Almond cake is one of those desserts that seems rather plain and unassuming and then blows you away with how delicious it is. The cake couldn't be simpler to make and only includes a handful of ingredients. But the finished result is both rich and elegant.
Tender Almond Cakes with Cranberry Orange Sauce
I had a friend over for lunch on the day I was testing this recipe. Wanting to make these little almond cakes more Christmas-y, I decided to see how they would taste with a dollop of cranberry sauce - something I already had a jar of in the refrigerator.
After lunch, I put a couple of little almond cakes between us and informed my friend that she had a BIG decision to make: with cranberry sauce or without??? (These are the types of decisions you have to make if you come to my house. Yes, the world is full of actual problems, and we can talk about them all day long. But the only thing I will require of you is that you give me an honest opinion about dessert.)
In this case, the decision is with cranberry sauce.
The tart burst of citrus and cranberry, the smooth sweetness of amaretto, the crunch of toasted almonds, and the rich, tender cake all come together to have a little party in your mouth.
After a while, my friend asked, "Is it wrong that I'm still eating this?"
Of course not, you silly thing.
Because... theoretically, you can cut these little 4-inch cakes into 4 tiny slices, each one about the same size as a mini chai latte cupcake or mini chocolate peppermint cupcake, or mini cranberry bundt cake.
But, you’re probably going to eat more than one tiny slice. As you should. Part of the fun of making mini desserts is eating more than one with no regrets.
Almond Cake Recipe Notes
This recipe makes six 4-inch cakes, but can easily be halved or doubled. I really do like to slice these into 4 little slices. The cakes are about serving something abundantly delicious, not abundantly sized. Slicing them allows you and everyone else the option of having as much or as little as they like.
These little cakes are baked in 4-inch springform pans. Since, the sides of a springform pan release, it makes removing the cakes from the pan, well... a pice of cake. 😂 The springform pans I used come in packs of three. So, if you don't already have mini spring form pans and plan to make the whole recipe, order two packs. If you're most likely to cut the recipe in half, one pack will do ya.
The Cranberry Sauce really is optional. It's delicious and lovely atop these little almond cakes, and I highly encourage you to try it. It's tartness is balanced with just the right amount of sweet. But, these little cakes are absolutely delicious all on their own if you'd rather serve them unadorned. (Also recommended is a dollop of tart Morello Cherry Preserves.)
What is almond paste?
Almond paste, the main ingredient in almond cake, is simply a mixture of ground almonds and sugar. It's somewhat similar to marzipan, but much coarser, less sweet, and used as an ingredient in things like Almond Cake rather than as decoration.
Almond paste may be difficult to find, depending on where you are in the world. My local supermarket has it some of the time... but not all of the time. That's why I've taken to ordering it on Amazon.
I purchase it in packs of 4, making it slightly cheeper than buying them one at a time and allowing me to keep some on hand. I like having a package or two in my pantry, because these cakes really are quick and easy enough to be baked on a whim.
For the Almond Cakes:
- Almond Paste
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 12 tablespoon (6oz) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces and chilled
- 3 tablespoon honey
- 5 large eggs
- 3 tablespoon Amaretto (plus more for brushing over the cakes)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon table salt (1 ¼ kosher salt)
- ¾ cup sliced almonds
- Powdered sugar for sprinkling over the tops of the cakes
For the Cranberry Sauce:
- 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 - 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
Make the Almond Cakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour six 4-inch springform pans.
- Add the almond paste and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low to blend in the sugar and break up the almond paste without pieces flying around your kitchen. Then, beat on medium-high for 2 minutes.
- Add the butter and beat on medium-high for 4-5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. The mixture should look light and airy. This long beating time will ensure that the cakes are light in texture, not dense.
- Beat in the honey to incorporate then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating until each one is fully incorporated into the batter before adding the next.
- Add the amaretto, flour, and salt and beat on low just long enough to incorporate all the ingredients.
- Divide the batter between all six prepared pans, smoothing the tops. Place the pans on a baking sheet and put in the oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the tops of the cakes are golden brown and spring back when touched.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in their pans.
- Put the almonds in a skillet set over medium high heat. Toast the almonds, stirring constantly, until most of them are a rich golden brown. Dump the almonds onto a plate to cool.
- To serve: Release the sides of the pans and remove the cakes to individual plates or a serving dish. Brush the tops of each cake with Amaretto. (I like to use quite a bit of Amaretto, brushing it on until the tops of the cakes won't absorb any more.)
- If you are slicing the cakes into pieces, do that now before topping with almonds. Sprinkle the tops of the cakes with a layer of toasted almonds and dust with powdered sugar.
- Serve as is, or with dollops of cranberry sauce. The cakes will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Make the Cranberry Sauce:
- Add all but ½ cup of the cranberries to a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add 1 cup sugar, orange zest and lemon juice to the pan.
- Cook over medium-low high heat, stirring frequently, until the cranberries are soft and all the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the cranberries burst - about 8 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in the reserved cranberries. Taste and add up to 1 cup more sugar depending on how sweet you like your cranberry sauce. (I like my cranberry sauce tart, so usually don't add any additional sugar. But, taste and adjust it to your personal liking.)
- Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in a bit of salt and pepper, tasting until you get the amount that tastes right to you.
- Allow the cranberry sauce to cool to room temperature and then store in a jar or other airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
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