the easter basket – berry almond crunch cake
I wasn’t going to do a post for Easter. Having just finished volunteer work for IACP and now turning my focus to NYC Food Blogger Bake Sale, I didn’t think I would have time to bake anything.
Then one morning, I came upon Martha’s show with Sebastien Rouxel, executive pastry chef of Bouchon Bakery. This particular show‘s theme was eggs, and when asked what an Easter dessert should be, Sebastien said that it should be fun, playful, and remind you of your childhood. Well, I may be busy with work and charity, but there’s no reason why I can’t find a little time to have some fun and play.
I’ve mentioned that my childhood idea of a great desert was cake with fruit cocktail filling and whipped cream frosting. Yes, fruit cocktail from a can. Go to ANY Asian bakery–the fruity clues are there. I ate plenty of them and enjoyed every last bite.
Now armed with the knowledge of pastry techniques, flavor, and textures, I can reinterpret that cake. For this Easter, I made my version of an Easter basket filled with fruit–a naturally pink cake from the essence of raspberries, a surprising crunchy almond filling, and the billowy meringue frosting in the shape of a woven basket. Talk about playful, I torched the meringue to enhance the look of wicker. The aroma of burnt sugar brought memories of childhood campfires. Topped with fresh berries and lightly glazed, this cake is the epitome of Easter–and a jubilant Spring.
Berry Almond Crunch Cake
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (4-1/2 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
- 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoons almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (6-1/8 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons freeze dried raspberry powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Almond Brittle Dust
- 1 cup of granulated sugar (7 ounces)
- 1/4 cup sliced almond
- 1/3 cup almond paste, not marzipan
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 recipe of almond brittle dust
- 1-1/2 cups feuilletine
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (3 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- Raspberry Cake layers
- 1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry preserves
- Almond Crunch
- Meringue Frosting
- 1 quart combination of strawberries, blueberries and/or raspberries
1. Set oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Spray two 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour. Set aside.
2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup measure, and mix with a fork to combine.
3. Add cake flour, sugar, raspberry powder, baking powder, and salt to bowl of stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix on low speed to combine, about 30 seconds. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, about 2 minutes.
4. Add 3/4 of milk mixture to crumbs and beat on medium speed for 1-1/2 minutes. Scrape down bowl, add remaining milk mixture and beat until creamy and fully combined, about 1 minute.
5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using small offset spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans in the middle of oven and 3 inches apart. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes.
6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto plate. Reinvert onto wire rack. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.
Almond Brittle Dust
1. Line sheet pan with silpat and set aside.
2. Heat sugar in small heavy saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it starts to melt, stir sugar gently with heatproof spatula for even melting. Cook and stir until it reaches a light amber color, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Remove pan from heat and add almonds. Stir until all nuts are coated with caramel. Pour mixture onto silpat and spread as thinly as possible. (Brittle will harden within a minute, so work quickly)
4. Cool completely, break up brittle into pieces and place in a ziplock bag. Press air out of bag and close tightly; cover with towel. Using a rolling pin, alternate between banging and rolling on the brittle until all pieces are no more than the size of a grain of rice. Store in airtight container, up to a month, until ready to use.
1. Combine almond paste and melted butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium low speed until just combined. Add brittle dust, feuilletine, sugar and salt; continue to mix until homogenized.
2. Store crunch in airtight container in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
NOTE: You will not use the entire recipe for the cake. You can do what I do, eat the leftovers by the spoonful or add to other desserts.
1. Combine all ingredients in bowl of standing mixer or large heatproof bowl and set over medium saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water (do not let bowl touch water). Cook, stirring with whisk attachment of stand mixer, until mixture registers 160℉ on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and transfer mixture to standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat until mixture has cooled to room temperature and stiff peaks form, 5 minutes longer.
1. With serrated knife, level top of cake , cut each cake horizontally into two even layers. Repeat with second cake.
2. Starting with first cake, carefully lift off top layer and set aside. Using icing spatula, spread a thin layer of preserve on top of cake, distribute about 1/2 cup icing evenly on cake, spreading to very edge of cake and leveling surface. Sprinkle a generous 1/4 cup of Almond Crunch on top. Carefully place upper cake layer on top
3. Repeat using preserve, icing and crunch and cake layers. Spread only preserve on top layer. Carefully spread icing on side of cake and make sure it only comes over the edge slightly. MAke decorative swirls with icing spatula.
4. Warm leftover preserve with 1-2 teaspoon of water (depends on the viscosity of preserves) in microwave, for 30 seconds or until you achieve a glaze consistency.
5. Decorative top of cake with a mixture of berries of your choice, then brush with glaze. Torch icing (optional) with blow torch. Serve.
Almond Crunch recipe adapted from Milk Bar