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Jim Coleman Recipes

Lemon Almond Cake with Verbena Syrup*

Like many foods that grow in the same climate, almonds and lemon are companionable flavors. Almond paste keeps this light cake moist as does the use of simple syrup brushed on the cake as it cools. The bright yet floral flavor of lemon verbena, abundant in the dry heat of the Mediterranean, adds a little something special to the syrup. Lemon juice, vanilla, Grand Marnier, Limoncello or other flavoring can be used however, when fresh verbena is not available.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

For the Verbena Syrup:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh verbena leaves, washed

For the cake:

  • 8 ounces almond paste
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Grated zest 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 1arge eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Confectioner's sugar for dusting

To prepare this recipe:

1. Combine the sugar and water in a heavy stainless steel saucepan over high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves then bring it to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove the syrup from the heat and add the verbena leaves. Let the leaves steep in the syrup for at least 1 hour before using. This syrup will keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks. Strain out the leaves if desired.

2. Preheat the oven to 325oF. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan or ten 4-ounce tart shells.

3. Beat the almond paste in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until well blended. Add the butter, lemon juice and zest, olive oil and 1 tablespoon of verbena syrup. Beat until perfectly blended, another 2 minutes or so.

4. One by one beat in the egg yolks until the mixture is very smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Fold the flour and baking powder into the batter. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form then fold the whites into the batter.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides of the cake have begun to shrink away from the pan, about 40 to 45 minutes. (Individual cakes bake in about 20 minutes.) Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

6. Unmold the cake and place it on the wire rack. Brush the top of the cake generously with the verbena syrup and cool the cake completely. Serve dusted with confectioner's sugar or with fresh berries and cream.

*© 2004 Priscilla Martel, All About Food

©2004 WHYY