Almond Sponge Cake

A slice of almond cake with whipped cream sitting on a plate next to the full cake.

Kitra: Hello to everyone from our separate homes which we do not intend to leave any time soon! I hope there’s cake where you are.

Jordan: It’s been a weird couple of weeks, huh? Kitra and I are both working from home and have been for about two weeks now. DC recently shut down all non-essential businesses, so there’s a lot of not leaving our apartments going on, and that’s about it.

So it’s like every Friday night in my house, but lasting for weeks on end.

Was that a… self-own?

Nope! I love being at my house alone. It’s my ideal day.

Not all of us are quite as thrilled, but we’re both pretty lucky that we’re getting paid and aren’t also trying to homeschool children or ignore terrible roommates or take care of high-risk relatives.

And we’re not really struggling to find food in our areas. We’ve got basics in the pantry, options to get fresh produce, and neighborhood favorite restaurants that are delivering.

So this is our recognition that we’re both in a pretty good place, all things considered. But we’d be lying if we said this wasn’t also a little bit terrible. Like, you know that crushing anxiety about the world that you sometimes get? It’s a little more crushing than usual, and I think everyone feels that right now.

Also, it feels like I’m doing dishes every second of the day somehow.

So many dishes.

Also, there is nowhere that isn’t out of flour. Sure, I’ve got some, but not much. So I’m looking to keep myself entertained by baking, and by not using the 6 cups of all-purpose flour I have left.

We picked this cake today because it fits most of our needs for being home all day in this situation. First, no flour (which also means it’s gluten-free, and Passover friendly if you’re looking ahead to that). Second, it doesn’t take all that long to make. Third—and perhaps most importantly—it’s the kind of cake you can eat whenever. Breakfast? Afternoon snack? Dessert? Yep!

Added bonus: While we both used the almond flour that lurks in our respective freezers, you can use whatever nut you discovered a ton of in the pantry when cleaning it out. (I have 5 kinds of almonds, and a ton of all of them, somehow? I don’t remember buying any of them.)

The one downside is that it requires two bowls to make, but we promise it’s worth it. And I hate doing anything involving egg whites and Kitra hates doing dishes, so if we tell you it’s worthwhile, you know it’s true.

True. It’s also pretty infinitely adaptable, so whatever taste you’re hoping for you can probably get. Add a zest! Add spices! (I added many, many spices.) Add an extract! Mix it up. You can also top it however. It’s a blank slate of a cake. Chocolate glaze! Fruit! Whipped cream! Yogurt for breakfast! Jam!

But to be clear, it’s also great plain. I didn’t add anything fancy to mine, and while I did put whipped cream on top, I would happily eat it on its own. It’s got the texture of a standard sponge cake but a beautiful almond flavor if you leave it unspiced.

All in all: great cake to eat in its entirety, alone in your house.

So here’s a cake for you—whatever situation you’re in right now. We hope it makes things a little less terrible.

Two slices of almond cake on a small plate

Almond Sponge Cake

Adapted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich

Notes

As we said above, this is a very adaptable cake. You can substitute an equal weight of any nut flour, and feel free to make your own by putting nuts in the food processor and blitzing them until they’re finely ground. Lemon or orange zest would be good here, as would a number of spices. (Kitra used a mix of about eight spices, which made it taste rather like pumpkin pie.) You can also add an extract of some sort beyond vanilla; if you’re making it with almond flour and no spices, we recommend adding about ¼ teaspoon of almond extract. Jordan topped hers with sliced almonds, which gave it a nice crunch on top.

The original recipe is baked in a tube pan, but we scaled it down to fit what we have and how much we wanted to eat. (This is no time to be going out and buying new cake pans, and if you live alone you may not be looking for that much cake.) It’ll fit in a loaf pan, a round cake pan, a pie plate, or even an 8-inch square pan, though it’ll be a bit thin in that last one.

Finally, we strongly recommend doing this by weight, as nut flours are notoriously difficult to measure by volume.

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zests, extracts, and/or spices (optional, see note)
  • pinch of salt
  • 80g (6 tablespoons) sugar, divided
  • 170g (1⅔ cups) almond flour (or other nut flour, by weight)
  • toasted sliced almonds, optional
  • lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve (optional)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 325° and grease a pan with nonstick spray or butter. (See headnote for information on pan sizes.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high until they reach soft peaks, just barely standing on their own when you remove the whisk.

While that beats (if using a stand mixer, otherwise just do them sequentially), combine in a large bowl the egg yolks, vanilla, zest or extracts if using, salt, and half (40g) of the sugar. Whisk by hand until light yellow and thick—honestly, just keep whisking it while the mixer runs, because it’s hard to overbeat by hand.

Once the egg whites hit soft peaks, add the remaining 40g of sugar and beat on high until the mixture reaches stiff peaks, standing firm when you remove the mixer. (If it starts to look dry and clumpy, stop immediately as you’ve gone a little too far.)

Transfer half of the egg white mixture to the bowl with the egg yolks, and add half (85g) of the almond flour and any spices you’re using. Gently fold with a rubber spatula until it’s partially combined; some large streaks of the different parts are fine. Add the rest of the egg whites and almond flour and fold until they’re only just combined.

Spread the batter into your prepared pan and top with sliced almonds, if using. Bake 20-30 minutes, until the top is very lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter. (It will come out a bit sticky, which is fine.)

Let the cake cool fully before removing from the pan and serving with whipped cream or plain.

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