Do you own 6" cake pans yet? I love mine! If you like to bake, and don't want to gain 5 pounds, you should definitely invest in some 6" pans. You can usually just half the recipe for a 9" cake, and make it as a 6" instead - no complicated math required! If you're intimidated by the thought of putting together a big layer cake, a 6" is also a little less scary. The smaller layers are less likely to break while you're assembling the cake, and frosting the 6" is just a little bit easier than a bigger, unwieldy cake.
I didn't get to eat any of this cake unfortunately (it was for a Zucchero Dolce order), so I don't have any shots of the inside. I'll just have to make it again soon so I can get you some more pictures... yeah, that's the reason I need to make it again soon. Really it is...
Almond Cake (adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)
This recipe makes a 2-layer 6" cake. Double the recipe to make a 3-layer 9" cake, a 3-layer 8" cake, or a 2-layer 9" cake if your pans are a full 2" tall.
2/3 cups sour cream, separated
1 teaspoons almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups cake flour, sifted
1/3 cup finely ground almonds, toasted and preferably unblanched
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter (6 ounces), room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 2 6" round cake pans with baking spray, line with parchment paper, and spray again (you can probably skip the parchment if you spray well).
In a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, about 1/4 (that's a little under 3 tablespoons) of the sour cream, and the extracts. Set aside. Don't worry, it won't be smooth or pretty.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the dry ingredients - mix for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of sour cream, and mix on low until combined. Mix on medium for 2 minutes to aerate batter. If you don't have a beater blade, scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently with a rubber spatula. Add the egg and sour cream mixture in 3 additions, beating 20 seconds after each addition.
Split the batter between the cake pans, and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake for 20-30 minutes until a toothpick just comes out clean. (that's a big time window, but cooking time can vary drastically with different ovens, so it's best to keep an eye on it).
Let the cakes cook in their pans for about 10 minutes, then turn on to cooling rack. Cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to frost.
Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Filling
3 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup raspberry puree*
To make the puree, I find it easiest to use frozen raspberries. Thaw (or microwave) the frozen berries, and puree in the blender or food processor. You'll need about 2 cups of berries to get 1/3 cup puree.
Melt together the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or in a microwave (short 30 second spurts, stir in between or you're likely to burn the chocolate). Stir in the raspberry puree, and use to fill the cake. If you make this ahead of time, you may need to microwave it very briefly to bring it back to spreadable consistency.
Chocolate Frosting (adapted from Chocolate Chocolate)
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
Large pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 fluid ounces (3/8 cup) milk, heated to tepid
Beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.
Blend in the melted chocolate, salt, vanilla, and 1 cup powdered sugar.
Add in the rest of the powdered sugar in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions (begin and end with the powdered sugar). Add more powdered sugar for heavier (this may be necessary if you want to pipe your frosting) frosting, or more milk for a creamier frosting. Use the frosting immediately. If it starts to harden before you're ready to frost, re-whip, adding a small amount of milk if necessary to restore the creamy consistency.
About 1 cup ground almonds (I like salted)
2-3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds (toast at 300F for 5-8 minutes)
Raspberries, lightly coated with sugar
Be sure the cake is completely cool before frosting. I always chill my cakes to be safe, you don't want cake layers melting frosting and sliding every which way!).
Place one cake layer on a serving plate or a cake board, and spread the chocolate raspberry ganache on top, leaving roughly a 1/4" border on the outer edges (the weight of the second layer will make the ganache spread to the edge). Top with the second cake layer, and chill if you have time (not long, even a half hour would be good if your kitchen is warm; you can assemble the whole thing at once if it's not too hot out). Cover the entire cake with chocolate frosting.
Cover the sides of the cake with the ground almonds while the frosting is still smooth and creamy (if you wait too long, the frosting will begin to harden and the nuts won't adhere to the cake). To cover with nuts, just scoop some nuts up in your hand and gently press in to the cake. Many many nuts will fall down on to the platter. Just keep scooping them back up and pressing on to the cake until it's covered. Work quickly, so the frosting doesn't harden.
Pipe chocolate frosting around the edge of the cake if desired. Scatter the toasted slivered almonds on top, and to with raspberries. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy!