One of the first things I knew I would need for my kitchen in France was a mixer. There are a lot of baked goods you can make successfully with your bare hands, a wooden spoon, and a good bit of elbow grease, but I just don't have the elbow grease for certain items coming down the pike. And this cake, the Miami Beach Sour Cream Cake, was one of those things. So I ordered a mixer.
Has anyone ever mentioned that Europe, and probably France in particular, is expensive? It is. There are some things, like wine and flowers and "gourmet" ingredients that are normal here, that are cheaper here. But in general, more expensive. And electric appliances are up there. A Kitchenaid is 500 Euros, which I guess is about $750. That's obviously not happening. So I looked for a decent hand mixer and found a nice Siemens for about $60 on Amazon. I was so excited about my new, expensive purchase!
But right after I got the mixer, I found out that we're going to move to a different house next month! A house with a big kitchen and lots of equipment! Including a mixer, or so I was told. And I could borrow some stuff now, if I wanted. I wanted. I went and got the "mixer," which was a beater attachment on a stick blender. Well, I thought, this could still work. And I could send back my mixer, which I hadn't even opened.
Wrong! That mixer could maybe beat eggs, but working through even relatively soft butter and almond paste was a big chore for it. I started to smell hot motor. And I realized that I was going to have to bite the bullet and get out the expensive machine if this cake was going to work.
Long story short: mixer works well, but it's still definitely no Kitchenaid. I beat and beat until my arms were sore, but I still didn't achieve the light fluffiness I thought I should have. Nevertheless, this is a delicious cake. Though mine isn't fluffy, it's not heavy either: it's moist and tender and has a delicious almond taste. I served it for dessert last night after Julia arrived from Paris, and about half is gone less than 24 hours later. Worth $60? Well, not for one cake. But I hope that the cost will seem like less as I use the mixer over time.
Thought I'd do a "cast of characters" photo like Pioneer Woman (please ignore how much prettier her pictures are) with my French ingredients. Quick: can you find the American import?
Golden brown and delicious.
Rental house oddities: no mixer, but a very nice cake stand!
Tender, not fluffy. Yum!
Here's the recipe. If you have a heavy-duty mixer, give it a special thank-you pat as you make this:
Miami Beach Sour Cream Cake
About 2/3 c. almonds, ground to a powder
8 oz. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
3-1/2 oz. almond paste (this usually comes in a little tube from Odense)
1/2 t. almond extract
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2-1/3 c. (I used 2 c., or 14 oz.) sugar
6 eggs, separated (put whites in a medium bowl)
1 c. (8 oz.) sour cream (I used crème fraîche)
3 cups (10 oz.) "twice-sifted" cake flour (I have to say I only sifted once all together.)
Heat the oven to 300. Butter a tube pan (I used a Bundt pan because that's what I had) even if it's nonstick, and coat the butter thickly with the powdered almonds. Beat the butter with the baking soda, salt, and almond paste until fluffy. Then add the almond extract and lemon zest and beat a bit more. Gradually add in the sugar and beat a couple minutes more. Then add the egg yolks and beat that a couple of minutes more. Thank your mixer. On low speed, or by hand, mix in half the sour cream, then sift in half the flour, then repeat. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, whip the egg whites until they're stiff. Be careful because apparently egg whites without any sugar or anything overbeat easily. Fold the egg whites into the cake dough in about 3 additions--the batter is very stiff. Spoon into the prepared pan, tap or twist it to remove the air bubbles, and put it in the oven. Bake for 90 minutes (check after an hour--mine was done in 1 hour 10 minutes) or until a tester comes out clean. Let stand for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cake plate. Well, really, you should invert onto a rack, but I just put it on the cake plate and there was no harm done. Serve and enjoy as is.