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Cookbook's Burnt Almond Cake a delicious second cousin to Prantl's

Thursday, July 12, 2001

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

It's a secret! Over the years Kitchen Mailbox has had numerous requests for recipes from local bakeries. Readers want the recipes but the bakeries won't talk -- for obvious reasons. All we can do is come as close as we can to the requested recipe -- with the help of our readers, of course.

We've have many requests for Prantl's Bakery's Burnt Almond Torte, but, until now, we had never received a response.


While living in Pittsburgh, Joanna Brook, who now resides in Seattle, discovered Prantl's Bakery's torte. Joanna writes: "I haven't been able to find anything close out here. Is it wishful thinking to ask if Prantl's would give out their recipe? If you can find anything close I'd be indebted."

Thanks to Donna Clements of Indiana, Pa., we have a recipe that's similar -- it isn't the Shadyside bakery's famous Burnt Almond Torte, but it's a delicious substitute.

Donna found this recipe in the "Neighborhood Bakeshop" cookbook by Jill Van Cleave.

Burnt Almond Cake

The cake:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Honey Almond Brittle:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons water
2 ounces slivered almonds (about 1/2 cup), toasted
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon baking soda

Custard Cream:
1 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans.

For the cake: Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together into a bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds between additions. Add alternating increments of the flour mixture and buttermilk and vanilla, blending well after each addition; this should take about 3 to 5 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans, on wire racks, for 10 minutes, unmold the cakes and let cool completely.

Note: The cake recipe makes two 8-inch round cake layers. Only one is used for this recipe.

To make the brittle: Combine the granulated sugar, honey and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, without stirring, until the mixture turns a deep amber color, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the toasted almonds, butter and baking soda. Mix with a wooden spoon just until the butter melts and the foaming subsides. Pour the mixture into a nonstick or lightly greased baking sheet and set aside to cool. Once the brittle has hardened, break it up and crush to fine crumbs in a food processor. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the custard cream: In a heavy saucepan over medium- low heat, heat milk to barely simmering. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to blend smoothly. Stir the heated milk into the egg mixture; return mixture to saucepan. Bring back to a boil, over medium-low heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add butter and vanilla, stirring to melt the butter. Transfer custard to a bowl; place a piece of waxed paper directly on top to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until cold.

Whip the cream and confectioners' sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chilled custard and refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble cake: Cut the cake in half horizontally. Place one layer on a cake plate, spread cake with cold custard cream and sprinkle with brittle crumbs. Cover with the remaining layer of cake. Spread the remaining custard cream over cake, applying a thinner coat to the sides, then the top. Chill for a least 1 hour before garnishing.

To garnish, press brittle crumbs onto the sides of the cake with the palm of your hand and sprinkle a layer of crumbs on the top. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Note: To toast nuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake in a 375-degree oven until golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Allow nuts to cool before using.


An interesting request from Marilyn L. Patete, of Stanton Heights: "My husband came from the hills of Italy between Rome and Naples [Molise], and his mother used to make a meatball made out of a mashed potato mixture.

"Do you have this recipe? Also, can applesauce always be substituted for oil in recipes? I've done it with mixes but not from-scratch recipes."

Ann Olmeda of Rochester, Mich., is searching for a recipe for Tiramisu. Ann writes: This recipe appeared in the Post-Gazette sometime between 1990 and 1994. The recipe called for a springform pan, the crust was ladyfingers brushed with cold coffee, the filling was made with white chocolate, heavy whipping cream and other ingredients, and was layered with sliced strawberries. The recipe did not contain mascarpone or ricotta cheese. It may have called for cream cheese. I got the recipe from my sister-in-law, who lived in Pittsburgh during these years. I would desperately love to find this recipe again."

Here's a request from Alison Gregg of Washington, Pa.: "I am looking for a recipe that was in your paper several years ago. It was called the Zambelli Fireworks Cake. It was made with a cake mix and ricotta cheese and was one of my favorite summer cake recipes. Had no frosting, but was good topped with fresh berries. If anyone has that recipe, it would be much appreciated."


Here's a tasty suggestion from Alberta Patterson of Spring Garden: "Good article on the mayo cake. Just wanted to tell you that in the '40s the recipe for mayo cake that was making the rounds (and we still use it today) used cold coffee instead of water. We also used Miracle Whip instead of mayo. Thought you might be interested in knowing that."

"I enjoy your column and look forward to it each week."

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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