While I was walking around Rustan’s Supermarket one time I was drawn towards the very pretty Waitrose shelf. I guess it couldn’t be helped. Everything on that shelf is soooo prettily packaged, though admittedly it does not fall under the affordable category. Yet my eyes were captured by this shiny gold foil that stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. Little did I know this golden block would make me feel like I hit the jackpot in more ways than one. Marzipan, folks. I had finally found an ingredient I did not imagine I was going to be able to get my hands on anytime soon.
Being a food blogger in this country does have its ups and downs, but the downs I mostly feel in my frustrations when it comes to seeking out certain “special” ingredients. Whenever I see something interesting I would like to attempt from fellow food bloggers who live in the US or the UK (places where there seem to be a selection of every imaginable ingredient) my spirits go on a high and almost immediately plummet six feet under the ground as I read through the ingredients list. This is where I realise with utter dismay that there are a bunch of ingredients that would be impossible for me to find locally.
But thank goodness I can cross marzipan off that “hidden ingredients in Manila” list because I now know it is purchasable in the Philippines. At the time I bought this there was only the Golden Marzipan available, but apparently Waitrose also produces a White and Brandy variant. The former would be great for colouring and shaping into decorations, or simply flattened out and tinted to cover a cake a-la fondant. (Princess Cake, anyone?) It excites me to think that perhaps local supermarkets are now trying to improve their selection of quality products and ingredients after all. (Faith restored? It remains to be seen.)
So what exactly is marzipan? It is a soft pliable substance that in other places is also called almond paste. Marzipan just sounds so much classier, doesn’t it? It’s supposed to be made out of a good amount of almonds, but I have heard there are some US brands that use only almond essence to create a purely sweet pasty thing. You should be able to taste and smell the almonds from the marzipan if indeed it is genuinely made with the stuff.
The British Waitrose brand of marzipan is made up of 25% almonds, and I was quite pleased with the quality to tell you honestly. It certainly beats out having to make my own marzipan at home. (Let’s face it, you don’t want to make everything at home.) This pack comes with 500 grams of marzipan and since this recipe only calls for half that amount I get another chance to try this in another type of baked good, coming later in part 2.
I’ve already got a bunch of recipes involving marzipan in my to-do stack so it wasn’t an issue of where to use the marzipan but where first that seemed to plague me upon my purchase. That’s always the funniest dilemma for a baker isn’t it, which recipe to tackle first? But remembering how much I wanted to get a taste of the famed Almond Cakes I always see floating around the blogosphere, I thought it would be a great introduction to baking with marzipan.
I was completely right.
My expectations when it came to Almond Cake were pretty simple: It has to have a definite almond flavour and smell, with a fine golden crumb that will make me stop and ogle. (I have a thing for crumbs…) But what this cake brought to the table aside from those two factors was how easy it was to make. Well I’m not surprised, given that this is a Nigella recipe. She has a knack for making things look fabulous while at the same time easy-peasy to make.
And just for good measure, a sprinkling of confectioner’s snow never hurt anyone.
Easy Almond Cake
Makes one 8-inch cake
- 250 grams unsalted butter, softened
- 250 grams marzipan, softened
- 150 grams ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract, optional
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs
- 150 grams 1 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a round 8-inch cake pan with high sides, then line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter the paper as well.*
- 2. In a food processor, process the marzipan, butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the almond and vanilla extracts. Process again.
- 3. Add the eggs, one at a time down the funnel, processing after each addition. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and process until incorporated.
- 4. Transfer to the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 50 minutes, checking from the 40-minute mark, or until cake is golden and risen, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack, then carefully unmold. Dust with icing sugar and serve.