One of my favorite places in Napa is the Bouchon Bakery, and I always have to enjoy at least one of the beautifully baked almond croissants that they bake fresh every morning there. It's absolutely heavenly, the mixture of the sweet nutty almonds and the fluffy croissant - it literally melts in your mouth with each bite. This simple almond cake is the second best thing to the almond croissant, and I knew that I had to recreate that heavenly bite. This almond cake is perfect for spring and summer because of the wonderfully fresh fruit compote of strawberries and rhubarb. The strawberries' sweetness combined with the rhubarb's tartness make for a luscious burst of flavor and the pretty in pinks and reds of the fruits accentuate the beautiful cake. Enjoy!
Adapted from Bouchon
For the fruit compote:
1 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
For the almond cake:
Butter and flour for the pan - 8 or 9 inch cake pan
7 ounces almond paste
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons honey
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons amaretto, plus additional for brushing
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Make the compote
1. Pick about 4 ounces of the smallest strawberries, and cut into quarters. You will add this raw to the cooked compote, and set aside in a small bowl. Cut the remaining larger berries in quarters so that the pieces are about the same size – you will need about 2 ½ cups. Place them in a medium saucepan.
2. With a paring knife, pull away and remove the strings that run the length of the rhubarb stalks. Cut the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces – you will have about 3 cups. Add to the saucepan.
3. Use a Microplane to zest the lemon. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest to the pan. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice from the lemon and add 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 a bit, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 2 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved strawberries. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a covered container until cold. This makes plenty of fruit compote about 4 cups, but the extra will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Serve it with any plain cake or even Greek yogurt - yum!
Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan. Line its bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Place the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of a KA mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Begin to cream the mixture on low speed to break up the almond paste, and then increase the speed to medium for about 2 minutes - the almond paste should look like a crumbly mixture.
3. Add the butter and mix for 4 to 5 minutes or until the mixture is light in color and airy. Scrape down the sides if needed. It is important to mix long enough or the cake will have a dense texture.
4. Mix in the honey, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each one is fully mixed before adding the next. Add the amaretto, flour, and a pinch of salt and mix just to combine.
5. Add the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rounded spatula. Bake the cake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden and springs back when pressed. Transfer to a rack to cool.
6. When ready to serve, invert the cake onto a serving plate, remove the parchment paper, and invert the cake again so that the top is once again facing upward. Brush the top of the cake with amaretto and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. To serve, cut the cake into wedges. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the strawberry-rhubarb compote.
Review: Such a delicious treat, the cake by itself is wonderful. It was totally reminiscent of the Almond Croissants that I had at Bouchon, and the fresh and fruity compote was perfect taste of summer berries. This serves about 8 slices of cake with lots of leftover fruit compote to enjoy for other dishes. I made this as birthday cake for my girlfriend, Monica, I knew she would love it!