the easter basket – berry almond crunch cake

by hungryrabbit on April 6, 2012

Berry Almond Crunch Cake

I wasn’t going to do a post for Easter. Having just finished volunteer work for IACP and now turning my focus to NYC Food Blogger Bake Sale,  I didn’t think I would have time to bake anything.

Then one morning, I came upon Martha’s show with Sebastien Rouxel, executive pastry chef of Bouchon Bakery. This particular show‘s theme was eggs, and when asked what an Easter dessert should be, Sebastien said that it should be fun, playful, and remind you of your childhood. Well, I may be busy with work and charity, but there’s no reason why I can’t find a little time to have some fun and play.

I’ve mentioned that my childhood idea of a great desert was cake with fruit cocktail filling and whipped cream frosting.  Yes, fruit cocktail from a can. Go to ANY Asian bakery–the fruity clues are there. I ate plenty of them and enjoyed every last bite.

Now armed with the knowledge of pastry techniques, flavor, and textures, I can reinterpret that cake. For this Easter, I made my version of an Easter basket filled with fruit–a naturally pink cake from the essence of raspberries, a surprising crunchy almond filling, and the billowy meringue frosting in the shape of a woven basket. Talk about playful, I torched the meringue to enhance the look of wicker. The aroma of burnt sugar brought memories of childhood campfires. Topped with fresh berries and lightly glazed, this cake is the epitome of Easter–and a jubilant Spring.

Berry Almond Crunch Cake

recipe by hungry rabbit
yield: one 6-inch cake

Cake

Ingredients

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (4-1/2 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (6-1/8 ounces)
2 tablespoons freeze dried raspberry powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry preserves
1 quart combination of strawberries, blueberries and/or raspberries

Directions

1. Set oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Spray two 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour. Set aside.

2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup measure, and mix with a fork to combine.

3. Add cake flour, sugar, raspberry powder, baking powder, and salt to bowl of stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix on low speed to combine, about 30 seconds. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, about 2 minutes.

4. Add 3/4 of milk mixture to crumbs and beat on medium speed for 1-1/2 minutes. Scrape down bowl, add remaining milk mixture and beat until creamy and fully combined, about 1 minute.

5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using small offset spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans in the middle of oven and 3 inches apart. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes.

6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto plate. Reinvert onto  wire rack. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Almond Brittle Dust

adapted from Milk Bar

Ingredients

1 cup of granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1/4 cup sliced almond

Directions

1. Line sheet pan with silpat and set aside.

2. Heat sugar in small heavy saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it starts to melt, stir sugar gently with heatproof spatula for even melting. Cook and stir until it reaches a light amber color, about 2-3 minutes.

3. Remove pan from heat and add almonds. Stir until all nuts are coated with caramel. Pour mixture onto silpat and spread as thinly as possible. (Brittle will harden within a minute, so work quickly)

4. Cool completely, break up brittle into pieces and place in a ziplock bag. Press air out of bag and close tightly; cover with towel. Using a rolling pin, alternate between banging and rolling on the brittle until all pieces are no more than the size of a grain of rice. Store in airtight container, up to a month, until ready to use.

Almond Crunch

adapted from Milk Bar

Ingredients

1/3 cup almond paste, not marzipan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 recipe of almond brittle dust
1-1/2 cups feuilletine
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

1. Combine almond paste and melted butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium low speed until just combined. Add brittle dust, feuilletine, sugar and salt; continue to mix until homogenized.

2. Store crunch in airtight container in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

NOTE: You will not use the entire recipe for the cake. You can do what I do, eat the leftovers by the spoonful or add to other desserts.

Meringue Icing

Ingredients

2 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in bowl of standing mixer or large heatproof bowl and set over medium saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water (do not let bowl touch water). Cook, stirring with whisk attachment of stand mixer, until mixture registers 160℉ on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and transfer mixture to standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat until mixture has cooled to room temperature and stiff peaks form, 5 minutes longer.

Assembly

1. With serrated knife, level top of cake , cut each cake horizontally into two even layers. Repeat with second cake.

2. Starting with first cake, carefully lift off top layer and set aside. Using icing spatula, spread a thin layer of preserve on top of cake, distribute about 1/2 cup icing evenly on cake, spreading  to very edge of cake and leveling surface. Sprinkle a generous 1/4 cup of Almond Crunch on top. Carefully place upper cake layer on top

3. Repeat using preserve, icing and crunch and cake layers. Spread only preserve on top layer. Carefully spread icing on side of cake and make sure it only comes over the edge slightly. MAke decorative swirls with icing spatula.

