22 October, 2011

Operation Domestic Goddess : Almond Cake and Rosemary Loaf Cake

Today I became further acquainted with Nigella the Contradictory (thus hath she been dubbed in the kitchen of Flat 47).  On the one hand, she persistently advocates making things easy, taking shortcuts, preparing things in advance, etc.  Most of her cake batters are thrown together in a food processor.  Is that normal?  Maybe it is over here, but it was a new concept to me... On the other hand -- and despite her own claims that "None of the ingredients listed should prove troublesome" -- she has a penchant for exotic, hard-to-find and/or expensive ingredients that no average person normally keeps on hand.  Today wasn't the wildest example -- marzipan is easy to find, I just had never used it before -- but looking ahead through the book I see that we shall eventually require things like rosewater, pomegranate molasses, greengages, and gold leaf.  Maybe you tend to keep gold leaf lying in the cupboard, but it's not a staple here.
Marzipan!
Nigella's starting us off gently, though, with some easy batters.  Today R and I decided to double up and do two recipes since we had the time, inclination, and necessary ingredients (how often does that happen?).  We made the Almond Cake first, our inaugural foray into using marzipan.  
Marzipan is a thick, sticky paste of sugar and ground almonds that comes in a block like the one pictured and can be rolled out and formed into various shapes -- or, as it happens, cubed and added to cake batter!  I expected the marzipan to have a really strong almond flavor, but when I sampled a piece of it (which I did several times...you know, quality control and all that...) I found that it's really mild.  After I stopped snacking on the raw marzipan, we threw it in the food processor with butter and sugar.  Eggs and almond extract (boosting the almond flavor perfectly) are added next, and finally the dry ingredients are pulsed in until you end up with a very smooth batter:
Now, at the dry ingredients point of the proceedings we discovered a slight lapse in Nigella's concentration.  The woman asks you to "mix the flour and baking powder..."  "What baking powder, Nigella?" you might ask, and with good reason, because after consulting the ingredients list three times you still do not see baking powder called for.  Tsk, tsk, tsk...We threw in a teaspoon of the stuff and hoped for the best.
What baking powder?
We don't have the cake mold Nigella recommends using, so we split our batter into two round pans and sandwiched the cakes.  In between the two layers is some of the passionfruit curd we bought recently, as well as some whipped cream with a little bit of orange juice for flavor.  Dieters beware: there is a lot of butter in this cake.  And six eggs.  But we plan to top it with berries, which will make it healthy.  Note how that was an assertion, not a question.
Next up in our carbohydrate double-feature was the Rosemary Loaf Cake!  I'm an unabashed rosemary addict.  When I lived with my aunts for a little while after college I would often go out into the yard and run my hands across their enormous rosemary plants, relishing the aroma the leaves left on my palms.  It now always makes me think of those two incredible women.  But I don't just love it for sentimental reasons (cue Linda Ronstadt); I love the flavor it imparts to both savory dishes and baked goods.  I may or may not have thrown in a bit more rosemary than Nigella called for, and an entire sprig across the top...
R and I were both REALLY pleased with the results!  This cake was more flavorful and a much more enjoyable texture than the Madeira Cake; very moist and soft.  We ate it topped with some Bramley apple compote that I made recently.  Apple and rosemary is a perfect flavor combination.  Delicious!

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