For as long as I have been baking, it is always a pleasant surprise to come upon something completely new and foreign to me that turns out to be really fantastic. I was reading a wine magazine and found a cake recipe using almond paste as an ingredient. It did not sound too foreign, but new to me in that I was not sure where to buy almond paste, or where to locate it in the grocery store if indeed they did sell it. After perusing the baking aisle at my local grocer, I did not see it after one pass. I thought maybe the international aisle. Nope. Fortunately, there was someone stocking the shelves who knew exactly what almond paste was, what aisle it was in, and the exact spot on the shelf. Got it. Now, take it home and figure out what is this almond paste.
Reading the package ingredients, it is simply blanched almonds, sugar, water and other "natural flavors". Okay, sounds right. As I opened the package, I discovered the most pleasant sweet almond fragrance. Very enticing. Removing it from the foil package, it was a beige squishy block, almost like shortening but with more substance. Seems promising. And it was. This new ingredient created the most delicious sweet almond cake batter.
The recipe was not complicated, but I did change it just a bit. With baking, I always recommend following the directions as-is for the first use, then make it your own. After making it once, I decided on a few changes, and to make individual cakes using a large cupcake pan. Here is how I made this new ingredient into a sweet success.
Almond Cornmeal Cake
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup almond paste
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup plain yogurt
butter and flour to grease the baking pan
powdered sugar for dusting the finished cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the cups of a cupcake pan to make 6 large cupcakes. Or, grease an 8-inch cake pan.* Lightly dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a small bowl, add the cornmeal, cake flour, and baking powder; whisk to combine. Set aside.
Working with a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, add the softened butter and almond paste to the mixing bowl; mix on medium speed until creamy and well combined, 3-5 minutes. Add in the powdered sugar, mixing on slow speed until combined. Add in the eggs and egg yolks, one a time, mixing to combine. Mix in the vanilla. Add in the yogurt and dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Divide the cake batter evenly into the 6 cupcake wells. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.* Remove from the oven. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan, placing onto a wire baking rack to continue cooling. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar. Serve with fresh strawberries.
* If using an 8-inch cake pan, bake for 35 minutes.
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