If you are a fan of almonds and cake, you simply must give this delectable dessert a try. From its rich almond aroma to its delicate, crispy topping, the burnt almond cake is a flavor experience unlike any other. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in and explore the irresistible flavors of this must-try dessert.
What is Burned Almond Cake?
Burnt almond cake is a popular dessert that originated in Northern California, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. The cake features layers of light and fluffy white cake, filled with almond pastry cream, and covered in a silky smooth Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. The cake is then topped with a generous layer of candied sliced almonds, which give it a delicious crunch and nutty flavor.
The “burnt” in the name comes from the caramelized flavor of the candied almonds, which are toasted until they are golden brown and slightly charred. The cake is often served at special occasions and celebrations, and has become a beloved dessert in the Bay Area and beyond.
There are many variations of the burnt almond cake recipe, with some recipes using a sponge cake base instead of a white cake, and others incorporating additional flavors such as chocolate or coffee. Some recipes also call for soaking the cake layers in a simple syrup to keep them moist and flavorful.
How is Burnt Almond Cake Different from Other Almond Cakes?
Burnt Almond Cake is different from other almond cakes in a few ways. First, it typically contains caramelized almonds, which give the cake a unique flavor and texture. The almonds are toasted until they are slightly burnt, which gives them a rich, nutty flavor that complements the sweet cake and creamy filling.
Second, Burnt Almond Cake often includes a custard or pastry cream filling, which adds a layer of richness and creaminess to the cake. The filling is typically flavored with almond extract, which enhances the almond flavor of the cake.
Finally, Burnt Almond Cake is often frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream, which is lighter and less sweet than traditional buttercream. The buttercream complements the flavors of the cake and filling without overpowering them.
Overall, Burnt Almond Cake is a unique and delicious dessert that stands out from other almond cakes due to its combination of caramelized almonds, creamy filling, and light frosting.
History of Burned Almond Cake
The history of Burnt Almond Cake is a bit unclear, as the dessert seems to have originated in multiple locations and evolved over time.
One popular origin story traces the cake’s roots to San Francisco’s Danish Bakery, which was founded in 1938. According to this story, the bakery’s owner, Mariano Vallejo, created the cake by accident when he left a batch of sliced almonds in the oven for too long. The resulting caramelized almonds were added to a white cake with custard filling and whipped cream frosting, and the Burnt Almond Cake was born.
Another origin story credits Pittsburgh’s Prantl’s Bakery with inventing the Burnt Almond Torte in 1970. According to this story, Henry Prantl attended a national bakers conference where he saw a demonstration of the Burnt Almond Cake, which he then adapted and refined into the torte that is now famous in Pittsburgh.
Regardless of its exact origins, Burnt Almond Cake has become a beloved dessert in Northern California and beyond. The cake’s combination of fluffy cake, creamy filling, and crunchy almonds has made it a favorite for special occasions and celebrations. Over time, variations of the cake have emerged, incorporating different flavors and ingredients to create new and exciting versions of this classic dessert.
My Favorite Burned Almond Cake Recipe
Needless to say, I have baked quite some Burned Almond Cakes in my life — I just cannot resist the soft cake, rich pastry cream, feather-light buttercream and the sweet crunch of candied almonds! This is my favorite recipe:
For the Cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole milk
For the Almond Pastry Cream:
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Candied Almonds:
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C). Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.
4. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, and mix until the batter is smooth.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
6. While the cakes are baking, prepare the almond pastry cream. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
7. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and comes to a boil, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract and butter. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill the pastry cream in the refrigerator until ready to use.
8. To make the Swiss meringue buttercream, combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 3-4 minutes.
9. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat the egg white mixture with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture is glossy and cool, about 5-7 minutes.
10. Gradually beat in the softened butter, a few tablespoons at a time, until the buttercream is smooth and creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract.
11. To make the candied almonds, spread the sliced almonds out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the sugar over the almonds and toss to coat.
12. Bake the almonds in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelized and the almonds are golden brown and fragrant. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
13. To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a serving plate and spread a generous amount of almond pastry cream over the top. Top with the second cake layer and spread a thin layer of Swiss meringue buttercream over the entire cake to create a crumb coat.
14. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to set the crumb coat. Once chilled, spread a thick layer of Swiss meringue buttercream over the entire cake, smoothing it out with a spatula or bench scraper.
15. Press the candied almonds onto the sides of the cake, covering the entire surface. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the buttercream to set.
16. Serve the Burnt Almond Cake chilled or at room temperature, and enjoy!
Tips on How to Make a Perfect Burned Almond Cake
Here are some tips to help you make a perfect Burnt Almond Cake:
1. Use room temperature ingredients: Make sure your butter, eggs, and milk are at room temperature before you begin. This will help the ingredients mix together more easily and create a smoother batter.
2. Don’t overmix the batter: Mix the batter until it’s just combined, being careful not to overmix. Overmixing can result in a tough and dense cake.
3. Chill the pastry cream: Chill the almond pastry cream in the refrigerator until it’s completely cooled and set. This will make it easier to spread onto the cake layers.
4. Use a crumb coat: Apply a thin layer of Swiss meringue buttercream over the cake to create a crumb coat. This will help catch any loose crumbs and create a smooth surface for the final layer of buttercream.
5. Chill the cake before adding the candied almonds: Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before pressing the candied almonds onto the sides. This will help the buttercream set and prevent the almonds from sliding off.
6. Toast the almonds: Toast the sliced almonds in the oven until they’re golden brown and fragrant. This will bring out their nutty flavor and make them crispy.
7. Be patient: Take your time and be patient when making this cake. It may take a bit of effort, but the end result is well worth it!
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to making a perfect Burnt Almond Cake that’s sure to impress you and your guests.
Variations of Burned Almond Cake
Here are a few variations of Burnt Almond Cake that you can try:
1. Chocolate Burnt Almond Cake: Add 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to the cake batter and substitute chocolate pastry cream for the almond pastry cream. Use chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream instead of regular buttercream, and top the cake with candied sliced almonds.
2. Coffee Burnt Almond Cake: Add 1 tablespoon of instant coffee granules to the cake batter and substitute coffee pastry cream for the almond pastry cream. Use vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream and top the cake with candied sliced almonds.
3. Lemon Burnt Almond Cake: Add 1 tablespoon of lemon zest to the cake batter and substitute lemon pastry cream for the almond pastry cream. Use vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream and top the cake with candied sliced almonds.
4. Raspberry Burnt Almond Cake: Add 1/2 cup of raspberry puree to the cake batter and substitute raspberry pastry cream for the almond pastry cream. Use vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream and top the cake with candied sliced almonds and fresh raspberries.
5. Sponge Cake Burnt Almond Cake: Use a sponge cake base instead of a white cake base, and substitute whipped cream for the pastry cream. Use vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream and top the cake with candied sliced almonds.
These are just a few ideas to get you started, but feel free to get creative and come up with your own variations!