A party without cake is just a meeting.
In September, I made this cake for my friend Kirstin’s birthday and my youngest daughter decorated it. The most gratifying aspect of this was that Kirstin’s German mother, who I love, but would not characterize as “easy to please,” pronounced this cake to be one of substance. She said a lot of cakes are mostly air, but this one gave her something to chew on (and she meant all this as praise, so don’t be a skeptic). Kirstin said it called up a nostalgic feeling for some German cakes of her youth. The moisture of the cake increased over time and the three-day-old leftovers were even more succulent than the fresh cake. Now that’s a rarity.
Before you accuse me of witchcraft, let me tell you about a very special ingredient: marzipan, a sugary almond paste. My Australian friend Marnie hates it and I don’t know what to say about that, because she usually has such good sense. For this cake, I again adapted the endlessly malleable Best Two Egg Cake, from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook: New Cookbook, 1953 (If I were to have a gravestone, this recipe would be its engraving). Then I secreted away the marzipan betwixt the layers where it faithfully exuded moisture for the duration of the cake’s life. I am thinking of getting marzipan implants in my facial wrinkles.
3/4 cup of butter at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/8 cup almond flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
Mix butter and sugar until quite creamy. Add almond flavoring, then eggs, one at a time with mixer going. Mix thoroughly after each egg. Sift flours and with baking powder and salt then add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating after each addition. Bake in three greased and parchment-lined 8 ” round pans at 350 degrees. It is difficult to say how long this needs to bake. I would check them initially at 18 minutes and rotate the pans. After the layers cool, stack it all up, interspersed with the marzipan. I won’t lie to you and say marzipan is easy to spread. Zapping it a bit in the microwave helps, as does freezing the cake layers before filling so they aren’t easily shredded.
The chocolate ganache is easy, and the simplest way to frost a cake. I heated up a cup of whipped cream on the stove – gently! Musn’t scorch! I then turned off the heat and added bits of dark chocolate, whisking and melting until the taste was right. Depending on the brand of chocolate you have, you may want more or less of it to achieve the desired flavor. I made the ganache a couple days ahead and refrigerated it. You can zap it for a few seconds and if it gets too liquid then stick it back in the refrigerator. Continue to go back and forth between fridge and microwave as you get distracted by other tasks and allow it to melt, then harden, melt, then harden…Eventually, you will have reached the right consistency. Like a good friend, it’s forgiving. Spread it on and decorate. I served it with apricot sauce.
What is better than taking a bite of cake and being reminded of cakes gone by, all of which remind you of…MORE CAKE? It’s an endless, virtuous circle of cake-coated joy. I bet there is someone in your life who deserves a cake this moist, substantial and nostalgia-inducing. You, maybe?