A sweet, citrusy cake from a food-cart star
Most desserts are best served the day you make them. We can’t say the same about Portland pastry chef Kir Jensen’s dense almond tea cake, which is a great keeper whose flavor only gets better with age. In her sassy new cookbook, The Sugar Cube, the food-cart owner shares the recipe for her tea cake and other deliciously twisted treats like doughnut-misu and curried-carrot cupcakes. This sophisticated dessert stands out with a deep mahogany crust and spongy lemon-yellow crumb. Serve it to company with lemon curd and fresh berries or stash it away to enjoy solo day after day with a cup of tea.
Le Almond Cake
Recipe adapted from "The Sugar Cube" by Kir Jensen with Danielle Centoni (Chronicle)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon sea salt
Two 7-ounce tubes almond paste (not marzipan), broken into pieces
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tangerines or oranges
1½ cups (3 sticks) room-temperature unsalted butter, cut into cubes
7 large eggs, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Juice of 2 tangerines
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
¼ vanilla bean, split
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 325° and arrange a rack in the center. Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Make the cake: In a small bowl, sift the flour together with the baking powder and salt.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste with the sugar at low speed until the mixture is sandy, about 4 minutes. Turn the mixer off and grate the lemon and tangerine zest directly over the bowl. Gradually add the butter on medium speed then increase the speed to medium-high and mix until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle attachment.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat at medium speed until combined. Add the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in the dry ingredients at low speed until just combined. Mix briefly with a spatula to ensure everything is incorporated. The batter should be light and fluffy. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake until the cake is dark reddish-brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes.
5. Make the citrus glaze: Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the tangerine juice with the lemon juice, sugar and water. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the seeds and pod to the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil for 1 minute to thicken. Remove from the heat and discard the vanilla pod.
6. Invert the cakes onto a parchment-lined wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and brush liberally with the citrus glaze. Let the cakes cool completely before slicing and serving.
It's the details that count! Try these tips
To create a cake like the one pictured, Jensen strongly urges home cooks to buy a Pullman-style loaf pan. In her words: “Standard loaf pans scream ‘quick bread,’” she says, and this cake deserves the more elegant form a Pullman loaf pan provides.
Visiting Portland this summer? Check out Jensen’s dessert truck at its new location.
Make more street food at home with the help of John T. Edge’s new food truck cookbook.