Friday, 8 August 2014

Almond Cake with Port Roasted Plums

For something that is so simple to make, this cake is packed full of almond flavour with added textural crunch supplied by the flaked almonds which are scattered on top prior to baking. This is another example of the types of cake that I love so much, because they can be served as desserts with a soft cloud of whipped cream or some fruit on the side or can be eaten as a cake in their own right.

If served as a dessert, the great advantage of this type of cake is that it is prepared in advance and all you have to do is slice it and serve with your accompaniment of choice. In this way it is a completely stress free dish to prepare. Here I have paired it with the most fantastic tasting plums which are gently oven roasted in a rich port wine syrup.

I was worried that the plums would be too sweet, but the slight sourness of the plums that I had, coupled with the addition of some rosemary cut through the sweetness somewhat and created a dish that I thought was beautifully balanced. The inclusion of rosemary happened at the last moment and was borne out of a desire to further experiment with it in sweet dishes after the success of the pine nut and rosemary shortbread biscuits that I recently made. If you really aren’t a fan of rosemary, you can omit it.

Plums have a natural affinity with almonds and in fact all stone fruits can be successfully paired with anything almond flavoured. I know that I regularly use Amaretto in my baking but it is great for adding an extra almond flavoured kick to all manner of baked goods and I much prefer using it to almond extract or essence. It is too easy to add too much almond extract and if this happens it can result in a very artificial taste, which I find unpleasant. This is not an issue with Amaretto. Given how regularly is use Amaretto, I find it astonishing how long a bottle lasts…so go out and get some and use it in your baking and cooking – you wont be disappointed.

As I state in the recipe below, I like to serve the plums chilled with a slice of slightly warmed almond cake. To be honest, a dollop of cream also doesn’t go astray, but you can make your own mind up on this. The contrast between hot and cold works very well and creates a dish which is extremely delicious. This is a wonderful dish to serve as a dessert in late summer, but it also wouldn’t be out of place in autumn either.

The plums keep very well covered in the fridge and are also lovely served with hot rice pudding as a dessert or with natural yoghurt for breakfast. Basically, the roasted plums are hugely versatile, so let your imagination run riot!
 

Ingredients:

Cake:
115g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
100g ground almonds
50g self-raising flour, sifted
2tblsp Amaretto (or milk)
50g flaked almonds
Plums:
10-12 plums (Victoria), stoned and halved
200g caster sugar
150ml red wine
150ml port
200ml water
1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig of rosemary
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/ Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin with a removable base with baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, cream together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, mixing well after each addition.
3. Next, add the ground almonds and self-raising flour to the creamed mixture and ix through. Finally, add the Amaretto and stir into the batter that you have created.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and level out the surface with a spatula. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes, until well-risen and a golden colour. Check the cake after 20 minutes and if it is browning too quickly cover the tin with aluminium foil to protect it for the remainder of the baking time. Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before transferring to a wire-rack to finish cooling.
Plums:
5. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Place the plums, cut side facing upwards in a roasting dish so that they sit snugly in a single layer. Place the roasting tray on baking tray and set aside.
6. Place the sugar, red wine, port, water cinnamon stick and rosemary in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil over a moderate to high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure that the sugar has dissolved. As soon as the mixture boils, carefully pour it on top of the plums and place the baking tray with the roasting dish into the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
7. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the roasted plums to a separate dish and pour the roasting liquid into a medium sized saucepan. Place over a high heat and bring up to a rapid boil. Allow the liquid to reduce by two thirds until you are left with about 200ml of syrup. Discard the cinnamon stick and sprig of rosemary  and pour over the plums and allow to cool.
8. I like to serve the plums chilled so after they have cooled to room temperature, I then cover and refrigerate them.
 
Serves 6-8.