Caramelized Almond Cake

Caramelized Orange Cake recipe

I’ve seen (and eaten!) cakes topped with caramelized almonds in several countries in the world, but never took a try at one myself. I love anything covered with crunchy, nutty, caramel (Including the famed Chez Panisse almond tart), and after dreaming about the many variations of this that I’ve tried, the time seemed right to finally tackle making one myself.

Caramelized Orange Cake recipe

I tried a few similar cakes, one from a newer cookbook that didn’t work. After baking the cake with the almond topping for over an hour, I was still left with a bone-dry scattering of sugary almonds over a rather expensive batter that was loaded with almond paste and butter. I can find a use for anything, rather than throw it away, but it wasn’t even good for a trifle. It’s now compost and hope that it comes back as something more successful for someone else.

Caramelized Orange Cake recipe

This is one cake you won’t toss. In fact, after I ate one-quarter of it by myself the day I made it, I passed half of it off to a neighbor. (I still kept one more quarter of it for me, though.)

I saw this many years ago on Poires au chocolat, a lovely (and now defunct) blog from a sweet young woman in Switzerland, Emma, who I met when we spoke together on a panel in Europe. It’s called Toscakaka, adapted from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen. And it’s the cake of my dreams.

Caramelized Orange Cake recipeCaramelized Orange Cake recipe

This gorgeous almond-topped cake is great to snack on, just on its own – or perhaps with a cup of coffee for your daytime coffee and pastry break, which the Swedish call fika – and you do take a daily coffee and cake break, right? Or it can be dressed up with berries or fruit on the side, a drizzle of citrusy caramel, poached pears, and perhaps a scoop of ice cream, if you want to really take it to stad (town, in Swedish).

Caramelized Orange Cake recipe

Caramelized Orange Cake recipe

Caramelized Almond Cake
Print Recipe
8 to 10 servings
Adapted from Scandilicious Baking by Signe JohansenA few tips: You can use blanched or unblanched sliced almonds. Either will work fine. I toasted mine, which were a mix of the two, in the oven while I was putting together the cake batter. They'll take about 8 to 10 minutes 325ºF (160ºC), stirring them once or twice during baking so they toast evenly.After melting the butter for the cake batter, you can use the same pot again for making the caramel-almond topping. So no need to wash it in between. Yay for less dishes!In step #5, you could sift the dry ingredients over the whipped eggs when folding them in, to disperse the ingredients, to avoid lumps. I didn't have any issues, but that's extra-assurance, if you'd like to be more careful.The topping is quick to put together and should be done as the cake is baking. Ideally it should still be warm when you're ready to spread it over the cake and if it cools down, you can gently rewarm it before you spread. (The heat of the just-baked cake will help it spread, too.)People often ask how to remove a cake from a springform pan to slide it on a serving platter. This is a fairly sturdy cake, once cool, so you can use a wide spatula to slide the cake from the bottom of the pan, and pull the paper off, before transferring it to a cake plate. Alternatively, you can invest in a glass-bottom springform pan.
For the cake
5 tablespoons (75ml) milk, whole or lowfat
1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar, or lemon juice
5 tablespoons (2 ounces, 75g), unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (150g), flour
1 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the caramelized almond topping
1 1/2 cups (150g) sliced almonds, lightly toasted (see headnote)
8 tablespoons (4 ounces, 115g), unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
2/3 cup, packed (125g) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (162ºC). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Mix the milk with the vinegar or lemon juice in a small bowl or measuring cup, and let stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla until it holds its shape when you lift the whip and the batter falls back on itself, about 5 minutes. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and set aside, but don't let it get too cool. (You want it to be as close to tepid as possible when you fold it into the batter in step #7.)
4. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.
5. Using a flexible spatula, carefully fold one-third of the dry ingredients into the whipped eggs, being careful to deflate it as little as possible. Fold in half of the soured milk, then fold in another one-third of the dry ingredients.
6. Fold in the remaining milk, then the rest of the flour mixture.
7. Dribble in the tepid, but still liquid butter into the batter, carefully folding it in as you go, just until it's incorporated. Be sure to reach the bottom of the bowl as you go, to avoid unincorporated lumps of flour. Don't overfold – better to have a few lumps than to deflate the batter.Transfer the batter carefully into the prepared pan and bake until it feels just set in the middle; a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and increase the heat of the oven to 390ºF (200ºC).
For the caramelized almond topping
8. While the cake is baking, make the caramel-almond topping by melting the butter in the saucepan along with the brown sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, or sooner, until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the toasted almonds.
9.. Scrape the mixture over the cake and gently coax it over the top of the cake, reaching to the sides of the cake pan. Avoid applying any pressure so you don't break through the top of the cake underneath.
10. Put the almond-topped cake back in the oven and bake until the caramel between the almonds starts bubbling up thickly between the almonds, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven. After 5 minutes, run a knife around the outside of the cake to release it from the sides of the pan then let the cake cool completely before serving and slicing.

