It is the middle of January and I don’t know about you, but I am missing that holiday food. So, I rearranged my posting schedule and made a Caramel Almond Torte. If it helps, I didn’t eat it all myself, I found another family to share it with. I will show you how to split it as you make it.
When I worked at the bakery, there was a dessert case that was always empty on Monday mornings. One Monday, I had a huge list to work on and an empty case so I went searching for what I had on hand. I found:
- a yellow cake in the freezer
- some leftover marzipan in the walk-in cooler
- leftover buttercream frosting
When I put them all together, it didn’t look too bad. It tasted pretty amazing for not having any chocolate in it. Turns out other folks thought the same thing and it became a favorite.
It is easy to put together once you have all the components. If you need a dessert that makes you look really great but has very little time in the kitchen, you could pick up some things on your way home. Here is your grocery list: frozen cake, marzipan, caramel frosting, and caramel ice cream topping.
There are some pretty good reasons for making it from scratch too. If you have a little more time, you can’t find marzipan without ordering it, or our personal favorite reason…Homemade tastes so much better.
Start With the Cake
The cake is a yellow cake. A box cake works and so does your favorite from-scratch recipe. Ours is found in the trusty Betty Crocker cookbook. There are 2 ways to bake the cake to get the rectangle shape.
- Bake it in 2 loaf pans. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray, put in the parchment, then spray the parchment. No flour in the pan, please. Pour equal amounts of cake batter into each pan.
- This is the easiest, because it’s easier to make straight cuts. Bake the entire recipe in a 18″x13″ baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray, put in the parchment, then spray the parchment. Again, no flour in the pan, please.
Bake the cake until it’s done. If you’re using the loaf pans, wait 10 minutes and remove the cake from the pans to finish cooling on a baking rack. You might have to run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to get it to slide out.
If you are using the baking sheet, then just leave the cake to cool in the pan. Wrap the pan and all in plastic wrap and put in the freezer, still in the pan.
It is easiest to work with a cake that has been frozen and isn’t quite thawed when cut. It only takes a couple hours to freeze a cake but it is good wrapped in plastic wrap for a couple months in the freezer. The cheapest way to have frozen cake available is to bake it and freeze it yourself.
Marzipan starts with almond paste
Making marzipan used to begin with buying almond paste. Almond paste is blanched, ground almonds with enough oil in it to make “ta da” a paste. Just to be clear almond paste and almond flour are two different products. They are not interchangeable.
Food processors in the home kitchen have changed things so that you can make your own almond paste and turn it into marzipan yourself in about a half hour or so.
Here is how I make almond paste. Then we will move on to the marzipan recipe.
Start with about a cup of blanched almonds. If you bought almonds with skins on, you can remove them by bringing about 2-3 cups water to boil. Add a little more than 1 cup (or more, I tripled the recipe so I did 1 1/2 pounds of almonds all at once) almonds and boil only for a few minutes. The skins start to float off almost immediately so the almonds look “fat”. Drain them in a colander. Skins come off easier when the almonds are warm so either wait just a few minutes to let them cool enough to handle or just rinse them with a little cool water. They rub off easily.
Grind finely all the almonds at once in the food processor. Eventually, they will be ground to the point that they form a paste but since it must form a paste, I add a little canola or almond oil until it feels right. Now you have almond paste.
The recipe I have always used comes from The Wilton Way of Cake Decorating volume one. I have modified it just a little because it calls for raw eggs-this book was written before chickens knew about salmonella. I thought about using meringue powder and water but finally settled on unflavored gelatin. Just be careful adding it or you’ll get almond flavored gummies.
- 1 can or 8 ounces almond paste (I measure by weight-easier and more accurate)
- 2 tablespoon unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1/4 cup water
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
Follow the directions on the gelatin package for melting it. Combine the other ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dissolved gelatin 2 tablespoons at a time while kneading the mixture. You might not use all the gelatin water. It’s ready when the mixture becomes a dough like cookie dough. You can use the marzipan right away or preserve it in a heavy plastic bag. Marzipan keeps well in the fridge for a week or so and in the freezer for several months.
