Oct 26, 2009

Almond Shamah Chiffon

I loved this cake! And herein is an advantage of deciding to bake every recipe in a book. If I hadn't committed myself to that, I would never have baked this cake. Too putzy, too many steps, too spongy a cake, too cute and pink.... But now I'm thinking that I might want this cake for my birthday cake instead of the passion fruit, which was my previous choice.
It is putzy, though. I took a vacation day to stay home and bake this cake so I could serve it to my investment club. When my friend Teddie asked me why I hadn't been at work, and I told her I'd stayed home to bake a cake, she was astonished. How long did it take? I told her about five hours, counting everything including cooling times. Then she asked me what had taken so long. I told her about toasting and grinding the almonds, sawing off the tops of the cakes, beating the eggs for five minutes, making the Amaretto syrup, etc. She replied, "No normal person would bake this cake! It's way too much trouble!" She might be right. If you're a normal person, stay away from this recipe. I must add that she stopped insulting me after she ate a piece.
No individual step is hard, but there are a fair number of steps. My mom taught me to put all the ingredients out on the counter before I started cooking something. She didn't know, I'm sure, that there was a French name for this common-sense step. Mise en place does sound more chef-y than put the ingredients on the counter.

I couldn't figure out how the almonds were going to work in the sponge cake. Sponge cake is light, ground almonds make a cake dense. How can you have a light, dense cake? Amazingly, that's pretty much what you get. It's so moist and tender, yet it has the slight texture of almonds, which gives the batter )made with egg yolks beaten for five minutes)

and a meringue, some heft.

There are lots of warnings about how fragile and tender the cake layers are, so I held my breath every time I handled them, which was a fair amount of breath-holding.

Some of the five hours it took to make the cake included a run to the liquor store to buy some Amaretto.

My little cache of liquor has quite an amazing number of bottles of expensive things I've bought for one recipe and never used again. In fact, I've bought three different bottles of Calvados on three different occasions for three different recipes. Each time, the bottle has been pushed to the back of the cabinet and I forgot that I already had some. If anyone needs to borrow a quarter-cup of Calvados, I'm your go-to woman.
The syrup is easy enough to make. It just has to cool for a while. Once you denude the cake of its top crust and brush off any crumbs from the bottom crust,

you can happily brush alcoholic syrup on the layers

As I remember from my chocolate-raspberry tiramisu, however, after you do that, the cake becomes very, very fragile and will fall apart when moved. This was not a tragedy with the tiramisu because you could pretend that's how you wanted it. It's hard to pull that off with a layer cake.
I got so nervous I ordered Jim to put the first layer on the cake plate while I closed my eyes.

Meanwhile, I made the raspberry whipped cream.

I still had half a jar of seedless raspberry jam that I'd used for the tiramisu. It seemed like a lot, but was about 40 grams short of what I was supposed to use. Good old Jim offered to run to the grocery store and get more, but I decided it was close enough. I added 40 more grams of cream to make sure I had the correct total amount, and I added a little sugar to make up for the absence of jam. It was perfect.
I adore whipped cream, and I love the idea of using it for frosting. It seems more like you're required to eat it when it's the actual frosting, whereas when it's just a dollop served on the side, you always think that if you were a better person you wouldn't eat it. I always eat it anyway, but I appreciate not being put in that moral conundrum.

My investment club was awed. We'd already gone through a few bottles of wine and decided on a few stock purchases which we bought with money we'd made from selling stocks at a profit, which is not our usual modus operandi. So we were already a cheerful group, and we became even more cheerful when we started eating
this cake.

I don't know why I chose this for an autumn cake. It you were to attach this cake to a season, its pale yellow cake layers and girlishly pink whipped cream would definitely attach it to spring. It would be an adorable cake for a baby shower or for a Mother's Day dinner. On the other hand, it was pretty darned good on a chilly October night.
Joyce: "Divine! This is the best cake I've ever had."
Betty: "Fabulous! The texture is so light you can hardly tell there are almonds in it."
Patty: "The raspberry is nice and tart--I like it that it's not too sweet."
Barbara: "This is a good alternative to chocolate."

* * * * * * * * *
We have another new baker. Lisa, who describes herself as an avid photographer and baker, is joining up. It's a perfect combination of interests for this project, and I'm looking forward to following her blog.


Vicki said...

It's beautiful! Thank heavens you pointed out the step of brushing on the syrup. Gotta go buy a proper brush instead using a water color paint brush. I feel better prepared to bake this cake now that you've walked us through it.

faithy said...

Hi Marie! I like that you said your friend stopped insulting you after she ate a piece of your cake! LOL! I love this cake too! All of you have such nice pink icing from raspberry..mine is not very nice pink..not as sweet pink as i would like.

doughadear said...

You are out-doing yourself with every new cake. Somehow, I get the feeling that this cake might also get bumped by the time it’s your birthday – each cake seems to out do the next. Rose has developed really lovely cakes in this book and my book should be arriving at my doorstep very soon.
Why isn’t Toronto closer to Minneapolis – I want to be on your tasting panel.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

This could be the most enjoyable of all your inimitable "postings." When I got to the cut slice I felt chills of pleasure and my heart lifted with joy. Marie, I'm so glad you put this cake forward. I've gotten to the point that any cake that is time-consuming has to be beyond worth it!

On a note of irony, the today show behind me is featuring a baker and new cake cookbook with quick and easy cakes that can be made "between homework and dinner." Was just in Montréal on book tour and had a great visit with baker/author/friend Marcy Goldman. We lamented in chorus how the food tv shows are all about dumbed down, quick n' easy, and focusing on performance/entertainment rather than education and empowerment. Getting the notice of this new posting couldn't have come at a more needed time!

PAM said...

Great job on your cake Marie, I ran out of time this week so will not be able to make this cake. It sounds so good I am sorry I can't do it, oh well, another time. Yours looks beautiful, congratulations on a successful cake.

anitsirK said...

Does anyone know whether this product (Robin Hood Easy Blend) is a reasonable substitute for Wondra flour?

It's the closest looking thing I have on the shelf up here in Canada.

I was going to make this cake yesterday, but instead we ended up making a trip to Toronto to look at kitchens at Ikea! I may still make this sometime this week, just to try out the flour.

Rachelino said...

My posting will be a bit late, but I am excited to see how everyone's chiffon cakes are coming out!

Rozanne said...

Your cake looks so good Marie. Try slipping a cake board under the cake to move it after you have applied the syrup.

Kristina, I live in TO too but I have never used the Robin Hood Easy Blend flour, my sister-in-law uses it and she says it works well. I use Wondra so I cannot comment on the difference.

anitsirK said...

Where do you get the Wondra, Rozanne? I'm actually near K-W, but we've got pretty similar grocery store choices, I'm sure. The only place I checked while we were doing our weekend shopping was one Sobeys, but if I need to make a Zehrs/Loblaws/Superstore run, that's easy enough. I just assumed that it wasn't available in Canada based on a couple web searches I did after not finding it on the shelf.

Goody said...

You should just send any extra/unwanted booze to me. Let me know if you find a reason to use Chartreuse in any of these cakes, and I'll plan a road-trip.

Taking a day off work to bake a cake sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Better than wasting a vacation day having your teeth cleaned or something.

Jenn said...

Marie - you can just buy a small bottle of the liquor, that's what I did. The smallest bottle of amaretto costs me less than $3. And for this recipe I used up 1/2 a bottle of it, so you can imagine how small it is.

Marie said...

I love the silicone pastry brush I got. No more bristles falling off the brush and into the cake.

Well, she did at least realize which side her bread was buttered on. I love the sweet, soft pink of this whipped cream!

I'm always on the lookout for new people for taste panels--you can just be on the lookout for cheap air fares between Toronto and Minneapolis.

There's a place for quick and easy recipes, and sometimes I just don't have enough energy to go all out. But I do get a real sense of accomplishment in making something that requires multiple steps, especially if, in the end, I can see the reason for each step. This cake could have just been a pain if it had turned out just okay, but it was a thrill to be able to take a bite and realize that I'd made this!

Marie said...

Sugar Chef,
You would probably have breezed through this recipe--I hope you get a chance to try it sometime because it is delightful.

I Googled Wondra and Robin Hood and got something on yahoo.com that said that Robin HOod is the Canadian equivalent of Wondra. I haven't used Wondra in years, but it's excellent for this kind of cake because it dissolves so quickly and you don't have to over-fold the cake to make sure all the flour's mixed in.

I know--I love looking at the posts as they pop up!

Thanks. I used the bottom of a tart pan, and that worked pretty well, but it still makes me nervous to move it.

Exactly! Apparently this is something that only a baker can understand. Somehow Chartreuse never made it into my liquor supply. Jim gave his best man a bottle of Chartreuse as a present because the best man was always talking about how wonderful it was.

I love the idea of getting a mini-flask of Amaretto! I got the smallest bottle that my liquor store had, unless they have a section of miniatures that I've never noticed.

Hanaâ said...

Marie, your cake looks beautiful. Love the pink-colored whipped cream frosting. Did the jam dissolve easily into the whipped cream? Jam can be kind of chunky, cold from the fridge. That was my only concern when reading the recipe.

Your picture of the cake is so inviting that I'm thinking of making it this week (a little late but worth the effort, it sounds like). I've made something similar before (sponge cake with strawberry mousse filling and sliced strawberries). I wonder if raspberries (when in season again) folded into the filling part, would be nice.

Marie said...

Thank you. No problem with the jam dissolving into the whipped cream. Although it was called "jam," it didn't have a very jammy texture, and it mixed in just fine. That was actually one of the few things I didn't worry about when I made this cake!

Mendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mendy said...


Lovely Cake!

Love the picture of the cake on the rack. It looks like you got a great outer crust. I also like how you sort of grated off the top instead of making a grand incision.

Marie said...

My nerve failed me when it was time to make the grand incision. Just one of many reasons it's a good thing I'm not a surgeon.

Bungalow Barbara said...

Marie, sometimes they keep the "mini" booze behind the counter or in a locked cabinet. Ditto for the really, really expensive booze. For the little ones, it's because it would be too easy for someone to slip 'em into a pocket and walk out. For the big, pricey ones, well, maybe not quite as easy to steal, but a big hit to the store's budget if stolen or broken.

smartcookie said...

Marie! This cake is beautiful! I totally got the dates mixed-up and make the pumpkin cake, so I guess I'm all ready for next week. It's a variation (for the poor, busy girl).

Just curious--when are we going to make the pumpkin cheesecake???


Rozanne said...

Kristina, Wondra is not available in Canada. I bought it when I was in the US a few months ago. Sorry, I didn't mean to get your hopes up.

Jenn said...

Everyone - I made my cake with Organic Unbleached AP Flour (Whole Foods Brand) and the result is moist and tender. I don't think I would be able to tell the difference in texture with cake flour - unless in side by side comparison. Just want to throw this out there for you all. I posted a picture of the sliced cake at http://www.knittybaker.blogspot.com

anitsirK said...

No worries, Rozanne. I ended up picking up a bag of the Robin Hood easy blend, so I'll be using that for the cakes that call for Wondra. Might even make this cake tonight. :) It just looks so good on everyone's blogs that I can't resist!

Nicola said...


I definitely think that this cake was worthy of taking a day off work - and some impulsive re-investing!

I am with you, if not for the bake through, I probably never would have made this cake - too almondy and too girly! So, thank's for providing the *support*.

I would never have made the next cake either, so fingers crossed it turns out just as well.


Marie said...

I never knew they had behind-the-counter liquor! I'll have to check it out.

Are you going to be able to write about the pumpkin cake before this weekend? It would be great to have a preview. The pumpkin cheesecake is in store for the weekend after Thanksgiving, so you can make it for Thursday and have all weekend to blog about it. The caramel sauce for that cheesecake looks perfect!

You couldn't tell the substitution by the looks of your cake--it looks wonderful.

And the pumpkin cake is one that you're baking in an unfamiliar kitchen in New Zealand?! Good luck!

Sherrie said...

Do you want us to tell you when we are baking a cake from the bake through?


Unknown said...

I have to say, I had a really busy weekend so I decided to not make this cake, but after reading everyone's comments and seeing the blogs, I had to give it a go. I just took the cake layers out of the oven... will report more later.

Marie said...

It can't hurt to let me know, but don't feel obligated. I always check everyone's blog on Monday (I know all about your wedding cake project!), but I might miss some. Good luck, by the way.

Unknown said...

Twenty-some-odd hours later... I'm finally done with the Almond Shamah Chiffon. Can't wait to dig in!

I wasn't going to make this cake because I had a wedding cake project this past weekend, but thanks to all you bloggers who unknowingly tempted me with your accolades, I had no choice but to give it a go, albeit several days late.


anitsirK said...

I finally posted my version of the Almond Chiffon. Definitely my favourite cake. Not just my favourite cake from the book so far. My favourite cake, period. Not sure about the frosting I chose, but I'll play with that sometime. Another great recipe from Rose!

Unknown said...

I really am glad I tried this cake... I wasn't sure I was going to like the raspberry whipped cream, but it compliments the almond cake so well. We absolutely loved how light and moist this cake was!!!


Marie said...

I love it that the other bakers tempted you into baking this cake.

I know! It's still my top candidate for my birthday cake.

Gartblue said...

I wished I had the book last week for this cake cos it must have been a wonderful cake to bake.

Good news!


So, I hope to join your guys for the Baby Chocolate Oblivions.

Marie said...

At last! If you like serious chocolate, you'll like these.

hector said...

i've been following with much detail all your experiences for this wonderful Almond Shamah Chiffon with raspberry cream, and also lots of questions on Rose's forum about jams and quality. i hope you agree to my recommendation:


Katya said...

I just made this, leaving out the soaking syrup and frosting with a very intense burnt-sugar apricot mousseline. Big hit at my last day of my internship--hope they remember me.

Marie said...

The burnt-sugar apricot mousseline sounds wonderful--did you just make that up? I'm sure you're memorable on your own, but the cake probably doesn't hurt.

Katya said...

Marie--I did make it up, in a lazy sort of way--didn't feel like straining my raspberry jam, and...well, I burned the sugar, sooo...I think apricot is a better match for that burnt caramel flavor than raspberry would be anyway. It was a sort of an unappealing flecked orange-y brown, but when sprinkled with sliced almonds, it did very well. Forgot to take pictures of anything beyond the unfrosted cakes, so no posting, but I will certainly make it again. I also did the flour/cornstarch substitution, which worked out very well.