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Summertime is a wonderful time for hospitality. Kids can play outside while adults enjoy conversation and to me, it seems that somehow, visits with guests tend to be more relaxed in the summertime. Maybe it's the long evenings, maybe the heat slows everyone down, but regardless of what it is, opening our homes in this season is a delight.
This honey almond cake is a favorite of mine for summertime entertaining. I love it because it's versatile – it fits the occasion whether it's a casual gathering or served on china with silver forks when a special touch is needed.
I developed this cake as a mish-mash of about a dozen other recipes I tried. At the time, I was looking for a good honey cake to serve on a Christmas buffet because we had several Jewish friends who were planning to attend and I wanted to serve a traditional Rash Hashanah Honey Cake, which symbolizes the sweetness of the new year and acts as a blessing to one's guests. I tried several recipes, but this is one I've come to like the best.
The use of gelatin is my addition, as that's my preferred way to stabilize meringue, but cream of tartar is easier. (Author's note: It has come to my attention that different gelatins react differently, so readers are reporting widely varying success with this cake. I myself also have started using a different brand of gelatin and started having difficulty with the cake. Thus, use cream of tartar – since it is a mild acid, it actually changes the pH of the egg whites and in that process creates a firmer foam that stands up through the baking process.)
Thus, this is my “go to” hospitality cake. It's sweet enough to accompany tea and coffee, it's easy to make and freeze ahead (just allow 12-24 hours for thawing), and it offers a blessing to guests, which, when we think about it, is the whole point of welcoming others.
Honey Almond Cake
For the cake
3 1/2 cups almond flour*
4 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup yogurt (learn to make your own yogurt)
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
¼ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1/2 cup slivered almonds
*if you don't have almond flour, grind 4 cups of almonds until finely ground but not yet turned to paste
For the cake, preheat oven to 350. Grease one 9 x 13 baking dish or two 10-inch round cake pans.
Sift the almond flour and baking soda together in a large bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites on low speed until the large bubbles begin to subside, about 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar, then increase the speed to medium for 30 seconds or so. Increase the speed to medium-high until the whites hold soft peaks. If you beat the whites to firmer peaks, the middle of the cake may collapse during baking.
In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, honey, yogurt, almonds, orange juice, and orange zest together, then stir into the dry ingredients.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in one-quarter of the meringue mixture to the almond batter, and then fold in the rest in just a few folds. Don't disturb the batter more than necessary – don't worry about getting all the meringue completely mixed in.
Pour batter into the prepared baking pans. Scatter the slivered almonds over top and bake until the top is golden, about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the cake falls, don't worry – it will look more like a tart than a cake, but it will still taste exquisitely sweet.
Let the cake cool completely in the pan. (If you try to take it out early, it will crumble severely – been there, done that. If it happens to you, layer it with whipped cream and serve it as trifle.)
Serve when the cake is cool. The final cake is very moist and can be drizzled with melted honey and orange juice if desired.