remember it, but I’m going to dust it with powdered sugar when I serve it tomorrow and it will be great. The house smells divine!

    My husband just mixed up a batch of the salted butter chocolate chip cookies and we’re going to bake those soon too. It’s a great baking night in my house!

  • Hi David!

    Great site! I’ve had great success with your chocolate idiot cake and I’m already deciding which of your books to buy from Amazon.

    I can’t seem to find a reliable and affordable supplier of almond paste here in England. I’m guessing from the other comments and the tags that marzipan would be an acceptable substitute?

    Thanks!

    Alan

  • Hi Alan: Marzipan often has extra sugar in it so although I haven’t used it, I’d be cautious about swapping it out. A few people noted methods for making almond paste in previous comments but almond paste in general, shouldn’t be that tough to find.

    I would imagine that Waitrose would have it. Or you might want to try somewhere online, and you can use one of the places mentioned in my post; How to Find Foods & Other Items Mentioned on the Site.

  • Aussie readers , has anyone had any luck finding Almond Paste here?

  • I halved the recipe, baked it in a loaf pan and it was excellent. I dont have a food processor (it was lost during our move), so I used my blender tor the first steps and finished with my mixer. :)

    I ate a piece of this cake with my cup of coffee this morning and just LOVED it. I ran back for a second piece and tried it with whipped ream and then chocolate frosting (which I was skeptical about)… Both were equally divine.

    Thanks for another great recipe!

  • Thank you!!! Great recipe. I read your blog all the time, your recipes are clear and straightforward (I also did your apple jelly). Thanks for a great blog with wonderful advice.

    Virginia