Monday, June 28, 2010

Macaroon Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

Since this is my first post, I'll first explain what drew me to this almond cake with strawberry-rhubarb compote. I love recipes that don't use too much of any one ingredient (3 cups of flour?), because it makes me feel like I get more out of my purchases. A recipe gets bonus points if it uses all of a semi-wacky ingredient that I have to purchase specially (in this instance, almond paste). This almond cake qualifies on both accounts and when all was said and done, is super delicious to boot!

I did change a few things, the most important being that I swapped out the amaretto for 1/2 a teaspoon of almond extract (get the real stuff, the difference is worth it!) and I added 1/4 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut.

I wanted a moist, light cake-version of a macaroon, and this did not di
sappoint. The strawberry-rhubarb compote is also delicious, but I don't think the cake needs it. I'll be eating most of it on toast and cottage cheese, but considering how simple it was and how beautiful the strawberries and rhubarb are at the markets right now, I definitely don't regret making it.

Macaroon Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the Compote:
1 lb Strawberries
1 lb Rhubarb
1 Lemon
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar

For the Macaroon Cake:
butter and flour to prepare the pan
7 oz. almond paste
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons honey
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
Kosher salt

1/2 cup slivered almonds
confectioners' sugar for dusting

Make the compote
1.Cut the berries in halves or quarters so that the pieces are about the same size. Place them in a medium saucepan.

2. With a paring knife, pull away and discard the strings that run the length of the rhubarb stalks. Cut the stalks into 3/4-inch pieces and add to the saucepan.

3. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and add it to the pan. Add the sugar and stir to coat the fruit.

4. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. By the time the sugar has dissolved, the fruit will have released a lot of juice. Boil for about 4 minutes to reduce the liquid somewhat, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 2 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft.

5. Take pan off the stove and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a covered container until cold. (This makes about 4 cups of compote, but the extra will keep for a couple of weeks and you can always give it away to friends or hungry co-workers).

Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour the bottom and sides of an 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper (seriously, do this).

2. Using kitchen scissors, cut up the almond paste into smaller chunks (it usually comes in a big tube, so cutting it up will aid in combining it with the sugar). Add the paste and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Begin to cream the mixture on low speed to break up the almond paste, then increase the speed to medium for about 2 minutes, or until the paste is broken into fine particles. After 2 minutes, scrape the bottom of your mixer bowl to ensure that the almond paste has not congregated at the bottom.

3. Add the butter and mix for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light in color and airy; stop the machine and scrape down the sides as necessary. Make sure it mixes long enough for the texture to change, or your cake will be dense.

4. Mix in the honey, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the almond extract, flour, and a pinch of salt and mix just to combine.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cake is golden and springs back when pressed, mine was done in 22 minutes, so start checking around the 20 minute mark. Transfer to a rack to cool.

6. Invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and invert the cake again so that the top is once again facing upward. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. (The cake can be stored, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 2 days.) To serve, cut the cake into wedges. Serve with a dollop of the strawberry-rhubarb compote.