To make the orange caramel sauce, heat 1/2 cup (100g) of sugar and 1/4 cup (60ml) of water in a skillet or saucepan. (Read my post How to Make the Perfect Caramel for specifics.) Cook the sugar, tilting the pan only if necessary, encouraging the sugar to melted. Continue cooking until the sugar turns a rich, amber brown color. Remove from heat and gradually pour in 1/3 cup (80ml) orange juice, being aware it may splatter a bit.

Stir the caramel gently over low heat until smooth. If there are still little bits of undissolved sugar or caramel, strain the sauce through a mesh strainer. Let cool to room temperature. The caramel can be made up to two weeks in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

The cake will keep for up to three days at room temperature, if well-covered.

 


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64 comments

  • Pete
    December 13, 2016 3:41pm

    Funny you should post this today. Less than an hour ago I took the Chez Panisse Almond Tart out of the oven. Managed to scoff a third of it already. Oops. Very moorish. Must give this cake a go… looks a bit less messy to make than the tart. Anyway, back to cleaning the oven ;)

    • Pete
      December 13, 2016 4:04pm

      …errr, “moreish”.

  • Kevin
    December 13, 2016 3:46pm

    Looks yummy, but I think you forgot the eggs in the ingredient list.

    • Kevin
      December 13, 2016 3:47pm

      never mind. i see them. oops!

  • Jean
    December 13, 2016 4:21pm

    How could you make this gluten free with ie. almond flour?

    • Vicki A
      December 13, 2016 5:29pm

      I just use Bob’s Red Mill “1 for 1” gluten free flour mix as a substition for wheat flour.

      • Lisa
        December 13, 2016 5:52pm

        I was wondering how I could make this one gluten free so my celiac daughter wouldn’t have to miss out. Almond flour would probably make the cake too dense. I’ve never used Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 GF flour but it’s now on my shopping list. Thanks for recommending it, Vicki.

  • December 13, 2016 4:37pm

    Not much of a cake fan if I have to say so myself, but growing up in Norway I definitely tried my share of these types of almond cakes. Can’t go wrong with that.

  • Angela
    December 13, 2016 5:00pm

    I’ve made this cake quite a few times since I found it on the same blog a couple years ago, and it is always a huge hit. SO GOOD!

  • December 13, 2016 5:08pm

    That caramelized nut top looks so good. Interesting about folding in the dry ingredients to not deflate the batter–it looks like a fairly dense cake. I have a yellow cake that I make that requires mixing in the yolks and then beating the whites stiff and folding them in. I wonder whether that would work here. Maybe just too much fuss.

  • Roseanne
    December 13, 2016 5:16pm

    Do you put the topping on the cake after the cake is fully baked? It’s not clear, but I assume that is the method. Could you clarify?

    • December 13, 2016 5:52pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it get put on after step #7. The next part, note to make it “while the cake is baking,” so it gets added after it is baked. In the headnote, there are some additional tips for spreading the topping on the warm cake.

