Toasted Almond Cake, Stewed Rhubarb, Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Almond Cake with Rhubarb //

I am just too excited to show you this cake that I don’t even know what to say. I don’t think it needs a lot of words but it does need to be shared, like right now, because Easter is on Sunday and I think this cake would blow the minds off of whoever will be joining your Easter table.

This recipe also happens to mark the first rhubarb recipe of 2016 here on Not Without Salt and if you’ve been here awhile you now I’m a fan. A big, big, big, big fan. So happy spring, happy cake and happy Easter.

Almond Cake with Rhubarb // Almond Cake with Rhubarb //

The bulk of the cake itself gets its structure from almonds, deeply toasted. I mean really, don’t be afraid to go dark here. When your kitchen starts to smell intensely of roasted almonds then you’re there. Once they cool they go into a food processor, completely whole and then, along with the rest of the ingredients until finely chopped, you’ll grind them until fine. Inevitably they won’t be as fine as almond flour so the resulting cake texture has a bit of an almond bite to it, which I love. It’s actually quite a different texture all together; hearty, a bit dense – not like a typical springy cake texture, but it’s beautifully almond speckled, rich and a perfect teammate to the rhubarb and cream cheese. And then you go and serve the cake with the remaining stewed rhubarb and a bit of cool whipped cream and *boom* minds blown, just as I predicted.

Almond Cake with Rhubarb // IMG_5109

Toasted Almond Cake, Stewed Rhubarb and Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cake:

2 cups almonds

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Line three 8 inch cake pans with butter or pan spray and parchment paper. But the parchment paper.

Toast the almonds in a 350° oven until their toasty fragrance fills your kitchen and they turn deeply golden, about 10-15 minutes.

Let the almonds cool completely.

In the bowl of a food processor add the almonds, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Process until the almonds are completely pulverized. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then process again. The finer the crumb of the almond the finer the texture of the cake will be. I actually like a little bit of nutty texture in the cake so I don’t  worry about it being perfectly fine.

In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs, lemon zest, almond extract, vanilla extract, melted butter, and olive oil.

Carefully pour the wet ingredients into the food processor. Process until a smooth batter forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then process again.

Divide the batter between the three cake pans.

Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until the top feels springy when touched.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pans and cooling on a rack completely.

Make the stewed rhubarb while the cakes bake.

Stewed Rhubarb

1 1/2 pound rhubarb, ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1-inch pieces (you’ll need a total of 2 pounds for the whole cake recipe)

3/4 cup sugar

Juice from half a lemon

Add the rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice to a small saucepan set over medium low heat. Cook gently until the rhubarb just starts to fall apart. Carefully transfer the rhubarb to a bowl and let cool completely.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature

2 sticks butter, room temperature

3 – 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together until creamy and well combined. Sift the powdered sugar then add that to the bowl. Add the salt and vanilla extract before beating everything together. Start the machine slowly then, when all the sugar has been mixed in, increase the speed and beat on medium high for 3 to 5 minutes until fluffy and light. Scrape down the bowl then beat again, briefly until well mixed.

Rhubarb Roses

1/2 pound rhubarb stalks, ends trimmed

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the rhubarb into strips. The harder you press on the peeler the thicker the strips will be. You’re looking for about 1/8-inch thickness.

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Carefully add the rhubarb strips to the pan, just a few at a time, and gently poach for about 30 seconds. The strips should be malleable and be able to bend without breaking.

Lay the rhubarb strips on paper towels.

To form the roses gently roll them up in a tight coil. Alternate the size of the roses by cutting down some of the rhubarb strips. Replace the roses to the paper towels until ready to use.

Reserve the rhubarb simple syrup and the rest of the stewed rhubarb.

Assemble the cake:

Phew. Okay, now it’s time to make a cake! Brush each of the cake layers with a bit of the reserved rhubarb syrup from the rhubarb rose making. Then add a thin layer of cream cheese frosting followed by about 1/3 cup of the rhubarb filling. It’ll be soft and juicy and probably run out of the cake a bit but as the cake sits the cake will soak it up.

