There are several perks to writing a food blog, the best being the excuse to have delicious cakes, like this almond chiffon cake, in the house at all times. The only person who has an issue with this is my personal trainer, but I just remind him what job security it is for him. I also have an extensive (300+) cookbook library that I attribute to “research” when my husband asks where we will put them all, now that my book shelves are over flowing. Then there are the products companies send me to critique and review. I have received everything from peanut flour (which I adore) to a confectionery funnel (which is for portion control of pancakes and other runny stuff. Really, you have to make your pancakes the exact same size???). I will never review or endorse a product I don’t actually love and find value in.
Now back to the baking…this cake was inspired by my trip to Italy this past summer. The man who owned the home we rented introduced me to his favorite cookie, the ricciarelli. They are made from almond paste and egg whites baked into little rich clouds and dusted with pure white confectioners’ sugar. I was completely addicted to them after the first bite. They are available all over Tuscany and when baked fresh you want to sing their praises. The stale ones you buy in the tin are to be avoided and unfortunately that is what most of us have tried. After writing this description I realize I need to create and post a recipe for the actual cookie, but for now I have a cake that it inspired. It is light and spongy, but at the same time decadent because of the almond paste. The cake is great on its own with a cup of coffee for breakfast or with ice cream or coulis for dessert.
Ricciarelli cookies on the counter in San Gimignano (the best I had).
A typical day’s sampling of the local Tuscan bakery.
(My average breakfast when traveling. Now you see why I need the personal trainer.)
Ricciarelli (rich-ee-a-relly) Chiffon Cake
2 cups King Arthur Flour Unbleached Cake Flour (this is a very exciting relatively new product from my favorite flour company. If you can’t find it then use Bleached AP)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
7 ounces Almond Paste
5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil (I used 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
8 egg whites
confectioner’s sugar for the top
To make the cake: preheat the oven to 350 degrees
In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream the almond paste until smooth and then add egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, water and extracts. Cream together until smooth, about 3 minutes, set aside.
Whip the egg whites until foamy then add 1/2 cup sugar and whip until stiff peaks, they should be stiff enough to hold onto the whip when lifted out of the bowl, but the peak will be soft enough to flop over like a dairy queen ice cream cone. (If you over whip the egg whites they will not have any elasticity left to rise when they get to the oven.) Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the whites and fold it in gently using a rubber spatula. Repeat two more times with remaining flour.
Fold the egg white mixture into the almond paste mixture, again in 3 additions.
Place the batter into an ungreased 10-Inch Tube Pan
Bake for about 50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
Remove almond chiffon cake from the oven and invert the pan over the neck of a bottle to cool. This guarantees that the cake will not collapse while cooling.
Dust almond chiffon cake with lots of confectioners’ sugar and enjoy!