  • Jeff in Brooklyn
    December 13, 2016 5:33pm

    Anybody have a method to slice whole almonds? Sometimes I think that the probably factory sliced almonds are not a fresh as I would like/

    • Linda
      December 13, 2016 6:01pm

      I think slicing enough almonds for this cake would take forever! Also think that if you buy already sliced from a store that has decent turnover in their stock, they’ll be fresh

      • Wendy
        December 13, 2016 6:46pm

        Mandoline will do it but they will be a bit uneven. Oh and PLEASE be careful use the guard. Finger segments do not add to this topping. (Voice of experience).

  • Leslie C
    December 13, 2016 5:42pm

    My mouth is watering as I read this recipe, I must try baking this today! Thanks for the beautiful pics as well as the recipe, your instructions are so helpful!

  • Kathy
    December 13, 2016 5:55pm

    David, which do you use of the 1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar, or lemon juice and does it make any difference in flavor? This looks so good I want to make it for my sister’s Birthday! Thank you.

  • December 13, 2016 5:57pm

    Swoon!!! Almond Cake is my absolute fave – must try this as soon as possible – thanks as always! Merry, merry!

  • Ella
    December 13, 2016 6:01pm

    I hate you….you make me spend SO much time in the gym because of posts like this. That being said, I *will* be making this on Friday. Thanks a lot

  • Milo Matthews
    December 13, 2016 6:11pm

    I just love all your recipes, but unfortunately have made very few owing to the fact that there is so much sugar in every recipe. Why oh why do you use so much sugar? What about listing a substitute instead of sugar for those who are on a sugar free diet?

    • June2
      December 14, 2016 5:24pm

      @milo
      Not everyone is an alternative baker. And it seems a bit much to ask them to become one! It really is up to individuals to innovate on their own, using recipes like this for inspiration. Experiment, engage creatively, make a few mistakes – then share your results and success!

    • Colleen
      December 15, 2016 2:09am

      Milo, I am sure that there are plenty of sugar free blogs. Half as much, twice as good, but having made this cake before, it is difficult.

    • Colleen
      December 15, 2016 2:20am

      Do you mean 5T, 2.5 oz (not 2 oz.) of butter in the cake? I also calculate 70g butter, but I do not think that 70g vs 75g would make a difference.

      I have made this cake from Poires au Chocolat and it is lovely.

  • Victoria
    December 13, 2016 6:15pm

    I’m wondering about possibly using almond extract rather than vanilla to oomph up the almond flavor in the cake. Good idea or no?

  • December 13, 2016 6:18pm

    Two things:

    1) fresh OJ or commercial from a box?

    2) why not buttermilk?

  • lady in LA
    December 13, 2016 6:21pm

    Hey David. I love you. I love your writing ❤️

  • December 13, 2016 6:30pm
    David Lebovitz

    Victoria: Sure, you could use that instead.

    Theresa: Fresh is fine, although depending on where you live (or the season) boxed juice is more flavorful. You can use buttermilk but either not everyone wants to buy a quart to use a small quantity, or they live in places where it’s not easily available. So this seemed like an easier ingredient that’s more available to all.

    lady in LA: Thanks! : )

    Milo: Sugar isn’t just a sweetener but adds moisture (and in the case of caramel, it adds crunch.) I don’t use artificial sweeteners, although I know people on certain diets and with various health conditions, use them, and it’s hard to convert a regular recipe to using them.

    If I did, I would have to offer a “regular” version of each recipe in addition to the reduced-sugar one, which would mean I’d have to develop two separate recipes. (Because the other ingredients would have to be toggled, and tested, to compensate for changing the amount of sugar.) I appreciate when others readers chime in with variations, as a few already did on this, to convert it to gluten-free. I also recommend Baking With Less Sugar by Joanne Chang, which has a lot of very good recipes that use less-sugar.

  • Marbarre
    December 13, 2016 6:37pm

    Wondering why there isn’t almond extract in the cake…would it make it too
    “almondy”?

    • Paula
      December 14, 2016 4:50pm

      What a gorgeous cake! But I’m wondering: if the genoise is baked to a clean toothpick in the first step, why doesn’t 10 more minutes in an almost 400 degree oven overbake it? Could you please speak to this?

