Mary Berry’s almond spice cake
My heart popped into my mouth when Matthew’s pre-school teacher gleefully announced that we were going to be looking after Abigail for the weekend. Oh my God a gerbil!
I saw myself making a mad dash to Pets At Home on Monday morning to find a replacement, or, worse still, explaining to a roomful of weeping four-year olds why Abigail wasn’t coming back. The panic in my eyes must have been obvious. I was hastily reassured that Abigail was, in fact, a teddy who was weekending in the home of each pre-schooler in turn. She was pretty good in the kitchen as it happened, although I did have to prise the cooking brandy out of her hands on more than one occasion.
I made an almond spice cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible this week. As well as almonds, it’s flavoured with cinnamon and cloves, and it has a layer of marzipan in the middle. I was making it for my aunt’s birthday. She loves all things marzipan, so this cake would be ideal.
I started with the marzipan. Having made it a few times before, with varying degrees of success, I decided to go with Delia Smith’s recipe. I’ve always had decent results with her recipe (plus it’s got brandy in it – a bit of booze will sway me every time).
I mixed icing sugar, golden caster sugar and a beaten egg, and whisked over a pan of simmering water. Since the last time I attempted marzipan, I’ve acquired an electric hand-whisk (my husband bought it to make a gorgeous passion fruit soufflé). I got to the thick and fluffy stage that usually takes ten minutes of hand whisking and fifteen recovery time in a few seconds. I should have got one of these ages ago, instead of wishing for Mrs Patmore’s arms.
Next, I added almond extract to the mixture and then, accidentally, flooded it with brandy (I was supposed to use a teaspoonful and I don’t quite know what happened – maybe it’s me that needs watching and not the bear). I added ground almonds to the mix (I needed a lot more than the recipe amount because of the brandy) and kneaded the mixture until I had a firm paste. I took 100g of it (I had about 375g in all – I predict I’ll be trying several marzipan-based bakes in the next few weeks) and rolled out a circle to fit my cake tin.
The Cake Mixture
For the cake itself, I mixed softened butter, caster sugar, eggs, self-raising flour, baking power, cinnamon and ground cloves. I used the electric whisk again and got into a bit of a mess. I’ll reinstate the KitchenAid for cake mixes next time.
I spooned half of the mixture into my (greased and bottom-lined) cake tin, and then discovered that it was an inch bigger than the tin required by the recipe. It was too late, I was in too much of a mess, and I’d already rolled my marzipan to fit, so I didn’t attempt to search for a smaller tin. I put the marzipan on top and put the rest of the mixture on top of the marzipan. It went into the oven at 160° fan for an hour. I gave it a few minutes to cool in the tin, then turned it onto a wire rack. It looked OK.
Once it had cooled I topped it with a mixture of butter, light muscovado sugar and cream that I warmed together in a saucepan. It smelled lovely. I haven’t really notice before, but the muscovado is cigarette-paper smokey. Delicious.
Was it worth it?
It’s a really good tea-time cake, although it does taste sugary sweet, rather than almondish. Perhaps I should have added more almond extract as well as ground almonds to the marzipan. My aunt enjoyed it anyway which, for this cake, was all that really mattered.