Years ago (before Gus was born) a group of us started PlayGroup, a pop-up children’s boutique. Sandrine was the first (customer) at our first show, arriving before the coffee was brewed and the scones were plated. We assumed she’d been sent by the caterer because she pushed through the kitchen door, asking for an apron and a broom to sweep up (something… can’t remember what.)
There was a lot to do, so it wasn’t for another hour that we learned through her French-accented broken English, and our poor French, that Sandrine had arrived for a two year stint in the U.S. with her husband the previous week. She had read about the PlayGroup show and thought coming would be a good way to meet other young mothers. A month later she hosted the four of us at their rental home, offering an almond cake that was so delicious we all had seconds and asked for the recipe. Gluten-free Gus’ version:
Sandrine’s Almond Cake (serves 10-12)
7 ounces almond paste (see below for instructions on how to make your own!)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
7 ounces granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
5/8 cup (4 oz.) gluten free flour mix (yours, ours, or Trader Joe’s)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 (6 oz.) cup heavy cream
8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare a 9″ round tart pan by greasing it lightly.
2. In a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and almond paste and continue beating until fluffy, scraping down as needed.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition and scraping down as needed.
4. Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Fold the flour mixture into the butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Incorporate well, but don’t over beat.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 F for 40 minutes or until golden brown and set in the center. Set aside to cool. Remove from the pan if you’ve used one with a removable bottom.
6. In a small heavy saucepan, bring the heavy cream and pinch of salt to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
7. Whisk the chocolate and cream to an even consistency. Add the vanilla extract and whisk to blend. Let the ganache cool for a few more minutes before pouring over the almond cake. Let the chocolate ganache set up before serving.
To Make Almond Paste (because a lot of store-bought varieties contain gluten):
1. Soak (sprout) 8 ounces of raw almonds in water for 12 hours.
2. Drain, rinse, and process in a food processor until fine.
Note: I keep the peels on because they contain nutrients. This will result in a more rustic appearing cake. Peels come off easily though – perfect job for kiddos in the kitchen.
Sandrine and Luke went back to France with their three children after two years in America. I think of Sandrine’s generosity, courage, and style whenever I make this gluten free version of her cake. Bon jour Sandrine… sa va? J’étais pensé de toi et ta famille souvent.