Almond Layer Cake with Mascarpone Icing

I am so proud of this statuesque dessert. Moist, tender almond cake layers are piled high between thick mounds of mascarpone and sour cream icing. What a pretty and sweet little cake! I was especially impressed with how moist it remained, even the next day, thanks to the large quantity of almond flour in the dough. I recently bought three new 6-inch springform pans, which are great for making small-yet-towering deserts like this one, but feel free to substitute with two 8-inch pans instead.

Almond layer cake with mascarpone icing

For the cake:

  • 1 1/3 cups (300 g) butter , softened, plus 2 tablespoons for buttering pans
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoons almond extract
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 cups (300 g) finely-ground almonds
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (75 g) all-purpose flour (or buckwheat, to make it gluten-free)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

For the icing:

  • 1 lb (450 g) mascarpone cheese
  • 5 oz (150 g) sour cream
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) powdered sugar, or more to taste
  • one small pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto (optional)

For decorating:

  • sprigs of rosemary
  • sliced or chopped almonds

For the cakes:

Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C). Melt two tablespoons of butter and use it to generously butter three 6 inch (15 cm) round cake pans (alternatively, you can use two 8 inch pans). Line the bottoms of the pans with rounds of parchment paper cut to fit. Butter the parchment and set aside the pans.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with handheld beaters, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the almond extract, lemon zest and juice.

In a separate bowl, stir together the ground almonds, flour, salt and baking powder; then gently fold in to the batter. Stir to combine. The mixture will be thick.

In a clean bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold about 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten it up, then gently add the rest of the whites, being careful not to overmix.

Divide the batter equally between the three pans and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs attached.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges and turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing:

In a chilled metal bowl, whip the mascarpone and sour cream with electric beaters (or with a stand mixer), until it stiffens, about 3-5 minutes. Add the lemon zest, powdered sugar, small pinch of salt and amaretto (if using). Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To assemble:

Place one cake layer on the serving plate, top with a generous helping of icing and use an offset spatula to spread evenly over the top to a thickness of about 1/2 inch (1 cm). Gently place a second cake on top. Repeat with the icing, then another cake layer, then icing again. If it is warm in your kitchen, at this point you may want to place the cake in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to ice the sides. Decorate with rosemary sprigs and sliced almonds, if desired.

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