During last weekend's snowstorm, we were pleasantly holed up at home on Sunday, cozy under layers of fuzzy blankets as the snow fell outside all day long. A cup of hot coffee in my hands was as warming as the feel of a purring cat on my lap. I miss my kitty.
I love the peace of a snowy winter day - the gently falling snow muffles all sound and a comfortable quietness envelops everything. On such a day, the city seems to be in agreement to be silent, and I imagined that anyone whose kids weren't dragging them outside to play in the snow, were inside watching movies, drinking hot chocolate, and eating popcorn, apples and cheese (my favorite snack as a kid). Venturing outside feels completely unnecessary and no one feels guilty wearing their pajamas all day on a day like that. By that evening the snow had drifted knee deep in places.
After the snow stopped falling, the next morning dawned cold but sunny, and the snow started to melt. Big, slushy piles of melting snow that refreeze at night are more hazardous than the snowfall itself, and it was a challenge to find a street parking space that was clear of slush, otherwise my car freezes tight to the ice underneath the tires and refuses to budge the next morning. One morning this week I had to call Jamie on his way in to work to come back and help push my car off an icy patch.
For the first day of March - not quite spring, but almost - I baked almond cake. It's a family recipe for almond pound cake, which I've only baked before in bundt pans or loaf pans, but I suspected it would bake nicely as cupcakes, too, and I wasn't wrong. Unlike a traditional cupcake which has a domed center, these little cakes settled perfectly flat after baking, which was fine by me, as my only fear with cupcakes is sinking or overflowing batter.
After filling all the cupcake liners, I had a small amount of batter leftover, so I made a teeny-tiny 6-inch round cake as well. A snowy blanket of creamy, tangy cream cheese buttercream swirled over the cakes balanced the sweet cake perfectly, and little almond "flowers" made simply from marzipan rolled in sugar and surrounded by sliced almond "petals" gave them a spring-like finishing touch. Many compliments later at work, I'm sure that this recipe is one I will make again.
I hope that spring comes soon.
Almond Flower Cake
· 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
· 8 ounces cream cheese
· ½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
· 2 eggs
· 2 teaspoons almond extract
· 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
· 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1 1/3 cups whole milk
Cream cheese buttercream:
· 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
· 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
· 1 teaspoon vanilla
· 1 tablespoon meringue powder
· 4 – 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
Almond Flower Garnish:
· 3 ounces Marzipan
· 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
· Sliced almonds
Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350. For cupcakes, line muffin pans with 30 paper liners. For a layer cake, spray the bottoms of 3 eight-inch pans with non-stick baking spray, line with parchment paper, then spray the paper as well. Set aside. (I wanted to make both cupcakes and a small cake, so I divided the batter between 24 cupcakes and 2 six-inch round pans.)
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, cream cheese and butter on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and almond extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour, stirring just until moistened.
Divide batter between the pans. Bake cupcakes for 14-15 minutes, cakes for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel. When they cakes cool, the surface will settle very flat, which is normal for this recipe.
Make the Buttercream:
To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla for several minutes with the whisk attachment until smooth and combined. In a separate bowl combine the meringue powder and powdered sugar, then add by spoonfuls to the mixer while mixing on low. Beat on medium high for several minutes until light, creamy and fluffy.
Pipe or frost the buttercream onto the cooled cake and/or cupcakes.
To garnish, use a quarter teaspoon to scoop equally sized portions of marzipan, then roll into small balls between your hands. Coat each marzipan ball in the granulated sugar.
To make the almond flowers, place a sugared marzipan ball in the center of each cupcake or around the cake, then arrange 6-7 almond slices around each ball to look like flower petals.
Recipe and Design from Curly Girl Kitchen