      • December 14, 2016 5:50pm
        David Lebovitz

        My take is that, like a pre-baked tart shell that you then bake with a filling, the almond topping either protects the cake from getting too much heat, and/or that the heat is diffused more, so the cake doesn’t get over-baked. If you try it, let me know how you like it!

  • Rachel
    December 13, 2016 6:42pm

    Is the cake similar to a pâte sablée,sucré or a sponge cake ?

  • Marta
    December 13, 2016 6:47pm

    David,

    Do you think any other nut could be employed? My husband is allergic to almonds.

  • Roanne
    December 13, 2016 6:52pm

    One way of getting around the springform pan problem is to invert the bottom/base of the pan so that there is no rim to worry about once cooked and then, after the cake is baked and cooled, if you still can’t remove the cake, slide dental floss (unscented!) from one side of the base to the other to remove the cake. Works great for cheesecake which is a pain to remove from springform pans.

    • Colleen
      December 15, 2016 2:15am

      Brilliant!

  • Rhonda
    December 13, 2016 8:39pm

    Oh, yes! I love Toscakage. My Danish husband makes it regularly. It’s a cake that everyone seems to love!

  • Rupa
    December 13, 2016 9:58pm

    Hi David, Do you think this cake would hold up to freezing and shipping across the country. I’m always looking for something different to bake and ship for my son’s birthday in early February, and this beauty would be perfect. I usually send him variations on pound cakes and Mailino’s. olive oil cake, but would like to make something new. Thanks.

    • December 13, 2016 10:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t tried freezing it and with the crunchy topping, I’m concerned that might not defrost so well. (And lose its crispness.) If you wanted to try one beforehand, that might be a good idea. If you do, let us know how it works out.

  • Sally
    December 13, 2016 9:58pm

    This is a delicious sounding sponge cake and the topping is delectable

  • December 13, 2016 10:29pm

    You gave the rest of the cake to a neighbor. OMG, imagine being David Lebovitz’s neighbor!!! I’d be leaving farm fresh eggs and cream at his doorstep weekly, hoping for the occasional return on investment!

  • Jules
    December 13, 2016 10:34pm

    It is a delicious cake. I made it several years ago from the Poires au chocolat blog. You reminded me to make it again.

  • Amy
    December 14, 2016 1:42am

    Could you make this with a butter substitute ? Like coconut oil or canola?

  • MA
    December 14, 2016 5:02am

    Hi David! I do not get sliced almonds where I live, so can I substitute them with chopped almonds? I fear the texture would vary greatly. Is there any way of slicing them myself? Thank you!

    • December 14, 2016 1:44pm
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t tried it but a reader noted on my Facebook page said she made it with hazelnuts that were toasted, skinned, and chopped, and it worked well.

      • MA
        December 14, 2016 5:03pm

        David, made the cake with skinned toasted chopped almonds, and the cake came perfectly. Except it was not easy to slice the cake, it tasted really great with the soft sponge and crunchy almonds!

  • December 14, 2016 8:43am

    Has nothing to do with this post but wanted to let you know that for Thanksgiving, I made your Pecan pie, bite size. They loved them… Froze some as I had made 30, reheat gently to keep the crisp and my guests are still enjoying some… So belated thanks for another good recipe that stands out. martinn at key2paris

  • Kerrie
    December 14, 2016 9:20am

    Definitely one to try, next time there are visitors as it would be very naughty to eat it all.
    Love your writing.

  • Emily
    December 14, 2016 2:09pm

    Hello David,
    Can we use almond flour in this Yummy Caramelized Almond Cake Recipe?. If yes, will it be even substitution?
    Thank you

    • December 14, 2016 2:44pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’d be quite a bit of almond flour and would probably make the cake heavy. If you are trying to make it gluten-free, some other commenters offered suggestions in the comments above. I’ve not tried it with any substitutions so can’t say how it would turn out or what proportions to use without testing it. But if you do try it with the almond flour, let me know how it turns out.

  • Dulcistella
    December 14, 2016 2:16pm

    I miss SO MUCH Poires au chocolat. I discovered it and it became my favourite pastry blog just some days before it closed :”-(
    This cake was in my to-do list since I saw it… maybe it’s time to bake it ;-)

  • Elizabeth Sarah Davis
    December 14, 2016 8:27pm

    Quince vinegar. How awesome. Where does one procure? Or how to make it? Then serve it with poached quince, bien sur!

