04 March 2012

inspiration; or Honey Apricot Almond Layer Cake as a signal of spring

there is something absolutely soothing about the mixing of batter, the pouring, and especially about the licking it off a spoon. It is even more soothing when one has spent the day pondering the melding of flavors and the additions and subtractions necessary to best adapt a favorite recipe to the idea in your head. I've been inspired in different ways lately: doing some pretend yoga, painting a lot, pinning many, many, many outfits to Pinterest. Still, when I saw a bittersweet article at Saveur about Southern layer cakes, family, and how they all fit together, I knew I had another inspiration.

I rather like layer cakes: they represent a challenge and rarely impinge upon my own family's history and out individual prowess in the kitchen. I know my mother can do them, but growing up, cake was {and is!} entirely of the slab variety. You make a delicious cake in a square or rectangular glass pan, let it cool barely away from piping hot, and slather with powdered sugar icing. It is super delicious, often inventive, and rarely the sort of fiddly mess that comes with a layer cake. So, I like to challenge myself to get out of the box from time to time. I'm waiting impatiently for spring, even with the brief flickers of it we've seen, and wanted to combine the sort of spicy comfort of a wintery cinnamon cake with the delicate spring of apricots and almonds. It all began with removing the cocoa from the traditional Miracle Whip Chocolate cake and evolved from there. The cinnamon icing is rather spicy, so if you prefer something a bit less intense, drop the amount back to a teaspoon or two.

Honey Apricot Almond Layer Cake

1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt

6 ounces apricot jam
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 to 1 pound powdered sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup milk

slivered almonds

preheat the oven to 350 degrees and mix the wet cake ingredients in a measuring cup. Set to the side. Mix the dry cake ingredients well in a large bowl, then add half of the yogurt/honey/milk mixture and mix. Add the rest and mix well. You may need a bit more milk to achieve the proper cake batter consistency. Pour into a well greased (or sprayed) 9 inch springform pan and bake for 30-45 minutes, until there is not sticky batter or crumbs sticking to an inserted knife. Once out of the oven, run a serrated knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the round edge of the pan and allow the cake to cool.
While the cake is cooling, mix the jam and extract for the filling and set aside.
Also while the cake is cooling, mix the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and milk to a thick icing consistency. DO NOT add all the milk at once, mix some milk with some sugar until there is about a cup and a half of icing, moderately thick. Feel free to use a plain vanilla store-bought can of icing & simply mix a tablespoon of cinnamon into the icing. Set aside.
Once the cake is cooled, gently peel the cake from the bottom of the springform pan by placing it on your hand, upside down and removing the pan. Then, return it to the cooking rack, right side up. Using a serrated knife, cut the cake in half, spinning the rack to facilitate easier cutting. Place the bottom half of the cake on your serving plate, then spread the jam mixture over the top. Take care to keep it from getting too close to the edge or dripping down the side. Next, place the other half of the cake on top of the cake and jam cover. Gently ice the entire cake, starting on the top and pushing excess icing down the sides of the cake. Firmly press the almonds around the edge, using them to cover any icing gaps or jam spillage. Allow the cake to chill in the refrigerator for at least a half hour to set before serving.

"Be well. Do good work. Keep in touch." - Garrison Keillor

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