After last year's Valentine's cake disaster, there were some things at stake: my pride, my confidence in my ability to carry on my family's decades old tradition, my craving for this almond cake which had only grown stronger after having to practically miss out on it last year. Sure, it wasn’t the worst Valentine’s day situation there ever was (that’s what boys are for! hahaha, jkjk Eggboy), and sure I’d recovered from effed up Valentine’s cakes in the past, but gosh geez I just really wanted to make a fun pretty cake and once again justify my annual Valentine’s day candy aisle raid.
My friend Randi asked me how I get through the winters up here. Usually when someone asks me that my knee jerk reaction is similar to how some people go gaga over the ~summer~ and that whole summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language Henry James mushy shit. My version of that is WINTER EVENING! WINTER EVENING! GOIN TO BED @ 8, F YEAH! But *I* will even admit that this winter has been particularly nutso bonkers extreme stir crazy-ish and there were some mornings when I woke up with a hint of that dragging feeling that I’d wake up with in Januaries during college when I’d have to put on clothes and go to orchestra rehearsal and sit through three hours of Alfred Schnittke.
So I threw even more weight behind Valentine’s Day. And decided that’s just what I’m going to do from now on anytime I have a winter blue and don’t have the option of weekending in Hawaii. I put out all of our red mugs, our heart shaped cocotte, the red tea pot, etc., and day dreamed endlessly about my cake.
I knew I wanted to use this opportunity to get a cake ring and acetate and make a milk bar-inspired cake. But past that I was stumped. Should it have a border? Should there be lovey dovey animals on it? Should I add a couple of roses? I spent weeks looking for inspiration and nothing felt right.
Until this dress arrived from Carleen!
Kelsy, the designer, is a friend of a friend and she makes the coolest clothes, some are made out of reclaimed quilts, and they are all so lovable and unique. Valentine-y red has never been my color but I am so into the idea of a navy blue valentine sitch with just some red and purple. Navy is my color this year.
Anyway, so I drew from the pattern of the colors on this dress and used it as the inspiration for the sprinkle design on this cake. I used every sprinkle in my valentine’s day sprinkle collection and my 90s sand art training, and it was the most fun ever. The abundance of sprinkles added nice crunch.
I was satisfied. I was also satisfied by the texture of the almond sponge cake. The more I think about it the more I think I over-beat last year’s yolks, not just the egg whites, which is why it was dry. One key is to not beat the yolks and the almond paste into such oblivion that the almond paste chunks disappear. You want some chunks because they’re good! They prevent the cake from being a sad dry one-dimensional thing.
And get to it.
Happy Valentine's Day!!!!!
valentine's day almond cake
1/2 c (64g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz almond paste
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c (100g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
5 oz semisweet or dark chocolate chips
1/4 c (60g) heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 c (360g) heavy whipping cream
1/2 c (60g) powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract
pink food coloring, optional
sprinkles of all sorts
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and line the bottom of a 9” springform pan and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks and then gradually beat in the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating to stiff peaks and then set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I usually just scoop the whites out of the bowl and transfer them to a separate bowl and then reuse my stand mixer bowl without having to wash it for this step), combine the almond paste and egg yolks and beat on high for 2 minutes until pale and fluffy (but allow some almond paste chunks to remain in tact), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla and almond extract. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture and then fold in the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the pan and then bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes.
Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove to the rack to cool fully.
To make the ganache, combine the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a saucepan and heat over medium low, stirring continuously until melted.
At this point you can refer to the photos above and use a cake ring and acetate to help decorate your cake, or you can just pour the ganache right over the cake. Let it cool in the fridge or freezer until it's no longer hot (it doesn't need to be totally firm) and then you can go onto the whipped cream step.
To make the whipped cream, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and almond extract to stiff peaks. Add a few drops of pink food coloring if desired.
Spread the whipped cream on top of the cake. To do some sprinkle-y sand art, freeze the cake for about 20-30 minutes, or until the whipped cream is mostly firm (it doesn't need to be totally hard--rather, it shouldn't be so that the sprinkles stick, but if you do freeze it solid then let it soften just slightly before moving on) and then stick some parchment shapes or stripes on it, cover it with sprinkles, brush off any stray sprinkles that are lingering on the parchment, and then carefully lift the parchment off. Voila!
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days.
photos by chantell and brett!