I'm currently camped out at my friends' house, stretched out on the couch as I look out the window to a foot of snow on the ground, with much more on the way. I've got a stack of books at my feet, a to-do list on my lap, and between my house and theirs, a stockpile of beer, wine, and ingredients for lemon bars, brownie pie, pepperoni rolls, bourbon snow creams, and leftover gumbo. In my living room, new-to-me cross-country skis are waiting to be waxed and balls of yarn are ready to be knit into a cardigan. There's something about a snow day stretched ahead of me that inspires a childlike possibility-- the hours seem longer, the neighborhood suddenly becomes a mysterious world to explore, and creations-- whether edible, textile, or otherwise-- beg to be created.
I won't linger here long in favor of all the snow day left to be lived, but I remembered this cake I made over the holidays and it struck me as a perfect wintery weather-bound project. Hearty, rich, and not too fussy, it's just the thing I'd want to pair with one of those bourbon snow creams after skiing the city streets. Most of the ingredients are those you're likely to have at home, and you could substitute the almonds for other nuts-- I imagine hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts would all do the trick. When I made this at Christmas, my mom cut out a paper snowflake, which I put on the cake to use as a stencil for a powdered sugar dusting-- another worthy snow bound endeavor.
Chocolate Almond CakeAdapted from Nigel Slater via The Guardian
7 ounces (200g) fine dark chocolate (60% or more)
1 ounce hot espresso or very strong coffee
14 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
5 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces almond meal (or finely ground almonds)
1. Butter and line 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Break or chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl over gently simmering water. As soon as the chocolate begins to melt, pour the hot espresso or coffee over it. Drop the cubed butter into the chocolate and coffee, but do not stir.
3. Keeping an eye on the chocolate, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
4. Separate the eggs, dropping the egg whites into a large bowl and the yolks into a separate small bowl. Whisk the whites till they are thick and stiff then quickly but gently fold in the sugar with a large metal or wooden spoon and set aside.
5. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and stir to dissolve the remaining butter. Mix the egg yolks together then stir quickly into the chocolate, just until the ingredients come together. Fold the chocolate mixture firmly but gently into the egg whites and sugar.
6. Lightly fold in the flour and cocoa mixture, followed by the almond meal. Work slowly and firmly but lightly, making sure to not over mix. Transfer the batter into the greased and lined cake pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool, then decorate with powdered sugar if desired. Enjoy!
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