Posts Tagged ‘pine nut’

Italian Dinner Menu – Dessert!

February 10, 2012 2 comments

This is the last recipe from our Italian Dinner: Apricot Almond Cake with Pine Nuts.  Whew, now I can move on to something else :-). The other dessert from the dinner was a salted caramel panna cotta.  I’ve already posted the recipe (you can search for it using the handy search field on the top-right of the blog).  Cooking for so many people caused a few refrigerator space issues, especially with the panna cotta.  I wanted to use my great-nanny’s sherbet dishes, but they were not practical because I couldn’t stack them in the refrigerator.  So, I made the panna cotta in tiny jelly jars (Yay to Lewter Hardware for having the 4-ounce jelly jars). Popped on the lid, screwed on the ring, and stacked away – space issues solved!  The mason jars were not only practical, but they were cute!

I wanted to serve a non-gelatin dessert, so I decided to bake a cake.  Well, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make one large cake or cupcakes.  Then I decided to also bake them in jelly jars.  Oh my gosh, they were cute!  But like a goofball, I forgot to take a photo of the cakes.  I just have a photo of the platter with all the mason jars and spoons (cakes are on the bottom row).  Baking in the jars worked well, I might never make traditional cupcakes again!  Here’s the cake recipe:

Apricot Almond Cake with Pine Nuts

½ cup almonds (whole, chopped, sliced, or slivered)

¼ cup pine nuts

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup dried apricots, finely chopped or minced

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1½ sticks butter, melted

⅓ cup half-and-half (or milk)*

¼ teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional garnishes:  almonds (sliced, chopped, or slivered), pine nuts, powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 345º degrees F. Butter and flour ten 4-ounce jelly jars or a 9” cake pan. You might need a few more or a few less.  It depends on the final volume of your batter.  This can be influenced by how much you beat the eggs, the humidity, most anything.

Toast the almonds and pine nuts in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Ensure that they don’t burn. After they are toasted, remove them from the pan and let them cool.  Cool completely. You can save some time by using nuts that are already toasted. 

Combine the cooled almonds and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  But be careful, since this can quickly turn into nut butter (not good for this recipe).  Transfer the ground nuts to a medium bowl and add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir well. Add the apricots and stir again.  Tossing the apricots in the dry mixture will hopefully prevent the apricots from sinking to the bottom. But be aware, sometimes they just want to sink, not matter what you do.  And that’s ok, because it still tastes delicious!

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar until it is thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes on medium-high.  Add the cooled melted butter, half-and-half, almond extract, and vanilla. Gently fold in the dry ingredients by hand. Do not over mix or you will have a tough cake.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan or mason jars.  If you use the jars, pour the batter up to the line, like you would if you were making jelly.  If you want, sprinkle the top with more almonds or pine nuts.  Bake until the cakes are done and a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 45 minutes. Baking time depends on your oven and the size of your containers.  Let the cake(s) cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if you want.  This cake is even better the next day – prefect for a late breakfast with a cup of coffee!

*We usually don’t have milk at the house, but we have half-and-half for coffee.  If you don’t want the heaviness of the half-and-half, you can use about ¼ cup of half-and-half and about 3 tablespoons of water to make the ⅓ cup of dairy.  Or you could use soy, coconut, or almond milk.

Possible flavor variations:
– If you don’t have dried apricots or don’t like apricots, you can use dried cranberries.
– Add some lemon or orange zest for a nice kick.
– Add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg.

Vegan option:
I tried to make this recipe vegan (substituting a combination of coconut, canola and olive oil for the butter and coconut, soy, or almond milk for the half-and-half).  But I had a problem finding a suitable egg substitute, since the eggs seem vital to the texture.  Not sure an egg substitute would work in this particular recipe.  But if anyone experiments with a vegan version, I’d love to hear about it.