Have you met frangipane? I only recently made her acquaintance (she lets me call her Fran), but I can already tell that we're gonna be pals.
For the less informed, frangipane is essentially a combination of pastry cream, almond paste, and ground almonds. While I typically can only tolerate the taste of almond extract in very small amounts, there's no defeating the power of rich, luscious pastry cream. It makes the almond extract exponentially more enjoyable. Combine that with a subtly favored almond cake, a layer of sweet, tart raspberry preserves, and a smooth, tasty coating of almond buttercream frosting, and you have one heck of a magnificent dessert.
If you pay any attention at all, you've probably noticed that I often do two things to my layer cakes: 1)cut each layer in half horizontally, and b)apply some sort of moistening agent to each layer. I do so hate a dry cake, and taking these steps seems to hold off the dessication long enough for the cake to be consumed. Bakerella suggests loading a spray bottle with a simple syrup, and that's an idea I may try in the future to save myself a few minutes.
So, not only do the moist pieces slice neatly, but if you make it a point to get a bite containing each and every component, you'll experience a blend of the nutty, the tangy, the sweet, and the splendid. Good on you, Fran!
Raspberry Almond Dream Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup (about 7 ounces) almond paste (not marzipan)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2-3 tablespoons milk, room temperature
2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 cups almonds, toasted and crushed
First, make your frangipane, as it can be kept in the fridge for weeks. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the almond paste until it is crumbly. Add the butter, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, egg, flour and salt, and continue to pulse until the mixture is combined and smooth. Cover tightly and refrigerate until needed.
Now, the cakes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Combine the sugar and the butter and beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until very light. Beat in the extracts, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly-mixed and well-aerated. Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the tough--a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Cool completely, then cut each layer in half horizontally. (It helps tremendously to freeze the layers for about 30 minutes first.)
To make the frosting, beat the butter with an electric mixer for a few minutes. Add the extract and milk and briefly blend. Add the powdered sugar gradually until the frosting is thick enough to spread easily. If the frosting is too dry, add additional milk until the desired consistency is reached.
To assemble, liberally brush the four sides of exposed cake with the raspberry preserves. Divide the frangipane into thirds and slather it between the halved and preserved layers (stacking as you go), then frost the sides and top in a decorative fashion. Press the toasted almonds into the sides, if desired. Chill for a bit to let things mingle, then slice and serve!