So what's maximum taste ? In short it's my concept or philosophy on baking and getting the best from baked cakes, whereby every bite is the same – you get the maximum benefit – sounds a bit a a real philosophy or economics concept ? It isn't so let me break it down from a tasty perspective. Everything starts from somewhere and for cakes it started with mixing butter, sugar, eggs and flour, and voila, cake. It goes back to childhood memories of waiting for your mum (or in my case, when my kids grow up, Dad !) to finish emptying the cake mixture into the cake tin and giving you the bowl to lick out. I'm sure you've been there – licking that mixture of sugar, butter and flour with a combination of eggs and vanilla extract or flavoring. OK ! Come back to earth. You can actually experience "maximum taste" in a well baked classic "pound cake" or sponge or Madeira cake – cakes just made with a combination of butter, eggs, flour and of course sugar. It follows on from the common thread "the best things in life are the simple things". So in short, by maximum taste I mean eating something, where every bite is the same, resembling the same experience that you just want to eat more and more of it, but you have to build in control, if not you're not going to see your feet in a few years time. For me, the cakes have to be moist, so I always modify a recipe so that it is more moist and therefore brings out the sweetness, after all "if it looks great and doesn't taste great, then why bother?" I bake and cook because I want to eat and enjoy what I'm eating, not to show off or to win competitions. In fact I actually toyed with the idea of calling my website "maximum taste" but the marketing and funny part of me thought "what would that exactly stand for… Lameen ?" and so I came up with atastyblog.
So what are we baking here ? Almond and Lemon Cake… right. OK ! my philosophy on "maximum taste" is captured in what I think is this wonderfully delicious and simple cake. If I had to make only 3 cakes, this would be on the list, along with Gateau Breton and my classic London Cheesecake (recipe not shared with you yet – more on that very soon God willing.
So let's get to baking one of my favourites.
225g of unsalted butter
225g of caster sugar
4 large free range eggs (organic would be good too if you can afford it)
125g of plain flour
100g of ground almonds (these are precious but if you have them in abundance, then alternate the amount you put with the flour. So for example both the flour and the ground almonds total, 225g, you can use 175g ground almonds and 50g flour, but I don't recommend going below 100g of ground almonds)
Grated zest & juice of 2 lemons
Flaked Almonds (optional)
1 teaspoon of Almond or Lemon extract (optional as it isn't easy to find)
Please put the oven on at the beginning on about 180C so that it is ready, about 10 minutes on my old one, before you bake the cake.
As this is just a classic, place the butter and sugar into a wide bowl and mix it until creamy, then adding one egg at a time, mixed in with about 2 tablespoons of the flour, continue mixing until everything is incorporated and you have one smooth buttery batter – keep your fingers out. Then place the ground almonds inside the bowl and mix gently, followed by the zest (I hope you have a citrus zester – see below), lemon juice and either of the extracts.
The lemon juice might give the batter a curdled look, but don't worry, it will be alright at the end.
Line the bottom of a 24cm spring-form round cake tin and butter the sides, then place the batter inside the cake tin and bake for about 25 minutes, checking the oven from 20 minutes, because although my oven is old and not expensive, it bakes really quickly and this is the sort of cake that should not be dry – remember the maximum taste philosophy, moist and sugary is best. Anyway alter the baking time according to your oven but just keep checking it every 5 minutes – it's worth the hassle trust me.
TASTY TIP: As this cake is buttery and butter and sugar burn quickly giving cakes like this, a burnt top, place the cake not on the top nor the middle of the oven, but closer to the bottom for at least 80% of the baking time. You should then get a light brown top.
The cake is ready when your cake tester comes out dampish but the top is firm. Leave it in the cake tin for about 10 minutes on a wire rack to cool and then unmould and place back onto the wire rack. This is so delicious slightly warm, so if you cannot help yourself, cut into after about 30 minutes. I don't recommend earlier, unless you want the cake to scorch your fingers and you like your cake crumbly.
As my wife and kids don't like nut bits, I usually sprinkle almond flakes/slivers on one side for me
– is that fair ? One half for daddy and the other half for mummy + 2 kids… hmmm ! I never thought about that, but in any case after a few slices, Daddy/Hubby's territory is no more.
I never eat this cake with anything because the taste is so rich and anything else, even ice cream takes away from the maximum taste experience. Up close, you can almost taste the almonds…..
The romantic combination of tangy lemon, with sugar, complimented with the almonds is sensational. I usually have to employ full control when I make this, restricting myself to just one slice a day. This really is finger licking good for me. It goes really well with black coffee (espresso or filter) Despite my bias on sugar with this cake, this cake is just right – it isn't too sweet but the key is the moistness, the lemon juice cuts through the sugar, so delight yourself. Try it and let me know what you think.
Based on a recipe in Nigella Lawson's "how to be a domestic goddess", but with many modifications to suit my taste buds but of course.