I am wild for almondy baked goods. Not so much the kind with real actual almonds, which I can take or leave, but the kind that has marzipan or almond paste, with its intoxicating scent of almonds wafting out. I will choose the almond croissant at the café, the almond macaroon at the Italian bakery, the chocolate-covered marzipan at the candy shop. I love, love, love that flavor, as do my kids, and I love to bake with almond paste. This recipe, for example, which is wonderful (and gf to boot).
|You will swear these have almond paste in them! Which is crazy, because you're the one who made them.|
But often I don’t have almond paste. (Because I used it already and it is expensive and I am too cheap to buy it again.) So I have been forever looking for a recipe that communicates all the pleasure of almond paste, without the actual almond paste, and this is it. I only found it because a friend’s son baked it, and she posted about it on Facebook, and I could just tell from looking at it that it was going to be exactly perfect: crunchy-edged and with a soft, sticky middle, exactly like an almond macaroon.
It turned out to be a Marion Cunningham recipe, called simply “Almond Butter Cake,” and it has more almond extract in it than seems wholesome, and I wouldn’t do it any other way. I’m calling it blondies and baking it in a square pan because I think it lends itself better to bars—and to the idea that it’s texturally way more like brownies than like cake. Sticky, chewy, and like brownies, leavened only with eggs.
|Wake us when it's not cake.|
The original recipe calls for a topping made of sugar and sliced almonds, but I’m a weird purist about my almond-flavored things, and find it more distracting than enhancing. Feel free to add it back in: after the batter is in the pan, sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of sugar and then ¾ cup sliced almonds. If I were eating this all by myself, I might sprinkle the batter with pignolis, à la my favorite Italian almond macaroons. But that is not a popular idea around here.
p.s. I have written some things! This, over at Full Grown People (with my favorite tags ever: "anger, Catherine Newman, men, misogyny, rage, sexism, woman's anger, work"), and this over at Motherwell. Also, my (and Ben and Birdy's) parenting-teens column continues over at SheKnows. Please send me questions if you think to!
p.p.s. This book, The Bright Hour? It will wreck you, and you'll be so glad you read it. It changed me.
This is the kind of cake where the batter is ready to bake long before your oven is preheated. So, so easy.
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter (I use salted)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
Heat the oven to 350. Butter and flour or cooking-spray a baking pan that is either an 8-inch square or a 9-inch circle. (I used geometry *and* algebra to figure out the equivalent! [pats self on back])
Melt the butter in a small pot and then transfer it to a large bowl. Or, because you’re lazy and don’t want to wash the pot, melt it right in the large bowl either in the microwave (not a metal bowl) or over a pot of simmering water (a metal bowl).
Stir in the sugar until smooth (I use a sturdy rubber spatula for the whole recipe), then add the eggs and stir until the batter is blended—kinda creamy, kinda gritty. Add the extracts and the flour and stir “briskly” (that’s Marion Cunningham right there) until smooth.
Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and bake until just set, and toothpick emerges with sticky crumbs on it, 30-35 minutes.
Cool in the pan at least 30 minutes, then cut into bars.
Those parenting questions are all so hard. And you gave such great answers! I really love the respect and honesty that flow in your family.ReplyDelete
I completely agree!Delete
Thank you so much, Rachel and Jen! I can't tell you how much I appreciate this feedback. xoDelete
Real tears over the Motherwell piece...I am so with you on all of that!ReplyDelete
Ah, thank you, Jen.Delete
How exciting to see a shout-out for The Bright Hour from one of my favorite authors (you)! Nina was my cousin-in-law, and it's great to see her book getting so much positive recognition. I can't wait to read it (my husband got first dibs and is working through it now).ReplyDelete
Oh, Caitlin, I'm so sorry for your loss. The book is going to be so hard for you, but it is such a treasure.Delete
Love this post. Thank you so much for writing about The Bright Hour. It changed me too.ReplyDelete
Brettne, thank you. I can't imagine working on it so intimately. Oof.Delete
i want to eat all cake .ReplyDelete
please click here\
Go for it!Delete
Do you think it would be possible to bake this with almond flour? Or would that make it...weird somehow? I'm not a regular baker, but I did make a cake with almond flour once and it was dense and delicious. I feel like this cake would lend itself really well to that.ReplyDelete
"A misanthrope, in love with the world." I just love this, and the whole Full Grown People essay. Long time reader and fellow angry feminist here. I'm reading Clementine Ford's "Fight Like a Girl" - she's an Australian feminist writer (I live in Melbourne) and she just nails it. She's angry, if you want to reassure yourself that there are more of us out there, and funny too. Here are her columns if you're interested (hope it works from the US): http://m.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/by/Clementine-FordReplyDelete
