What do I like so much about baking? I think, in making this cake yesterday, I know. It’s going to sound simple, maybe a little corny.
It’s about shape. Making shapes. Putting something into a mold of some sort, and then doing something to a substance, like putting it into an oven, or even just waiting, and then taking it out and seeing the transformation, what you’ve created with your own hands. It’s magic.
I wrote about my grandmother’s influence on me when I was five, in showing me how to make filipino polvoron cookies. What she showed me was that basic concept of creating shapes. It’s what preschoolers learn once they get hold of modeling clay. When they press play-doh into a mold, or push it through a thing that pumps out little stars of clay.
This recipe is from Tartine bakery’s baking book from 2007. Their baking book is wonderful. In the past, I have made their chocolate soufflé cake, pastel de tres leches cake, and lemon bars with brown butter shortbread, and they are all amazing! I haven’t made their almond lemon tea cake, but I have added almond paste to quick breads before, and I love how moist it makes them, so I thought I’d give it a whirl!
They call it a tea cake. I don’t know why they don’t just call it a pound cake. It’s not any less calorically dense as a tea cake. Doesn’t it sound healthier as a tea cake, though? Maybe that’s why. Or maybe they cater to blue-haired ladies who live nearby, who have afternoon tea everyday. I don’t know. Either way, I’d eat it. I’m of the call-it-what-is camp. To quote Judge Judy, “Don’t pee on my leg and then tell me it’s raining.” Love her. Anyways…
The recipe in the book calls for using a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan or 8 1/2-inch tube pan. The picture for the recipe in the book, however, shows a rectangular loaf of goodness that can only be made by using a Pullman pan. A Pullman pan uses a lid that is secured on top of the pan when you use it to keep bread from rising above the loaf pan, called oven spring, to make a loaf of bread that is a uniform rectangle. (Again, it’s all about shape. That’s what made me buy one of those Pullman pans.)
For the recipe, I doubled the amount of ingredients so it would fit into the Pullman pan. I do not know the calculations to this, it just felt right. I was hemming and hawing with a mathematically inclined friend about proportion and about volume differences, and baking science, but couldn’t come up with a formula for adjusting recipes based on pan dimensions. If anybody has a formula for converting a recipe for a 9x5x4 pan to a 13x4x4 pan that they’d like to share, I’d be ever so grateful. I’d bake an almond lemon tea cake just for you.
Almond Lemon Tea Cake (from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, doubled for Pullman pan, 13x4x4inches)
1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus some for preparing the pan)
1 1/2 cups pastry or cake flour, sifted (plus some for preparing the pan)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups, or 14 ounces, almond paste, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
6 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a 13-by-4-by-4 inch Pullman pan, including the bottom of the lid, knocking out the excess flour.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt twice. In a small bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla and whisk together just to combine.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste on low speed until it breaks up. This can take up to a minute, depending on how soft and warm it is. Slowly add the sugar in a steady stream, beating until incorporated. If you add the sugar too quickly, the paste won’t break up as well.
4. Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. Continue on low speed while adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Then turn on the mixer to medium speed and beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs in a very slow, steady stream and mix until incorporated. Stop the mixer and again scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn on the mixer again to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds more.
5. Add the citrus zests and mix in with a wooden spoon. Add the flour mixture in two batches, stirring after each addition until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time, then spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.
6. Bake until the top springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 to 7 minutes while you make the glaze.
7. To make the glaze, stir together the lemon and orange juices and the sugar in a small bowl. Place the wire rack holding the cake over a sheet of waxed paper or aluminum foil to catch any drips of glaze, and gently invert the cake onto the rack. If the cake does not want to release, run the tip of a small knife around the edge to loosen it. Brush the entire warm cake with the glaze, then let the cake cool completely on the rack. The cake breaks apart easily when warm, so don’t attempt to move it.
8. When the cake is cool, transfer it to a serving plate, using two crisscrossed icing spatulas or the base of a two-part tart pan to lift it. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, well-wrapped, for 1 week in the refrigerator.