Pastry school taught me some good habits and some bad ones. It taught me how to fold for a genoise, how to fraser pastry and how to slap dough on the counter with lazy force. It also taught me to accept nothing other than perfection. Off-textures, wobbly edges and puckered surfaces are now inclined to give me an eye-twitch or two. This can interfere with the joy of home kitchen, where imperfection runs rife.
This week I had a surplus of ground almonds, a 1kg bag I bought enthusiastically from the market with many Swedish Sticky Cake’s in mind. I have also recently discovered oat flour and believe it to be the answer to all of life’s woes. I don’t buy fancy bags of oat flour, I buy oats and blend them to a fine meal. The discovery is credit to my partner who, to my delight, made me a pile of oat pancakes several weekends ago. I get a certain satisfaction from building cake crumb out of products I perceive to have a higher nutritional value, in this case fibre, protein and vitamin rich oats and almonds.
I have an earnest interest in gluten free baking, my mother is a coeliac and I’m often drawn to alternative mixes and batters for variants in texture and flavour. This particular cake batter is basic and adaptable, I added almond extract to enhance its frangipane qualities but I’m convinced it would just as happily accept citrus, coconut or vanilla notes. I adorned my round cake-disc with amaretto-soaked apricots and used the remaining syrup as a glaze. The result exuded the scents and flavours of summer, of ripeness and abundance.
The cake crumb itself is very light, it is not a dense cake and will not withstand too much mauling. In reference to my first paragraph I actually made two of these cakes. The first I made in a fixed-base cake tin, shallow and wide, which I had lined and greased. The apricots poked just above the surface, puckering the crust beautifully and glistening with the lavender-infused glaze. I turned it onto a plate and then back onto a cooling rack only to find the beautiful face of the cake removed and the naked crumb underneath gorily exposed. The golden top was affixed stickily to the plate. Amateur mistake, commence eye-twitching.
Sulking and staring intermittently at the sad, defaced cake meant only one thing; I had to make another one, it had to be right, I must restore its former glory. I can say with passion that it is ludicrous to use anything other than a removable-based cake tin. Second time’s a charm, a taller, firmer beauty was born and I collapsed, exhausted into a chair. Such a relaxing afternoon of baking…
Apricot and Almond Cake
120g caster sugar
120g softened butter or dairy free alternative
50g ground almonds
70g oats (GF if necessary)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp extract (almond, vanilla, coconut…)
fruit (I used apricots steeped in amaretto syrup but you could use tinned apricots or fresh raspberries, pears, blueberries, cherries or apple)
- Preheat oven to 175 degrees and line a 9 inch round cake tin.
- Blend the oats into a fine flour (if you don’t have a blender then you’ll need to buy oat flour)
- Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
- Mix the dry ingredients together.
- Beat the eggs and add extract of choice.
- Combine the eggs and dry ingredients into the butter and sugar, do this slowly, adding a little of each as you mix to prevent the mixture from curdling.
- Dollop the batter into the cake tin and spread evenly.
- If adding fruit nudge it gently down into the batter.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
- If adding a glaze (I used the syrup from the poached apricots but you could use a little warmed apricot jam) do it whilst the cake is hot from the oven.
- Allow to cool before removing from the tin.
- I garnished this with some lavender but you could sprinkle flaked almonds, coconut or icing sugar.