Oooh. Thank you, Catharine! I'm going to request that book from the library.Delete
Loved the FGP and the Motherwell articles; loved them and have sent them on to friends. And loved the advice columns as always, but oh! I cannot bear the site itself! the pop-ups and the dizzying ads. Isn't there anything that can be done about that?!? Am I the only one?ReplyDelete
Ugh, no, you're not. I hear you. (I wrote "I heart you" by mistake. That too!)Delete
SAME, for me with the take-it-or-leave-it feeling about almonds but addiction to almondy baked goods! I love love love almond flavoring in sweets---I come by it honestly, since I am pretty much 100% Scandinavian & that's how my Norwegian Lutheran family bakes up here in Minnesota. Anyway, I wanted to say that I routinely use 1-1/2 tsp. of almond extract in various sweets recipes (think: numerous Christmas cookies) & never once consider it unwholesome! ;)ReplyDelete
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Tearing up at the Motherwell piece - and mine are only 9 and 5!!! Also loved FGP, but is it weird that I desperately want to know the name of a garlic press that isn't infuriating?ReplyDelete
Ha ha ha! Let me see if I can find that post again. . .Delete
Are you doing a book tour for One Mixed-Up Night? Oh, please say you are and say you're coming to NYC, and I will make you the most delicious almond baked goods. And I will also probably cry. Also, did you know they sell bars of marzipan at IKEA? I haven't tried mine yet, but am happy just knowing it's in my cupboard. Also, those are the best tags I've ever seen on an article. Also, I love it, I love it, I love it, I love you. I want to marry that article. And I think of myself as a very nice person. The nicest you've never met. And sometimes I want to kill them all. Also, I want to thank you AND 17 and 14 for the wisdom of the to-read-or-not-to-read-your-kid's-texts post on sheknows. Aren't we grateful not to be parenting in a void? XOXReplyDelete
Cake and a new book rec? YES! Thank you. There is hope!ReplyDelete
Catherine, thank you for this serendipitous (as yours so often are) post. Totally there with you on the almondy obsession (have you tried making a poppyseed muffin with tons of almond extract and chopped cherries? great if you want a more breakfast-friendly way to feed the addiction)ReplyDelete
The FGP essay is just a perfect work of art. It captures the desperate feeling of this moment in history and this moment in our lives beautifully, and I will be going back to re-read it often. I loved the exchange with your poet-boss, and am wondering if you have written or would be willing to write a bit here about your secretarial job. I would be fascinated to know more about the hours you work, how it fits in with parenting/writing/other things you do, and how you feel about the work/what you get out of it. I'm standing on the edge of my youngest starting kindergarten and trying to decide whether to get a day job (probably admin assistant-esque, because English degree) after years of stay at home mom-ing, and trying to figure out how writing and exercise and friendships can also fit into my days in meaningful ways. It would be fabulous to have some of your wise counsel on any of these issues. Anyway, thank you for the recipe and links as always. xoxo
Ok but where is the cigar vase to indicate that it is springReplyDelete
We've adopted your wonderful Wednesday cake tradition (although here it's a Thursday cake tradition) and it is such fun what extra joy it brings. These marzipan blondies are just delicious and ridiculously easy to make-- they don't even make a mess of the kitchen. My whole family loved them. Thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
The Motherwell piece squeezed my heart. Your writing is just beautiful, and I teared up reading this one. I still think of your words when I (like today) overreact (to spilled soup on the couch): We hold their hearts in our hands. Thank you.ReplyDelete
I look forward to reading your work as little rewards to myself during long days on my computer, and your parenting observations over the years have echoed in my head as I pass through the same stages. I am absolutely loving your "Survivor" articles--especially the input from your kids. The struggle is real! I hope we are "fostering an environment where they don't have to lie to you." Sage advice somehow easier to hear coming from a teen.ReplyDelete
This recipe made a lovely cake (since my only square pan is a very dodgy thing that I got at a dollar store and don't trust in the oven). I ended up using 1/2 a cup of almond flour just for kicks. I'd swear this was made of almond paste! My only quibble is that it seemed a little TOO buttery to me, and I love butter. Did you find yours a bit greasy, or is it just me?ReplyDelete
i like this pageReplyDelete
thanks you for sharing
Oh my god I'm never eating brownies again! Amazing!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the links! Your writing is always beautiful, your musings spot on, and the teen input a timely delight.ReplyDelete
Clicked over to this post because I too am an almond fanatic and then saw your mention of the Bright Hour book. Just two years past my own BC diagnosis and I have a love/hate pull/push for BC books. I'm not sure I want to weep my way thru this one so I'm asking how it changed you? Thanks Catherine xoReplyDelete