Lemon-Almond Snack Cake

This summer, for our vacation, we did our usual road trip, with stops to visit various friends in France, with a delicious detour to Spain. We always look forward to visiting our French friends who have a home in Burgundy, and not just for all the Chablis, jambon persillé, Dijon mustard and gougères. (Oh, and they also have a pool…) But since they live abroad, we don’t get to see them all that often. This year, two members of their family were celebrating milestone birthdays and a party was planned for nearly sixty friends and family members in their honor.

For the party, we got to work. The first day of prep, everyone was sort of doing whatever they thought needed doing, until a former restaurant cook (me) realized we needed someone to make a prep list, and we all sat down together to map out our plans.

I was mostly relieved of dessert duty, except for five cherry clafoutis I baked, which you can see from the scribbles at the bottom left of the page. Thankfully the French don’t pit cherries for clafoutis, so that shaved probably two hours off the prep time. (And added a little extra pool time.)

We ended up making roughly 60 sweet and savory tarts, from pissaladières (onion-anchovy tarts, using the recipe from My Paris Kitchen) to tomato tarts, along with plum tarts (tartes aux quetsches) using prune plums that we foraged from local trees that had been abandoned.

We added a lot to the list as we went, and there were also gâteaux amandes, almond cakes, that one of our French hosts was planning to make.

Proving once again that French home cooks and bakers aren’t expected to compete with the local pâtisserie, and due to a shortage of tart pans (does anyone have 60 tart pans on hand?) she baked her gâteaux in foil cake pans, and served them forth.

The batter for the cake is similar to a financier, similarly enriched with almond flour, which fortunately has gotten easier to obtain outside of France. Once the cakes were baked, she squeezed the juice of half a lemon over each and gave them a light soaking with amaretto before cutting them into squares to serve.

My friend only buttered the pans, but I wanted to share the recipe with you and used a regular cake pan, rather than foil, which I lined with a circle of parchment paper as extra insurance it’d come out. She just cut and served the cake right from the pans, but it’s your call whether you want to unmold the cake or leave it in the pan.

The edges may look burnt to you, but they’re not. They do get darker than the center of the cake, and the top of hers came out darker than mine; I think she cooked hers longer to get that firmer top, but I was pretty occupied cooking other things while she baked off the cakes. (That, or I was taking a pool break.)

Since there’s so much almond flour in the recipe, the cake stays remarkably moist. It was so good, we snacked on leftovers for the next few days. As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, it was especially good for breakfast, with coffee, too.

Amaretto adds a sort of dopey sweetness that might take you back to your twenties (or even before) when you reach for a bottle. But the sweet/bitter almond flavor of the Italian liqueur really does go well with this cake. My friend said that to make this cake even better, use Frangelico, the hazelnut-flavored liqueur, which she accompanied with a look as if she was personally experiencing rapture. Personally, I think anyone with four kids is always looking for an excuse to use any kind of alcohol, but I stuck with amaretto and wasn’t disappointed. I don’t think you’ll be either.

Lemon-Almond Snack Cake
Print Recipe
20 servings (approximately)
I baked this in an 8-inch (20cm) round cake pan, but you can use a similar-sized vessel, such as an 8- to 9-inch (20-23cm) pie plate or pan. A square cake pan would also work. The baking time may vary a bit due to different sizes of pans so use the visual and tactile clues to tell when it's done, referring to the suggested baking time for the 8-inch round cake pan as a guide.
1 1/4 cups (125g) almond flour
5 1/2 tablespoons (50g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 ounces (200g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) sugar
zest of 1 large lemon
3 large eggs, at room temperature
juice of 1 large lemon (about 2 tablespoons), divided
2 tablespoons amaretto, or another nut-flavored liqueur
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Butter an 8-inch (20cm) round cake pan, or similar-sized vessel. (See headnote.) Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, if you wish.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, and salt.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or by hand in a bowl, with a spatula), beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium-high speed. On low speed, stir in the eggs one at a time, then the juice from half a lemon, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl after the addition of each egg.
4. Stir in the flour mixture until completely incorporated, then scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Smooth the top.
5. Bake the cake until the center feels set; a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean, about 40 minutes. Don't worry if the sides (or top) get too dark; that's normal and the cake will be fine.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining lemon juice over the cake, and the amaretto. Let cool before slicing.

Serving: Since this is a snack cake, it's fine to serve on its own. It can also be served with a fresh fruit compote or a favorite flavor of ice cream or sorbet.

Storage: The cake will keep for up to five days at room temperature. It can also be frozen for up to three months.


Lemon-Almond Snack Cake

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56 comments

  • September 10, 2019 3:36pm

    I had expected the eggs to be separated but this is so much easier!

    Not fond of Amaretto, I would be tempted to drizzle (diluted?) pastis on it instead (to replicate a mauresque = pastis + sirop d’orgeat).

  • Romain PELLAS
    September 10, 2019 4:55pm

    It’s a very good cake I really liked !!

