An Amaretto Cake

Saturday, May 31st, 2014


Our pastry work at Blackbird has remained exploratory in nature. We rarely use a recipe twice. Instead of relying on something we’ve mastered, we push ourselves to ask, “what else can we do?” It does mean some of our favorite recipes retire, never to see another mouth again.

Avec, however, has become my refuge for some of these recipes. A place where I can use a single delicious recipe a few times over, bringing it back season after season with a new dressing.

One such cake, a gift from my dear bambi Jason Stratton, chef of Artusi, Spinasse, and now Aragona in Seattle, made it’s way into our kitchen at blackbird as part of a dessert featuring a cardamom danish. This amaretto cake, moist, soft, fragrant with the flavor of bitter almonds, and soaked in a syrup of amaretto was simply too good to retire to the pages of a binder.

Instead, we started baking it in rounds and slicing the downy white cake neatly in wedges for Avec’s dessert menu. We have dressed this tender cake in fresh strawberries, tossed with elderflower cordial for a light summery dessert. When the darker evenings of winter came, we covered the almond scented rounds in chocolate glaze and gave it a glimmer or jewel toned seville orange marmelade. We have warmed slices in the woodfire oven, a hint of texture toasted onto the outside, and served it with a burnt honey ice cream.

Today, as the cherries are starting to mingle with produce stand stalwarts like oranges, apples, and pears, we brought this work horse of a cake back. Red-hearted Bing cherries are poached in spiced black cherry juice before covering a wedge of Amaretto Cake, a quick dollop of whipped goat cheese on top.

There is really not much more needed to perfect this formula; amaretto cake + tasty fruit + creamy something, and you have yourself a darling friend, welcome at any occasion inside and outside a restaurant setting.

However, don’t be afraid to put this recipe to work inside your pastry department. Bake it in thin layers for a classic poured fondant petit four or a twist on opera cake. Bake it in rounds and stack it tall in layer cakes. Pile the soft white crumbs on contemporary composed desserts, or decorate the top of glazed donuts with a scattering. Replace lady fingers with disks of amaretto cake in tirimisu, or bury them in a proud Verine. Bake in sheets, and cut precise shapes from the cake, piping mousses and stacking things on top of it for a classic plated dessert. Trifles! Bombes! Ice cream cakes! I could go on all day!

Perhaps I’m lobbying a bit hard for this cake, a proud mama who just wants this cake to find someone nice and settle down. Or, perhaps I know this cake can offer a long happily-ever-after for you and your pastry department.

Amaretto Cake

Cherry Poached Cherries

Whipped Goat Cheese