German Apricot and Almond Cake | Aprikosenkuchen
'Tis time for Tea Time Tales. So, won't you join me for a cup of tea and a slice of fresh Apricot and Almond Cake/ Apricot Torte in my garden? This classic German style cake or Aprikosenkuchen is made with ripe, seasonal apricots. And while it has its roots in Germany, this recipe is inspired by famous American food writer, Marian Burros from the New York Times.
Since, they say food tastes better outdoors, let's sit amidst my limelight hydrangeas, bright yellow black-eyed susans and candy pink cone flowers and I'll tell you all about the story behind this gorgeous, summer apricot almond cake/torte made with seasonal, sweet yet faintly tart, golden orange, fresh apricots.
The original version of this torte using Italian plums, was first made popular nearly 40 years ago by Marian Burros.
Have you heard of Marian Burros, famous cook book author and food columnist for the New York Times? Maybe, I'm the only one living under a rock, who hadn't heard of her until only last week when my neighbor brought over Marian Burros' iconic classic Plum Torte. That was my first encounter with the famous torte... but it was destined, definitely not to be my last.
So, back in 1983, New York Times first published Marian Burros' recipe for the Plum Torte and through popular demand this became one of the most sought after recipes of all time. It's a highly adaptable torte that can be prepared throughout the year, by swapping out the plums for any other seasonal fruit, fresh or frozen.
If you're curious, here's Burros' NYT article in print- Eating Well.
My Apricot Torte or Apricot and Almond Cake
Inspired by Marian Burros
I've adapted Marian Burros' New York Times Original Plum Torte recipe using fresh, golden apricots instead of plums and only used half the quantity of sugar for a less sweet cake.
Also, the original recipe does not use any flavorings other than lemon juice and cinnamon. But, I've flavored my apricot torte with almond and vanilla essence, lightly spiced it with cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg and topped it with toasted almonds. I promise you, the warm, gloriously sweet smell of this torte baking is something worth experiencing.
And once it's done, this light, fruity torte is just the little pick me up that you require along with an afternoon cup of tea. Not too sweet, it's soft and moist and the apricots that cook down into the shallow cake batter are perfectly jammy and delicious. And a sprinkling of toasted almonds on top provide the perfect crunch to balance out the softer textures of the torte.
☐ 1 cup flour (spooned into 1 cup, leveled and sifted back into 1 cup measure) or 118.5g
☐ 1 teaspoon baking powder
☐ 2 eggs (130g weighed with shells) at room temperature
☐ 1/2 cup salted butter (8 tablespoons or 130g) at room temperature
☐ 1/2 cup sugar or 118g + extra for dusting
☐ 1-2 tablespoons toasted almonds
☐ 2 pods of green cardamom (discard husks and powder seeds in mortar and pestle)
☐ 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
☐ 1/2 teaspoon almond essence
Step 1: Prep
Line a 9 inch round spring form baking tin with parchment paper. Butter and flour pan.
Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Sift flour and baking powder together.
Half, pit and slice the apricots. To cut apricots, cut them in two along the length of the apricot, Twist and pull the two halves apart. Remove the pit. Cut each half into 4 slices.
Step 2: Beat butter and sugar
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.
Step 3: Add eggs
Add the eggs slowly, one at a time to the cream and sugar batter.
Step 4: Add flour mixture and essences
Spoon the flour/ baking powder mixture into the batter, a little at a time, beating to combine. Add the cardamom powder, vanilla and almond extract to the batter and beat well.
Step 5: Final touches
Pour the batter into the cake pan and spread it towards the edges.
Starting at the center, arrange the sliced apricots on the surface of the batter. Don't push the apricots into the batter.
Use a tea strainer to dust the cinnamon and nutmeg powder evenly over the torte. Sprinkle on the toasted almonds and the granulated sugar.
Step 6: Bake
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350°F for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven. Cool in pan for 10 -15 minutes, before releasing spring.
This is a low cake. For a slightly higher cake, use an 8 inch round cake pan instead of 9 inches.
For best results, weigh your ingredients instead of relying on cup measures.
How to measure flour for baking without a scale?
If you don't have a weighing scale and need to use cup measures, to ensure that you don't use too much flour which will dry out the torte, follow this method for the right quantity of flour.
Spoon flour, one spoon at a time into a cup measure until the flour forms a heap on top. Do not shake cup to make the flour settle. Instead, run a knife along the top of the cup to remove the excess heaped flour. Now, sift this flour, along with the baking powder into a plate.
Now, spoon the flour back into the cup, one spoon at a time. Do not shake or level the cup. When the flour is heaped into the cup, run a knife along the top of the cup measure to remove any excess flour. You will be left with about 2 tablespoons of flour. Discard this excess flour.
Fruit Variations for the Marian Burros inspired torte
Instead of apricots, you can use any seasonal fruit. For the real McCoy, you would use plums, halved and arranged, skin side up, in concentric circles starting at the center. Do note that plums are more tart than apricots. So, if using plums, you may want to increase the sugar in the recipe from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup. Or sprinkle the plums generously with sugar at the end.
Other options are sliced apples, nectarines, peaches or pears.
If making this torte around the holidays, try cranberries for a festive holiday torte.
For a red, white and blue festive colored torte around 4th of July, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are a pretty option.
Spice and flavor variations for Marian Burros inspired torte
I used cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg in my torte, along with vanilla and almond essence. Experiment with different flavors in different combinations. Some other flavorings to try are ginger, lemon or orange.
How to prevent fresh fruit from sinking in cake while baking
Cutting the fresh fruit into slices, rather than halves before arranging them on top of the batter, will prevent the fruit from sinking in too deeply. Also, you could toss the fruits in a little flour to lightly coat them. This makes the fruit less slippery and prevents them from slipping into the cake batter as the cake rises.
While I forgot to toss the apricots in flour before I baked this cake, you can see that they did not sink in too deeply. The heavy dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg on the apricots, gave them a nice dark contrast against the cake batter when baked and helped absorb any of the excess liquid that was released from the fruit while baking.
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