Foodstuff is a freelance food writer and published author from Australia who enjoys exploring various recipes and techniques.
Nutty and Fragrant Cake
The nutty fragrance of brown butter and toasted almonds has made this cake a firm favourite with friends since I started making it a couple of years ago. Rich in flavour yet light as a feather, it is a perfect way to end a meal.
As this cake calls for a lot of egg whites—approximately nine large eggs will be required—it is best to make this cake when you have a lot of surplus egg whites on hand.
How to Store and Use Egg Whites
It’s easy to build up a stash of frozen egg whites in the freezer because they freeze very well. Egg yolks change in texture when frozen, so it’s always better to use them fresh.
When making things like shortcrust pastry or custard which require only the yolks, put the egg whites into small tubs and freeze them. This way, you can defrost the approximate amount required.
You don’t have to remember how many whites are in each tub. Unless otherwise specified, most recipes use 60-gram eggs. One 60-gram egg typically consists of a 10-gram shell, a 20-gram yolk and a 30-gram white. So if you see a recipe calling for two egg whites, just work on the basis of 2 x 30 grams = 60 grams egg whites.
I allow the egg whites to defrost in the fridge (about eight hours). Once defrosted (or semi-defrosted), I leave them on the kitchen bench to let them come to room temperature before using them.
- 140 grams whole blanched almonds (see note in step 3, below)
- 150 grams caster sugar
- 105 grams cake flour
- 8 grams double-acting baking powder
- Pinch salt
- 140 grams unsalted butter
- 60 grams full-fat sour cream
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 270 grams egg whites, room temperature
- 150 grams caster sugar
- Approximately 100 grams flaked almonds (for sprinkling on top of the cake)
- Grease a 25.5cm round springform pan. Line the bottom and sides with baking paper. (Note: I prefer to use expandable cake rings which can be set to any size you need. It saves a lot of storage space!)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (conventional) /160°C (fan-forced).
- Toast the whole blanched almonds in a 180°C oven for about 10 minutes or until they are golden brown and aromatic. Leave aside to cool. (*Note: I start out with about 145g blanched almonds to allow for some weight loss during toasting process. After they are cooled, I weigh out 140g toasted almonds. I also toast the almonds the night before so that they are ready to use the next day when I start making the cake.)
- Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop them up roughly. Then add 150g caster sugar and run the machine until the nuts are finely ground. Add the cake flour, baking powder and pinch of salt. Whizz together to combine. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over moderate heat. Swirl the butter around in the pan until the milk solids turn a deep hazelnut brown. Transfer immediately to a heat-proof bowl to stop the cooking. Leave to cool slightly; then mix in the sour cream, dark rum and vanilla extract.
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, whisk the egg whites at low speed until they start to foam. Then increase the speed to medium and beat until they just start to hold peaks. Beat in the 150 grams sugar gradually until the mixture holds soft peaks.
- Add a scoop of egg whites to the melted butter mixture and stir it in gently. Then add about half the almond-flour mixture to the rest of the egg whites and fold it in gently. Fold in half of the butter mixture, followed by the rest of the almond-flour mixture and finally with the remaining melted butter mixture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared springform tin. Smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly over the top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 to 50 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and peel off the baking paper. Leave the cake on a rack until ready to serve.
The cake can be served warm or cold with just a dusting of icing sugar over it. Accompany it with some double cream.
Variation: Freeze-Dried Plums
Recently I took a risk and broke the old rule of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” with this cake. I had a packet of freeze-dried plum slices that had been sitting around in the pantry for ages and thought that they would add an interesting touch of red fruit acidity to this cake without messing up the dry:wet ingredients ratio.
It was a highly successful experiment: the freeze-dried plums elevated this cake to a whole new level of deliciousness!
Level It Up With Plum Powder
Then I decided to try a version using a combination of freeze-dried plum slices and Davidson plum powder. The Davidson plum is a native Australian fruit. It has a wonderful intense red-fruit acidity. (The dried fruit is a great addition to breakfast cereal.) This second variation turned out even better than the first one. The long-standing fans of the original cake have voted this latest variation as “the best”.
Eyeball the Additions to Suit Your Taste
As I was just messing around when I did these two recent variations, I didn’t bother to note the precise measurements of the amounts of freeze-dried plum slices or Davidson plum powder used.
I filled the cake tin with about two-thirds of the batter and then scattered the freeze-dried plum slices around. I simply eye-balled what I thought was a reasonable amount without upsetting the fundamental nutty flavour and aroma of the cake.
When I did the variation with the Davidson plum powder, I put the powder onto a small plate. It tends to clump and I used a skewer to help scatter the powder on the surface of the batter and then gently drag the powder through.
The remaining batter is then poured over the plum slices and Davidson plum powder, followed by the finishing layer of flaked almonds.
From memory, I used about 20 grams of the freeze-dried plums in the first variation with only the plums. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out and so I didn’t empty the entire 30-gram pack into the cake. I now think that this cake can actually take the entire 30 grams quite comfortably.
In the second variation, I added the Davidson plum powder (another thing I had sitting around in the pantry for ages!) to compensate for the small amount of freeze-dried plums left on hand from the first experiment.
As it turned out, this Davidson plum powder and freeze-dried plum combination worked even better than the freeze-dried plum on its own. So, I will be making this second variation from now on.
Freeze-dried fruits of all varieties are now readily available. In my opinion, red fruits complement the aromatic nuttiness of this cake best: their acidity profile is much softer than that of citrus. Freeze-dried raspberries—either whole or powdered or maybe a combination of both—is another red fruit option I am thinking of testing at some stage.
The Davidson plum powder might be more difficult to track down outside of Australia. However, even if you can’t find the freeze-dried plums or Davidson plum powder, don’t let that stop you from making this cake. It’s utterly glorious on its own without any of these variations. In fact, I would strongly encourage you to try making the original cake first before doing one with additions.
I'd love to hear what you—and your loved ones—think of this cake!