Adapted from Marcella's Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan
I've had a rough week, working long hours - all day into the night. Thank goodness it's spring, and the stores are packed with beautiful fat asparagus that are quick to cook and delicious to eat. Just thinking about picking up a gorgeous stalk, still a little crunchy, lightly salted, and slathered in butter, to bite into makes me smile. My best meal this week was two double cut loin lamb chops grilled medium-rare, fried red peppers, and fat asparagus dripping in butter. Eaten too late, but who cared. I had to have something I made for myself. Not fancy but luxurious just the same and exactly what the doctor ordered. Yum.
Barbara and Aunt Rita discovered this lovely Marcella Hazan recipe in the December 1997 issue of Food & Wine magazine. I later realized it also appears in Marcella's Italian Kitchen, one of my very favorite cookbooks. I've been meaning to post it for a long time and just haven't gotten around to. It's for the kind of cake I just love - plain with a delicious crumb - the sort of cake Molly makes; the type of cake Clothide bakes. You would like those; I think you'll like this one.
9 ounces unpeeled (very important) almonds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
9 ounces carrots, peeled and cut up into 1-inch pieces
1/4 pound store-bought Savoiardi (Italian ladyfinders)
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon Amaretto liquer
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
A 10-inch springform pan
1 tablespoon butter for greasing the pan (there is no fat in the actual cake)
Lightly whipped cream to top the cake (optional - but good)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the Savoiardi on a baking sheet, and cook for 20 minutes or until crisp. Remove from the oven, take the Savoiardi off the pan, let cool a little, and break into small pieces. Raise the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees, and grease the bottom of the springform pan with butter. (If you are not using a springform pan, line a 10-inch cake pan with buttered parchment paper. I assume you can use a 9-inch pan if that's what you have, but I just haven't tried it myself.)
Put the unpeeled almonds with the sugar into the bowl of a food processor with the metal blade in place, and process until the almonds are ground fine (but not turned into almond butter). Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Put the carrot pieces in the bowl of the food processor, and chop as fine as possible. (Note you are still using the metal blade, not shredding.) Add chopped carrots to the mixing bowl, and mix with the almond/sugar mixture.
Add the small pieces of Savoiardi to the bowl of the food processor. Process until very fine and mix with the other ingredients in the bowl.
Next, add the baking powder, Amaretto, and salt to the ingredients in the bowl and mix thoroughly; then mix in the egg yolks.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of the beaten egg whites into the mixture in the bowl. Then fold in the remaining beaten egg whites gently. Put the batter in the baking pan, and put the pan in the uppermost level of the preheated oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, but check with a cake tester after 50 minutes. If the cake tester comes out dry, the cake is done.
Remove the cake from the pan when it is still slightly warm. Serve at room temperature with the optional whipped cream, if desired.
This will keep wrapped in foil when cool for up to a week without refrigeration. However, there's no chance it will last a week unless you leave town before finishing it.