Repeat with the second cake layer then finish with the final layer. Add about 1 1/2 cups of rhe frosting to the top of the cake. Frost the cake to your desire, although I will suggest a nice thick layer of frosting on the top. I chose to leave the edges of the cake a bit exposed because I love the rustic layers of the cake showing through but you can frost it completely if you prefer.

Serve the slices with the remaining stewed rhubarb and whipped cream if you have some around.

This cake, like so many of its other cake friends, is best the day after it’s baked. You can frost and decorate on the day you plan to serve it if you’d like and bake the cake layers up to two days before. Just be sure to wrap them well.

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Roasted Dates with Bittersweet Chocolate

Roasted Salted Dates with Bittersweet Chocolate //

As we sit at the table still cluttered with plates wiped clean of their contents, our bellies full of briny oysters with a piquant mignonette, toast topped with whole sardines and creamy butter and tender spring greens that bend, not crack, when you bite, we turn to dessert.

“We have to get the dates!” A friend suggests.

Now normally I like this friend but who in their right mind suggests dates for dessert over the creamy panna cotta or something, ANYTHING, chocolate? Her overwhelming excitement forces us to take her pleading seriously. We order the dates.

They arrive (along with a rhubarb pavlova in case the dates fail us) on plate bathed in olive oil. They are warm and capped with flaky salt.

One bite and I’m humbled. A hot date crisps on the outside making a caramelized coat that protects the soft, sweet and warm insides – nothing like the health food-y preconceived notions I had had just moments before. Grassy olive oil tames the sweetness and makes them fragrant and floral. And the salt, well, you all know how I feel about salt; the crunch, the nearly harsh bite of salinity that calms against the puckering sweetness of the date.

Roasted Salted Dates with Bittersweet Chocolate //

Roasted Salted Dates with Bittersweet Chocolate //

If you have my book you know that I have a thing for these hot dates. It’s the first course of my birthday date which is basically just all the things I want to eat all the time; Pecorino and fennel seed crusted lamb chops, butter lettuce salad with spring herbs, a blushed Rhubarb cocktail and Créme Fraîche Panna Cotta with Gingered Rhubarb.

Since first enjoying hot dates at Renee Erickson’s famed restaurant, The Walrus and the Carpenter I’ve served them to start meals with friends or at the end of the meal when the menu needs something simple for dessert. Every time I make hot dates people always remark on how good they are. It’s just one of those things that seems so unassuming and then it catches you off guard. I love those surprising moments.

At some point I started to want to push my hot dates a bit further which is how I came to stuff them with bittersweet chocolate. I’m the sort that doesn’t believe dessert is possible without chocolate, obviously I’ve been proven wrong on occasion but I still try and slip it in whenever possible.

These roasted dates are every bit as easy to make as the original hot date but even more delightfully satisfying. If you are making them for dessert for a few I simply warm them up in my cast iron skillet but they also work to feed a crowd – in which case I would roast them in the oven.

Roasted Salted Dates with Bittersweet Chocolate //

Roasted Salted Dates with Bittersweet Chocolate

Enough for 4 to 6 people

5 to 7 large, soft dates such as Medjool

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I’m a fan of something in the 70% range)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Flake salt

Remove the pit from the dates and replace it with a piece of broken chocolate.

Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet set over medium heat.

Add the chocolate stuffed dates and roast until the exterior of the date is caramelized, they are warmed through and the chocolate has started to melt, about 2 minutes. Do not walk away during this process as it happens quickly. Dates are loaded with sugar which tends to scorch the moment you look away.

Transfer the dates to a serving platter then finish with the remaining olive oil and flake salt.

Alternately, roast the dates in the oven at 350° F until warm, soft and the chocolate begins to melt, about 5 to 7 minutes. Finish in the same way.

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