My Final Week in America, TECHmunch Tampa 2012, and Vanilla Almond Cake

Vanilla Almond Cake

This is going to be a bit of a long post, so buckle in.

Guys, this has been A WEEK, but I didn’t expect the week leading up to my departure to be anything but A WEEK. An amuse-bouche of the crazy endured these last two weeks: I had thousands of dollars stolen from my bank account by some creeper in North Florida who was subsequently caught on camera, which is hilarious; Connor the Cat becoming really sick and urinating on my bed, carpet, couch, me, the world, which was somewhat less hilarious; my first food blogging conference; and of course the end of my job.

So now I’m officially unemployed. I actually typed “homeless” by accident which is probably just an indicator of what’s to come. But maybe not, because if I’m this good at omniscience and fortune telling then maybe there’s a way to monetize that and not be homeless after all. But if I don’t become homeless, doesn’t that mean I’m actually a terrible oracle? Now I’m confused. Or I could at least secure a place with a band of traveling gypsies; that’s still a thing, right? And does this mean I would have to wear billowy silk shirts and a magnificent gold hoop earring? I really hope not. Silk is so 1996 and I don’t look good with gold jewelry because I’m not Mr. T.

Vanilla Almond Cake

As of now I’m considering growing a scraggly beard grossly disproportionate to the amount of hair amassed across my body to blatantly convey my unemployment to the public. And possibly tie in beads and bells because nothing seems quite as magical as a musical beard. In case you haven’t gathered by this point, this post may come off as a little erratic, but convolution has been the driving force behind my life lately so it’s at the very least authentic. Also I’ve been drinking kombucha and I’m pretty sure they made this batch with low-dose Rohypnol, which I’m kind of okay with.

Becoming unemployed was surprisingly not as immediately liberating as I was expecting. After sitting in that office for so many years I thought I was going to finish out my last day by bursting through the double doors with heralds sounding and wind blowing my imaginary hair back (or glorious scraggly beard had I thought ahead and grown it out. Hindsight, right?) as I suavely slip my sunglasses on and march toward liberation, but no such thing happened. Instead I spent the day in melancholy, lamenting my ceased pay and seriously questioning if I’d made the right choice.

Until I remembered that I’m leaving for Europe on Friday, and anyone who mourns the loss of work in the exchange of an extended foray into European food pornery is clearly out of his mind and possibly dangerous.

Vanilla Almond Cake

Vanilla Almond Cake

In other current events, here’s a riddle: what do you get if you fill a room with talented food bloggers, successful industry professionals and delicious food? If you’re me then you get the hint that you’re in an insanely competitive market and need to step up your game, stat. And also a delicious lunch. Such was my experience during TECHmunch Tampa over the weekend where I was given the opportunity to rub elbows with tremendously interesting and talented writers while soaking in come-to-Jesus presentations in how to avoid critical errors in blogging. Errors blithely made by yours truly. Errors that I tracked down, shot point blank in the face and buried under the floorboards where nary a person will ever find them. For those interested, Katie at Katie’s Cucina wrote up an excellent recap of the events and presentations.

TECHmunch Tampa 2012

TECHmunch Tampa 2012

This vanilla almond cake has very little to do with the rest of the post, but it’s purpose here isn’t for naught; it so happens that the majority of my apartments in Europe are without standard American ovens (duh). Since I’m looking at exclusive range cooking for two or so months I’m trying to get the most use out of mine at home. But If we’re being honest, I don’t really need much of an excuse to make — or eat — a cake.

Searching for a recipe for stark white frosting was a little disheartening because a lot of the recipes called for the use of a LOT of vegetable shortening, which I find disgusting. Shortening is comprised of some of the most unhealthy, harmful and unsustainable hydrogenated vegetable oils found on earth and if you support the use of shortening you are basically supporting terrorism. I don’t care how delicious that fried chicken in The Help looked, YOU DO NOT USE SHORTENING TO FROST YOUR CAKE OR FRY YOUR CHICKEN. Every time you do the devil gets a little more power and Jesus weeps. Do you want to be responsible for that with the end of the world so close in sight?

Vanilla Almond Cake

Connor the Cat
Connor judges my cooking. And life choices.

Anyway, I came across a meringue-based white frosting that was very marshmallowy in texture and served as a nice vehicle to deliver the punchy almond flavor without masking the subtle vanilla undertones. The actual cake is very spongey, yet dense, and coupled with the light, airy meringue frosting presented a well-balanced congruence of flavors and textures that neither overpowered nor underwhelmed. The cake was made the star rather than the sidekick to a heavy and sugary frosting that scrapes and clings to your esophagus that so many traditional cakes are guilty of. Moist, flavorful cake. Stark white frosting. Shortening-free. You lose this round, