Nov 23, 2009
What the heck is a salt pinch cake? Does it help to know that in Barcelona it's usually known as pinch bread? No, that didn't help me either. Does it help to know that it's a "salt" pinch cake because it's named after the Salt Bakery in Barcelona, which is named for a little village called Salt? That didn't help me either, especially when I tried googling "salt & bakery & barcelona." Google is as confused as I was; it kept sending me to sites that talked about salt and olive oil in Barcelona. But it turns out that there really is a village in Spain named Salt, which is the home of Gas Gas motorcycles. And I found that Miquel Costabella, from whom Rose got this recipe, teaches at a place called Bons Focs in Barcelona. At least, I think he does. My Catalan is a little iffy.
Two more things about this cake: 1) I would have passed it right by if I hadn't been baking every cake in the book. It sounded odd, plain, and not very interesting. 2) It's easy. I fully expected it to be on the Quick-and-Easy list. I'm not sure why it isn't, except that it takes at least 20 minutes to mix the eggs in, but the KitchenAid does all the work.
You make a cute little parchment-paper collar for the spring-form pan, but that's not hard.
You beat up two egg whites until they form soft peaks, and that's not hard either.
You grind toasted almonds with a bit of sugar in a food processor. Not at all difficult.
And mix the almond mixture in with the egg whites.
Then all you have to do is make sure that you have a cup of coffee and the Styles section of the NYT to keep you occupied while you add five eggs, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating two minutes after each addition. If you did this by hand, it would be hard. But you don't.
You can see some of the egg yolks in the batter before they've all been absorbed.
Add cake flour and grated lemon peel. You have plenty of time to grate the lemon and sift the flour during the 20 minutes you're adding the egg yolks. If you were really good, you'd have time to do the crossword, but I've never in my life done the Sunday crossword in 20 minutes.
The batter, which is still quite thin, comes almost all the way to the top of the pan.
The cake starts to sink in the middle just as it's coming out of the oven.
The tradition is to pinch off pieces with your hands. With people so freaked out about H1N1 and other viruses and bacteria, I thought that nobody would want to pinch off their own piece, and I didn't want anyone spraying hand sanitizer on my nice cake, so I went to Plan B: Catalan Slice Cake, with whipped cream and raspberries. What isn't better with whipped cream and raspberries anyhow?
Before I started on this harebrained scheme to bake the gazillion cakes in Rose's Heavenly Cakes, I didn't like sponge cakes. I didn't like their sponginess or their lack of butter, which, in my opinion, was the best thing about cakes. I wasn't crazy about angel food cake, nor about meringue. The first time I had lemon meringue pie I thought the meringue was whipped cream. I was so disappointed I almost cried. But so far I've made six cakes from the Sponge Cakes chapter, and I've liked all of them. This is a plain cake, but its almond and lemon flavors are true, and don't need to be disguised or dressed up. I'm also adding it to my own personal Quick-and-Easy list, so it will be made again--if I'm still eating cake after this cookbook adventure.
Karen: "It reminds me of the wonderful sponge cakes my mother made for Passover, and this is as good as any of them."
Laurel: "I liked the texture, I liked the ground nuts, I liked the subtle lemon, and I especially liked the fact that the cake was not overly sweet. Very satisfying."
Jim: "Nice flavor. I like the coarse texture from the nuts, and the springiness of it."
Posted by Marie at 12:10 AM