Tuesday, March 30, 2010

an unlikely cake

My understanding of egg white desserts is that they aren't supposed to be rich.

Meringues. Angel food cake. Floating islands. Apparently it's some cardinal rule that egg white desserts must be all sweetness and light. Just the way I don't like my desserts. (I'll take mine dense and rich and not too sweet, please.)

But this is an egg white cake.

It contains no fewer than eight egg whites. It's nothing like your typical egg white dessert.

Admittedly, the cake is still on the sweet side. But almonds and butter give it richness and heft, and citrus zest and cardamom lend complexity. (It fills the kitchen with an amazing aroma as it bakes.)

It's not quite my brainchild. I came across a recipe for "Fragrant Citrus and Cardamom Cake" while flipping through one of my recipe scrapbooks, and while I rarely follow recipes, this one was too odd for me to not follow it. Stir together ground almonds, a tiny bit of self-raising flour, seasonings, egg whites (without beating!) and melted butter, pour into a pan, add heat - and get a cake?

I had my doubts, but I converted the measurements from metric, and despite some heavy-duty approximating, the results were good. So good, in fact, that I started wondering if I couldn't do away with that tiny bit of self-raising flour altogether, to make a cake that would be gluten-free - and kosher for Passover, too.

Unlikely cake, take two, involved a little more tinkering with the quantities, but it was a simple matter to whip the egg whites with the sugar before folding them into the other ingredients. The cake turned out dense and moist. My guinea pigs approved.

So now I have an egg white dessert that doesn't taste like one. And it leaves me with a culinary dilemma of the best sort - what to do with eight egg yolks?

Citrus-Cardamom Almond Cake
There's some disagreement on whether or not cardamom is kosher for Passover. Some authorities classify it as kitniyot. Double-check with your religious adviser as necessary.

(Recipe probably not for one. Leftovers do keep well, and even improve with age, but it is a very rich cake. Better to round up some friends to help you eat it.)
Preheat oven to 325F. Cut a round of parchment paper to line a 9-inch cake tin.

In a large mixing bowl, combine one-and-a-half cups of ground almonds (seven ounces), the zest from four oranges and two limes, a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of ground cardamom. Melt one stick of butter, and stir it into the nut mixture.

In another mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat eight egg whites until stiff, then beat in one-and-a-half cups of white sugar.

Fold half the egg whites into the nut mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining half.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Check on the cake at ninety minutes. If it's done, a knife or skewer stuck in the middle will come out clean, and it won't give easily if you press the top. If you're not sure about doneness, err on the side of caution and give it another five to ten minutes. (It's a very moist cake, so the consequences of overcooking it are largely cosmetic.)

Once you judge the cake to be done, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes in the pan (cake will sink somewhat as it cools) before turning it out carefully on a wire rack. Peel away the parchment paper on the bottom and allow it to cool completely. (Let it cool in the pan if it seems to be stuck - don't force it.)

Cake may be dusted with confectioner's sugar before serving. A dollop of whipped cream might not go astray, either.


Virgin In The Volcano said...

Leftover egg yolks = carbonara!

adele said...

Virgin, I like the way you think.

Lindsey @ pickyeatings said...

I never know what to do with egg yolks either. Custard maybe?

adele said...

Lindsey - It's not knowing what to do with the yolks, but being unable to decide. If I could have reliably double-yolked eggs, I'd be delighted.

Bobbie Sue said...

Ground nuts are often substituted for flour. Nut "flours" are not uncommon in Italian desserts and Kosher for Passover foods. So you are right on with the the ground nuts!

Here is a process question for you? Do you beat the sugar into the egg whites 1 Tbsp. at a time and beat until very stiff and glossy?

Brilliant recipe! Glad to see you are making time for pleasure in the midst of wrapping up your semester.


adele said...

Bobbie Sue - I beat in the sugar a little at a time, but more in the realm of a quarter-cup at a time, not one tablespoon. (My arm aches just thinking about it!)

~~louise~~ said...

Dense and rich for me too Adele. I love the way you kept track of your additions and subtractions. Sounds like you have created one decked out cake.

Let's see, egg yolks, Shampoo!!!

Thanks for sharing...

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Yum. I've never made an egg white cake, but I think I will soon... Maybe this one or a chocolate version. I saw a recipe today for a chocolate/egg white torte. It looks rich but not excessively high-fat. http://familyreciperevival.com/Winning-Recipes/chocolate-hazelnut-schaum-torte.html

Cakelaw said...

Yum - this sounds like a devine cake. And I'd easily have 8 egg whites living in my freezer ...