Raspberry-Almond Shortbread Cake
This is going to date me, I know, but when I was little I was absolutely gaga for Entenmann’s Almond Squares. Apparently there are other nutty people out there. I googled them and saw things like, “Hey, does anybody out there remember Entenmann’s Almond Squares?”
They had a thin cookie-like bottom, then a raspberry layer, then a dense cakey layer, full of almond flavor and topped with powdered sugar. I thought it was divine. Even then, I thought it was rich and would limit myself to one square per day. (Somehow this sane approach did not extend itself to chocolate wafers where I thought it was perfectly fine, even expected, to barrel through a whole row, which happened to be half the package, in one sitting.) The cake box sat next to the bread box (there I go dating myself again) and I remember being eye-eye with that cake box and thinking about my next piece. Life was so simple then.
I looked those little squares up and checked out their nutritional content and ingredients. Ahem. Some things are best left in the past.
I set out to recreate those little squares with wholesome ingredients and consulted some of my favorite books and on-line sources. I saw lot of straight cakes and several bar cookies but none seemed to fit the bill. Dorie Greenspan had a possibility in her Baking cookbook. It was a recipe for a cranberry shortbread cake that combined elements of both shortbread and cake.
Dorie is a huge believer in using real, unsalted butter for baking. Whenever she cites butter in a recipe, she warns not to substitute it, so as not to change the flavor or texture. I am generally in agreement. However (and in life there are many howevers), sometimes I want to make a dairy-free dessert to please a dairy-free friend or relative or to have it finish off a meal that contains meat, for a Shabbat (Sabbath) or holiday dinner, that’s in keeping with the kosher way.
I don’t like hydrogenated fats. It’s well documented that our bodies don’t know what the heck to do with a synthetic product like that. I like Earth Balance shortening sticks because it has no hydrogenated fats – zero grams of trans fat. Don’t get me wrong, I love real butter, but every now and then, you have to give way to a higher priority.
To flavor the cake, I used both vanilla and almond extract. When it comes to vanilla, I tend to be a little particular (I said parTICular, not peculiar, ok, I can be a bit peculiar too). I really love Madagascar vanilla but was all out and couldn’t find it in three different markets. But I was chomping at the bit and grabbed the Tahitian vanilla. What could I do? I had a cake to bake.
The dough was straightforward to assemble and easily divided into two discs.
I’m a big believer in using high-quality preserves, Life is short. Be picky about what you spread on your toast. Or put inside your cake. Hero is very very good. Alright, excellent.
If you know me, you know I have a great fondness for my 9″ springform pan.
Smooooth the jam.
The result was very very good and everyone loved it. I will still mess around with the original concept but in the meantime, Dorie, we thank you.
Raspberry-Almond Shortbread Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake
Ingredients:2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour 1 t. baking powder 1/4 t. salt 1 1/2 sticks (12 T.) unsalted butter or best quality margarine, at room temperature 3/4 c. plus 1 t. sugar 1 large egg 1 large egg yolk 1 t. pure vanilla extract 1/2 t. almond extract 1 c. (220 g.) great-quality raspberry preserves 1 T. sliced almonds
Whisk flower, baking powder and salt.
Beat butter or margarine on medium speed of stand mixer until soft. Add the 3/4 c. of sugar and continue to beat until smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the egg and yolk, beating until they are incorporated. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the flour mixture, using mixer or by hand, mixing only until it is blended in.
The dough will be fairly thick, yet workable. Gather it together into a ball, and place on a work surface. Divide in half, and pat each into a disc about 5-6 inches in diameter. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate, anywhere from 1/2 hour to overnight. (If you do keep the dough in the fridge overnight, let it rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes before using.)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Lightly grease a 9″ (preferably non-stick) springform pan. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I didn’t have any leaky problems, but this is just a precautionary measure.
Work with one piece of dough at a time. If you’re in a warm climate, it’s a good idea to have the second piece wait for you in the refrigerator. Lay the dough in the center of the pan and press it lightly and evenly with your fingertips from the center outwards until you’ve covered the entire bottom. Spread the raspberry preserves over the dough.
Unwrap the second piece of dough and leave it on the plastic. Press and/or roll it until it is just the diameter of the pan. Carefully lift the dough and invert it onto the preserves. Lift off the plastic and use your fingers to even the dough so that it covers the filling.
Brush the top of the cake very lightly with a bit of cold water and sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of sugar over the top. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over it.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top of the cake is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and cool for about 20 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the cake, removing the sides of the pan, and let cool to room temperature.
To store, tightly wrap the cake in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. It will store well for about 4 days, but this cake moved quickly, so I can’t be certain.
Makes about 12 servings.
Eat in Joy