Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Amaretto Almond Cake--A Snobbish Name for Polish Babka

The best babka, or a bundt cake, as it is called world wide, that I have veer had, was made by my grandmother. It was spongy, extremely moist, and aromatic. Most often she made a lemon babka, by adding lemon juice and grated lemon peel to the batter. Sometimes she made a rum babka with a chocolate swirl inside. They were as good two days later as on the first day, if only they could last so long.

Years ago, before the mixers era, my grandma was using a special wooden club and a special clay bowl to grind sugar, eggs, and butter together, until they turned into a very smooth mixture. She made them usually in winter, as a weekend treat, when not many fruits were available.

Unfortunately, although I was helping her often as a child, especially to lick the spatula, I have never taken down an exact recipe, and neither has any of her five daughters, including my mother. Grandma's secret for this amazing cake, will forever stay secret. So if you have a special family recipe that you love, please write it down, before it is too late. I keep asking all the good Polish cooks I know if they have a nice babka recipe. But almost all of them are very far from this perfect one I remember, mostly because they come out too dry.

But recently I got a recipe from a Polish lady who is a very cook and made it recently. First time I made it, the babka was very good, but I still would like it to be more moist. Then my mother reminded me that, although grandma used only best quality ingredients, she also added a little bit of cooking oil to her cake to lock in the moisture. I did it too and finally I got the cake that came close to what I had remembered. On my next try, I will probably make lemon babka, but for now please enjoy this almond version. I'm sure that this cake would also be excellent if you make it with hazelnut meal and Frangelico liqueur, for example.

Amaretto Almond Cake

2 sticks butter, soft
1 cup sugar,
1 tbsp vegetable oil,
4 eggs (separate yolks and whites) at room temperature,
1 and 1/4 cup almond meal,
2/3 cup flour,
2 tsp baking powder,
2 tbsp Amaretto di Saronno, or any other liqueur or Cognac,
a pinch of salt.

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Grease a bundt cake baking tin with butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs--that will help to get the cake out.
3. Using a stand or hand mixer beat together butter and sugar for about 3-5 minutes, or until sugar almost dissolves.
4. Add egg yolks, one by one, still beating.
5. Mix in a bowl flour, almond meal, and baking powder, and add them to the batter.
6. When the batter is well mixed, add oil and liqueur.
7. Beat whites with salt until stiff and using spatula incorporate them gently into the almond batter.

8. Transfer the batter into the baking tin and bake it for 40-45 minutes.

Cool down the cake and dust with icing sugar or pour chocolate sauce on it. I prefer icing sugar, as it is more delicate, especially, if use chocolate for chocolate swirl babkas.

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