Tosca cake: Norwegian in origin. Almond and caramel layered yellow cake. Something to do with Puccini's opera. Very popular among the Swede set. Also known as the Swedish Visiting Cake (from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan). According to Dorie and her source, as the name implies, it is a cake for "visitors" because you can literally begin baking it when your guest(s) show up in your driveway and have a snack for them hot from the oven about forty-five minutes later. Easy peasy.
I had never heard of a Tosca cake before--which is the original name of this Visitor's Cake. I stumbled upon the whole Tosca Cake thing while shopping at JoAnn's (yes, that JoAnn's). Ever since Border's closed I try to get my book fix wherever and whenever I can. As I was perusing their book section--BTW, the most unorganized mess I've ever seen--when the Nordic Bakery Cookbook by Miisa Mink sort of leapt out at me. It had a pretty cover, what can I say? Plus, I had a coupon for 50% off. Well, you can guess the rest: in the cart it went. There was only ONE copy, what choice did I have? I was quite taken with all the recipes in the book--plus the people at Vogue magazine had endorsed it. Which kind of confused me for a hot minute because, well, wouldn't that confuse you--a Vogue quote on the back of a cookbook? I guess folks in fashion love a good bakery as much as the next person.
Anyhow, the part of the cookbook I loved the most was the section on cakes. So, I got to baking this particular cake right away: the Tosca cake. It was going to be a cinch--I had everything on hand. All except for the eggs, of course. But have no fear, I am adept at making vegan changes to accommodate our vegan life. Not so fast, said the cake maker! After not one, but two failed attempts amid much kitchen havoc and a sink full of dishes, I had two cakes in front of me that were, well, not fit for eating. I refused to be out done by a cake recipe for god's sake! One more time, I thought. Just one more time. The pretty Nordic bakery book would have to sit this third round out, however. I was going to the expert: Dorie Greenspan. The two failed custard-y dense pieces of foam rubber that emerged from my oven earlier mocking me the whole time.
I tend to get a bit testy in the kitchen when things don't go my way. I begin to take it personally. I read the Zodiac for insight. Is it a three or two star day for me? Should I even be in the kitchen? Are my planets aligned? How about numerology. What do the numbers add up to for today's date? Is it a good number or bad? These are the things I have running through my head whenever there is doubt, a crisis or an overall sense of "I've had it" emerges. My next step was to do what we all do: I Googled. And. . . I read more than any person should on the iterations of this Swede cake. Many of the photos of the finished cake out there, but nothing came close to my two initial final products in look or design. I looked at mine. I looked at theirs. On my third attempt now. Fingers crossed. So, okay, it came nowhere near looking anything like a cake, but neither had my other two attempts. It was more like an almond-y brownie and then this last bit of lemon flavor finishing it off. Chewy. Toffee-ish and crunchy. Yum. (And I love the lemon part which was a Dorie addition. Well played, Dorie.) A happy ending to a very unhappy afternoon in my kitchen. I would like to formally re-name this cake the Swedish Frustration Cake. Stay tuned for more Nordic baking adventures!
Dr. Thyme and I went for a lovely walk/bike ride yesterday along the Mississippi River. It is unseasonably warm here in mid-November. All the leaves have pretty much lost their luster and their will to live. We're cursing them more than admiring them as they keep collecting outside our door and on the back of our dogs' legs. It was windy as heck yesterday. Nearly knocked me off my bike. Did knock this one poor soul off his, but I think he was fairly "new" to the whole biking thing. God love him. No, I did not laugh "out loud"--that would have been rude--but only to myself as I passed. Then two deer jumped out from the woods in front of my path--that's when I would have been laughed at. Something to the effect of "Jesus H Christ!" flew from my lips. My scream probably scared them off a bit. The whole scene was right out of some Jack London book minus the wolves. Nothing good can come from eighty degree days in November. Nothing. But seeing the deer was really cool. When we got home, I munched on a piece of this blondie/brownie/cake. Worth every minute of trial and error.
Non-frustation Vegan Almond Blondie view. Attempt number three.
Blech view. Attempt number two.
Vegan Almond Blondies
*Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour (or ground up almonds)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup Florida Crystals sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup unsalted vegetable margerine (melted and cooled to room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray an 8" cake pan with non-stick spray. In a medium bowl, add the sugar and lemon zest and whisk really well. Next, add the extracts, lemon juice and water. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the flour ingredients to the sugar ingredients, mixing well with a spoon. Finally, fold in the melted margerine. Pour into cake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The batter will bubble a bit while baking. No worry. Just be sure to bake it until the top begins to turn brown. The cake slices better once it's fully cooled. But I couldn't wait and had to slice it warm. Yum! I stored it sliced into pieces and in an airtight container in the fridge. It's terrific heated about ten seconds in the microwave and served over vanilla ice cream!