  • September 10, 2019 5:16pm

    David, are those your hands in the first photograph? They’re so elegantly artistic-looking!

    I’m a huge fan of things almond (and I have a baked batch of your pain d’amande on my counter as I write) so I’m looking forward to trying this.

  • Adele
    September 10, 2019 5:17pm

    Love almond cakes, they’re so buttery and moist. And any recipe that gets the Romain seal of approval is one I want to try!

  • Merry
    September 10, 2019 5:17pm

    this looks amazing! And perfect for Rosh Hashanah lunch! Would a substitution of almond extract be OK for the amaretto?

    • September 10, 2019 5:47pm
      David Lebovitz

      I would dilute almond extract with something like sugar syrup or unsweetened pineapple juice before sprinkling it over the cake. Pure almond extract is a little strong on its own : )

      • Mary
        September 10, 2019 9:24pm

        How about sirop d’orgeat?

  • September 10, 2019 5:19pm

    This looks just like the kind of cake I love! Next time you’re on your travels, stop by and visit us in Tarascon, just up the road from Arles. We have a great market and a lovely chambre d’amis, (though sadly no pool, but the river Gardon is not far!)

    • September 10, 2019 7:44pm

      Then you can hit my place by Carcassonne, and I do have a pool and a chambre d’amis.

  • G
    September 10, 2019 5:33pm

    This is my dream come true :)
    Will try this recipe soon.

    • Karin Pereira
      September 10, 2019 8:12pm

      Mine as well!

  • September 10, 2019 5:45pm

    Sounds Amazing! I am adding this to my “to cook/bake” list. Cherries, strawberries, raspberries…

  • Helen
    September 10, 2019 5:53pm

    Your post convinced me to make this cake with all my favorite flavors. So delicious and a perfect snack today served with coffee or a flowery herbal tea.

    • J Bazinet
      September 15, 2019 8:16am

      Bon jour!

      This is a great dessert and well liked by mes rats de laboratoire de la cuisine!

      I baked it in an 8×8 Pyrex pan at 325 (to compensate for the higher conductivity) for 40 minutes and the cake came out perfectly!

  • Taipan
    September 10, 2019 5:59pm

    Given that there is so little all-purpose flour in the ingredients, it may qualify as a keto-friendly snack. Will definitely try this recipe. Thanks.

  • Mara
    September 10, 2019 6:23pm

    Could this be made with all almond flour to make it gluten free?

  • Bonnie
    September 10, 2019 6:25pm

    Will try with a gluten free flour. Maybe even with Almond meal instead of almond flour to get the almond speckles :-)

    • Alene t
      October 1, 2019 8:09pm

      Bonnie, how did it come out with gf flour? I just made a fig cake, taken from an Ottolenghi recipe, that I converted to almond flour, which was in the recipe + a small amount of gluten free flour. It was pretty dense and cakey in parts. It was supposed to be all cakey. Don’t want that to happen to this recipe.

  • Kathy Sykes
    September 10, 2019 6:33pm

    I have recently made blueberry muffins using a coffee cake recipe. They were delicious. I look forward to trying David’s recipe as muffins.

  • Amy
    September 10, 2019 8:04pm

    If anyone has 60 tart pans, it would be you David!

  • Karin Pereira
    September 10, 2019 8:11pm

    YUMMY and EASY….getting out the Amaretto and dusting off the bottle and starting the cake in a square pan.

  • K.
    September 10, 2019 9:48pm

    Please please please, tell me more about this plum tart! My beloved Italian plum tree is bursting with delicious fruit. I am always looking for recipes to make and share because the plums, lord the plums, are too delicious to abandon entirely to the crows and squirrels. We’ve gorged on them fresh, frozen bags of split plums for the winter, and now I’m getting down to the serious baking. I would love to know your favorite recipe for plum tart.

    • September 11, 2019 4:51pm
      David Lebovitz

      They were just rounds of pastry, unbaked, with small questches (prune plum) halves spread over the pastry. They were sprinkled with sugar then baked. I posted a picture on Instagram.

      • K.
        September 14, 2019 1:46am

        Lovely! Thank you!

    • Miki
      September 12, 2019 11:15am

      This is my favourite plum recipe. I did try reducing the sugar in the batter but it wasn’t as tasty; Plum Crumble Bars.

      • Miki
        September 12, 2019 11:17am
      • K.
        September 14, 2019 1:53am

        Wonderful! Thank you! I love all things from Deb, but I think I will try these bars fist since I’ve already made the recipe Deb’s is based on. All after making a quick plum crostata according to David’s formula, of course.

  • September 10, 2019 10:36pm

    I die!! It’s just all so romantic and delish looking. I can imagine the flavor which is making me want to run to the market, gather ingredients and bake! Thank you.

  • Sarah
    September 11, 2019 12:26am

    Can we skip the liqueur altogether? Or is it necessary?