4. Warm leftover preserve with 1-2 teaspoon of water (depends on the viscosity of preserves) in microwave, for 30 seconds or until you achieve a glaze consistency.

5. Decorative top of cake with a mixture of berries of your choice, then brush with glaze. Torch icing (optional) with blow torch. Serve.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Avril April 6, 2012 at 7:32 am

OMG!!! That looks GORGEOUS!!

Maria April 6, 2012 at 8:41 am

Wow, gorgeous cake!

Georgie April 6, 2012 at 9:14 am

Gorgeous! Happy holidays!

Wendy Read April 6, 2012 at 9:54 am

The photos are amazing!!! I just want to eat the whole frigging thing, so delightful.

Deb April 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm

A most fitting cake for spring! Just intoxicating!

Russell van Kraayenburg April 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Your cakes are always sooo stunning! There isn’t an ounce of this cake I don’t find awesome. Yummy and beautiful!

Megan April 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Quite beautiful, as always. I love the contrast of the toasted meringue with the bright berries.

Margaret April 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm

What a gorgeous cake, and I love all the beautiful berries. Happy Easter and Passover! xoxo

Barbara | Creative Culinary April 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I remember fruit cocktail Ken; as long as I got a maraschino cherry in the mix, I was a happy girl.

That being said…this would make me much happier.

Cookin' Canuck April 6, 2012 at 5:01 pm

This is one of the most visually stunning cakes I have seen in a long time. And I’ll bet it tastes like heaven. I’m so glad you found the time to share this!

Michelle Jaffee April 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm

This is just gorgeous! Really almost too beautiful to eat. But, ummm, I definitely would. : )

Jess @UsedYorkCity April 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm

I would LOVE to find this cake in my Easter basket! It looks absolutely divine!!!

Janet Rudolph @ DyingforChocolate April 6, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Gorgeous and yummy! Happy Easter! Definitely looks like the Easter Basket!

foodwanderings April 6, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Sheesh where have I been?! I gave this line to someone else too unlike you unoriginal. Wabbit, you bake the prettiest cakes in the universe. The dry raspberru worked wonders in the layering colors. Happy Holidays!

foodwanderings April 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Not raspberru but you know! :)

Lori (All That Splatters) April 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm

This looks gorgeous and delicious. Seriously. But, um… what is freeze-dried raspberry powder??

Joan Nova April 6, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Beautiful … I can’t pin it fast enough! :)

Happy Easter!

hungryrabbit April 6, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Hi Lori, thanks for visiting my blog. The powder is ground up freeze dried raspberries; it has intense flavor well as gives bake goods a natural hue. You can fine them online, or buy freeze dried raspberries at Whole Foods and grind them up yourself.

Beth April 6, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Wow! Absolutely gorgeous photos. I am totally stealing your dried raspberry powder idea for my strawberry cake recipe. Nuts.com has lots of different kinds of freeze-dried fruit. Love that site…and now yours too!

The Pleasure Monger April 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Uber beautiful cake you have there! Happy Easter, Ken!

Wenderly April 7, 2012 at 11:57 am

Absolutely beautiful, love!

merry jennifer April 7, 2012 at 2:53 pm

What a gorgeous cake, Ken. Our Easter dessert was always banana pudding, but the kids are begging me to make a cake this year. You’re giving me some ideas…

Brian @ A Thought For Food April 9, 2012 at 8:40 am

Ken… this cake is stunning. I mean, I like chocolate, but I LOVE fresh berries and any desserts that include them. This looks marvelous.

Jamie April 11, 2012 at 6:23 am

Ken, you are such an incredible baker! Amazing! This is one gorgeous cake but more than that! Surprising in the different layers and flavors and textures all which shine through in these beautiful photos. And I’ll bet it tastes amazing! Wow! You are such a talented and creative man!

Chez Us April 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Ken, this is the most gorgeous cake I have seen in a long time. Lovely! I had wanted to attempt to make it for Easter but my family was insane and opted for lemon pie instead. Really!? I cannot wait to try making this. Love everything about the recipe.

El April 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Beautiful. It’s perfect!

Sara{OneTribeGourmet} April 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Ken, I can’t take my eyes of this stunning cake! GORGEOUS! It was so nice to meet you at IACP, hope you will visit me in Philly one of these days! :)

Lora @cakeduchess April 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm

oh my gorgeousness! You tease me so with these cakes. The pretty pink layers and that stunning fruit on top…IN LOVE!!xx

Jeanne @ CookSister! April 27, 2012 at 9:09 am

Oh Ken – that’s GORGEOUS!! I love the meringue frosting and the crunch of almonds. Great shots too!

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