    • December 14, 2016 9:27pm
      David Lebovitz

      The bottle I have is imported by Manicaretti. It’s the actual fermented juice, which is aged in oak, and is available at Market Hall, and read more about it there. (I was given it as a gift by the importer a while back.) It’s different than the quince vinegar recipes I’ve seen online, which are mostly vinegars flavored with quince, but you can check them out.

  • Lucinda Leong
    December 15, 2016 6:20am

    My husband fell in love with sacristans when last we visited France. Can you direct me to a recipe? I’d love to replicate this for him. Thank you!!

  • Marguerite
    December 17, 2016 11:56pm

    Sorry, but I can’t leave your “almond cake” for a prettier face. When I want something even more special, I cut the cake in two layers and sandwich some ganache inside and on top. It freezes like a dream, too.

  • Gavrielle
    December 18, 2016 11:03am

    This looks a bit like the German bienenstich except that’s a yeasted dough rather than a cake. Looks divine.

  • Kathleen
    December 19, 2016 4:40pm

    I made this over the weekend for a luncheon and it was a crowdpleaser. I was told that I need to make more than one so that people could have seconds.

    One thing I will do in the future is wrap the bottom of the cake pan with aluminum foil to prevent leakage after the caramel has been poured over the cake.

  • Virginia Heer
    December 21, 2016 3:39am

    Hi David:
    I’m having trouble finding a recipe for an Apricot Cocktail sipped by Simone De Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Raymond Aron as described by Sarah Bakewell in her book At the Existentialist Cafe. Could you help me? Thanks, Virginia from Eugene

  • Debbie F.
    December 21, 2016 5:28pm

    I prepared your delectable Caramelized Almond Cake with its accompanying caramel sauce for a dinner party I threw this past Saturday night. I added mandarin oranges to the sauce as well as serving a dollop of slightly sweet whipped cream mixed with Crème Fraîche along side. Besides looking beautiful on the plate, it was the perfect ending to our dinner. Love this recipe. Thank you David.

  • Susanne
    December 28, 2016 4:48pm

    I made this as a Christmas desert and it was a huge success. The cake batter was a bit more finicky that the ones I usually make, but it turned out perfect in any case!

  • susan
    January 1, 2017 4:56pm

    Are the eggs separated ? How do you get soft peaks if not?
    Can I use a hand mixer if I don’t have a stand mixer? Is there a hand mixer that you recommend?
    Thank you and happy New Year .

    • January 1, 2017 5:27pm
      David Lebovitz

      The eggs remain whole. You whip the eggs and other ingredients noted, “until (the mixture) holds its shape when you lift the whip and the batter falls back on itself, about 5 minutes.” That would classify as soft peaks, although usually this is referred to as the ribbon stage. You can use a hand mixer although I don’t have one so can’t recommend a particular brand.

  • Jill Budzynski
    January 2, 2017 12:58am

    The topping reminds me of a German Christmas cookie (really more of a candy) called Florentines. I love them so much. Just caramelized sliced almonds with dark chocolate on one side. Addictive.

  • Peggy Linke
    January 3, 2017 12:46am

    This looks wonderful! Haven’t made it yet, but because of the blog, made the Chez Panisse Almond Tart for Christmas dessert. So glad I did. It was amazing and I only had a few heart attacks making it, especially deciding when to take it out of the oven. But we all loved it and I’ll make again. Now to make the almond cake here.

  • Alyson Piro
    January 6, 2017 1:23am

    This is the most perfect combination of almond, caramel, and cake I’ve ever tasted. The Chez Panisse almond tart, while delicious, is just too messy to serve at a dinner party, while this one is elegant when served with the orange caramel sauce. Sans caramel sauce, it is just a beautifully dressed up almond cake to go with afternoon tea or coffee. Thank you, David.

  • Selvi Supramaniam
    January 10, 2017 3:48pm

    Made this recently…OMG. This was love at first bite!

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