I’ve been looking for new, regular things to review for the site, similarly to the Magazine of the Month segment. Maybe it appeals to me because it’s lazy; instead of always having to dig around for something that looks good, there’s always a pool of recurring things to choose from. However, the hard part of committing to an ongoing project is that you don’t want to commit to something that has the tendency to suck later. Case in point: Some of our submissions to the site Magazine of the Month haven’t always delivered, and that’s not just disappointing, it’s frustrating.
I’m approaching Gourmet Magazine’s Monthly Dessert with the same trepidation, but I think I’m going to go for it and review it on an ongoing basis anyway. If it starts to suck, then I’m abandoning the project, taking off and nuking the site from orbit.
Or whatever. You get the picture. If not, at least get this picture:
This month, Gourmet is featuring Walnut Jam Cake. Their Dessert of the Month Features are all web-exclusive, and look fairly appealing. A jam cake, however, didn’t exactly excite me. It’s a personal thing. The desserts I enjoy tend to be a little more rich and decadent, and usually involve chocolate, and this one didn’t meet any of the criteria.
Temptation called early on, as it did have a couple of things going for it:
1. I finally got to use my 8-inch springform pan that barely gets any attention.
2. The cake is made almost entirely in a food processor.
So I went to work… though not too much, because, as I said, it’s all done in the food processor. Oh yeah, baby.
Alternatively, if you want to make this cake and you don’t have a processor, you just need to make sure the nuts are chopped up very finely. Either do this by chopping them with a knife (keep going until they’re all incredibly small) or use a clean coffee grinder. The rest of the batter can be made in a bowl with a regular mixer.
Right away, I had to adapt because I was out of walnuts. Instead, all I had were a couple bags of slivered almonds. Almonds are always successful when added to a confection, so I had no problems substituting.
Almond Jam Cake
Courtesy of Gourmet
1 1/4 cups almonds (4 1/2 oz), toasted and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.
I used a springform pan for this, which made me really excited because I’m pretty sure this is only the second time I’ve actually had a small cake recipe that called for an 8″ pan. That may sound silly, but if you paid a lot of money for a set of three springform pans and ended up only needing one of them, you’d be excited when the most obscure one finally gets called up to bat, too.
I toasted my almonds in a frying pan. If I hadn’t been working with so many, I would have used my toaster oven, but the frying pan works, too. These were left on the stovetop for a few minutes on medium-low, until they began to release a slight fragrance when I stirred them, about 6 minutes.
Pulse walnuts and sugar in a food processor until finely chopped.
Add butter and process until combined.
Add eggs and vanilla and process until combined.
Add flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse just until incorporated. Spread batter in cake pan.
Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
I apologize that I don’t have a lot of commentary on this process; it was fairly uneventful and went as expected. The only thing that was different was that I had to bake the cake a little longer that the recipe called for; my oven usually does that with everything, so I wasn’t surprised. Just test to make sure your cake is baked all the way through.
Now for the topping:
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup apricot jam or preserves
2/3 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Stir lemon juice (if using) into jam. Spoon jam over cake. Beat heavy cream with sour cream, sugar, and vanilla until it holds soft peaks, then spoon over jam.
And here it is…
I liked this. It was nice and light, and the perfect finish to a light meal on a spring evening. The cake itself was only mildly sweet, so the jam on top was a nice compliment. Raspberry was the jam I used, and I think it was a little overpowering — my suggestion would be to spread a very thin layer of jam, then top with the whipped cream. The topping is what really brings it home. If you’ve got a little sweet tooth but don’t want anything heavy, this is the perfect finishing bite.