The Caramel Frosting
A jar of caramel ice cream topping is needed at this point. Sometimes, buttercream frosting is just hanging out in my refrigerator. It’s a building block so it is not annoying and it keeps for several weeks in there. Whenever I need to use it after it has chilled, I just beat it in the mixer again while adding cream until it is the right consistency again. When I want it to be caramel, I just use the caramel topping in place of the cream.
Here is how I make buttercream frosting:
- 1 cup shortening-(I use a half and half combination of butter and a good margarine or cream cheese)
- powdered sugar
- cream-or in this case caramel topping
Cream the shortening combination until it it fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until the mixture starts to look dry. I say until it won’t hold anymore. You will have to stop and scrape down the bowl several times. Add in the cream or topping a little at a time and beat until a spreading consistency is reached. Again, scrape down the bowl several times or it won’t be smooth.
Finally, Putting it All Together
Take about half of the marzipan and mix with cream until it is a spreadable consistency but not too thin. It has to spread on the cake but not run off when the layers are pressed together.
Pull the cake out of the freezer. Don’t let it thaw more than just a few minutes before working with it. It needs to be out of the pan and upside down on the counter with all the parchment and plastic wrap off.
If you have a loaf cake, slice it the long way in 4 equal pieces. If you used the sheetcake method, you are still going to slice it in 4 equal pieces, like this.
Cut a piece of kitchen string the length of the cake. Fold the string in half and measure from one end. Make a small cut with a sharp knife. Do the same thing on the other side. Now, cut from one small cut to the other and now you have 2 halves.
Fold the kitchen string in half again and measure from one end. Make a small cut with a sharp knife. Do the same thing on the other side. Again, cut from one small cut to the other and now you have 1/2 and 2 quarters. Using the kitchen string folded the same, repeat this procedure on the other side.
My cuts never come out straight. No worries. We will trim it after we stack it.
The filling goes between each layer and they are stacked together. Don’t put any filling on top-its filling, not topping.
In order to keep the torte from falling over it needs to be level. As you are stacking the layers, be aware of the edges on the sheetcake. They can cause problems with leveling. Turn one of them so that there is one on each lengthwise side of the torte, instead of both on the same side. This helps with the Leaning Tower of Pisa effect.
After the filling is in and the layers are stacked, I work on leveling. I have a small construction level that I use in the kitchen because I struggle with seeing level until it is too late. Oops.
I check level on all four side as well, shaving off cake until all the layers are flush and level. We shared our torte. Now is when I cut the torte in 2 pieces.
We have messed with the cake until it is crumbly now so it goes on a cake board or a serving plate and into the fridge for an hour or so.
The Crumb Coat
The next step is designed to control the shedding of crumbs that all cakes do. Scoop about 1/2 cup of the prepared frosting into a separate bowl. Thin it with water until it is like a thick glaze. Starting at the top of the torte, spread the thinned frosting over the top and the sides of the cake in a very thin layer. You really are just gluing the crumbs onto the cake.
Back in the fridge it goes but don’t cover it. It can stay here in the fridge for several days, overnight, or just an hour, depending on your time schedule.
Finishing the Torte
We have been tasting the scraps of everything all along the way (weren’t those cake trimmings yummy?). Now we can finish our Caramel Almond Torte so we can taste it with a fork!
The frosting needs to be room temperature. If it was made yesterday or before, the frosting needs to be beat again to return to spreading consistency. Add a little cream if necessary. The torte needs to have just come out of the fridge.
Always start frosting a project by scooping frosting on top and using a spatula to spread across the top and down the sides. Cover the entire torte and then work on the finishing. Dip the spatula in warm water to get a smooth finish.
When you are happy with how it looks, clean up the serving plate edges. Use some caramel topping to drizzle over the top for decoration. This torte slices into 12 nice-sized slices.
This torte really does go together quickly if all the components are already available. We usually have marzipan in our freezer because it comes in handy for so many things from breakfast pastries to chocolate confections and all desserts in between.
Buttercream frosting is a good thing to keep on hand anyway, especially if you are prone to throwing birthday parties on the fly or need something to put between crackers to satisfy a craving.
Time to sit down with a piece of your masterpiece and put your feet up for a bit.