    • September 11, 2019 8:37pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s part of the flavor of the cake but if you want to omit it, you can. Someone else in the comments (thanks, Mary!) recommended sprinkling the cake with orgeat syrup, which would be another way to go.

  • Luba
    September 11, 2019 2:32pm

    What could one substitute for the white flour to make this gluten free?

  • Pru
    September 12, 2019 9:02pm

    I made this for my kids. They gobbled it up in minutes and then asked me to make another for breakfast.

    They also loved the cherries in red wine syrup. They have very good taste!

  • Sunanda
    September 12, 2019 11:06pm

    This was absolutely delicious! Perfectly moist and lemony oo yum! Thank you David

  • R Stuart
    September 13, 2019 9:52pm

    “Snack cake”?

    Sounds like something in cellophane purchased at the corner 7-11.

    This, on the other hand, looks delicious.

  • Xoffender
    September 15, 2019 5:28am

    Made this using Frangelico since that’s what I had on hand. Delicious, moist and simple to make. Merci David!

    • September 17, 2019 1:28pm
      David Lebovitz

      Someday I’ll give it a try with Frangelico…after her recommendation, and now yours : )

  • Sarah N-J
    September 15, 2019 9:19pm

    This was delicious! And it comes together so quickly. I made one for myself to try it out, since I had Amaretto on hand after buying it for a Nigella Lawson recipe. I couldn’t stop eating the “snack” cake, both on its own and with some espresso ice cream. Made it again this morning for a friend. I think this will be my new recipe for something to take when I’m invited for dinner. Thanks so much, David.

    • September 17, 2019 1:27pm
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you liked it!

  • September 17, 2019 10:44am

    Snack cake, yup. That’s what I’m here for!!!

  • September 17, 2019 10:45am

    Would really like to see a keto or GF version of this… although I know that may not be possible! I can dream!

    • September 17, 2019 1:27pm
      David Lebovitz

      I would imagine one could swap out one of the gluten-free flour substitutes, such as Cup4Cup or ones made by King Arthur Flour or Bob’s Red Mill. If you give one a try, let us know how it turns out.

  • Denise
    September 17, 2019 12:26pm

    David, it appears you used unblanched almond flour, is that what the specks are? I can only find blanched, hope the taste/texture isn’t compromised.

    • September 17, 2019 1:26pm
      David Lebovitz

      I used a mix, since I had a little of each bag to use up. You can use either. Some say blanched provides a finer texture, but I’ve not done a side-by-side comparison, but those are the specks.

  • emma
    September 17, 2019 2:42pm

    I made one for myself to try it out, since I had Amaretto on hand after buying it for a Nigella Lawson recipe. I couldn’t stop eating the “snack” cake, both on its own and with some espresso ice cream. Made it again this morning for a friend. I think this will be my new recipe for something to take when I’m invited for dinner. Thanks so much, David.

  • Liza
    September 19, 2019 7:19pm

    Made it last night. Superb!!
    Used lemon and pineapple juices for sprinkling on top. Such a treat!
    Thank you David for sharing the recipe!!!!

  • lisa
    September 24, 2019 4:27am

    This looks just like the kind of cake I love! Next time you’re on your travels, stop by and visit us in Tarascon, just up the road from Arles. We have a great market and a lovely chambre d’amis, (though sadly no pool, but the river Gardon is not far!) general store

  • Anna
    September 24, 2019 7:57pm

    I’m currently baking it! Quite unusual to see a recipe without any rising agent and SO much butter. So fingers crossed it’ll turn out well ( as your other hundred recipes I use every week). Also made some shallot jam + aubergine jam at the same time for the party on Saturday and planning to make the mint pesto !

  • SharonSF
    September 25, 2019 5:52am

    I don’t drink alcohol. Is there an alternative to the amaretto or is the cake moist enough to leave it out?

    • SharonSF
      September 25, 2019 5:54am

      Never mind, I just saw the suggestion for orgeat in the comments. I’ll try that or another recipe! Thanks!

  • Bobbi H
    September 25, 2019 3:54pm

    “Amaretto adds a sort of dopey sweetness…” LOL, this is why I love your writing!

  • Bette
    October 1, 2019 3:05pm

    Wait, what?! “The French don’t pit cherries for clafoutis”? Seriously? How do you avoid breaking a tooth?

  • Mimi
    October 1, 2019 7:26pm

    Has anyone tried the cake topping it with halved prune plums before baking ?

  • CHANTAL
    October 2, 2019 1:47pm

    I make my own limoncello. Would it work instead of nut liquor?
    Thanks for writing a beautiful, witty and helpful blog

    • October 2, 2019 5:41pm
      David Lebovitz

      Limoncello would likely be terrific. I was going to mention it as an option but there are so many options with this cake that mentioning them all would require another post ;)

  • Sarah N-J
    October 3, 2019 4:57am

    I have made this 5 times since the recipe appeared. So easy. So good.

  • Lisa Walker
    October 8, 2019 9:10pm

    I really want to thank you for sharing your recipes! They are so lovely and I always a game changer.