A little bit of salt has been used to enhance sweets for a long time, but it's only recently that we've become accustomed to desserts that are truly salty. This Pine Nut Almond Cake from Italian Easy by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers is almost more salty than it is sweet but in a way that makes it a wonderfully balanced and elegant way to end a meal.
It's a variation on a pound cake recipe that uses ground almonds and flour and a little more than a pound of butter. The nutty cake is studded with chopped pine nuts and refreshingly lemony with a hint of vanilla that can only come from using real vanilla beans. The rich, dense cake is topped with a layer of pine nuts that have been tossed with salt; they toast during baking, releasing some of their natural oil onto the cake and almost caramelizing.
The sweet saltiness of this cake makes it appropriate for any time of day. And, believe me, we have been enjoying this cake at all times of the day—a small slice for breakfast, in the afternoon with a glass of wine, and as a midnight snack.
Win Italian Easy
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Italian Easy to give away this week.
- 2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 vanilla beans
- 2 lemons
- 6 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup ground almonds
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat the oven to 350°F.
Grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan with extra butter and line with baking parchment.
Soften the butter. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla beans. Finely grate the lemon peel. Juice 1 of the lemons. Roughly chop half the pine nuts.
Beat the butter and sugar with the vanilla seeds until light and fluffy, then stir in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour, ground almonds, and chopped pine nuts, and stir in the lemon peel.
Mix the remaining pine nuts with the salt. Spoon the mixture into the pan, sprinkle with the salted pine nuts and bake in the oven for 1 hour. The cake is ready when a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan.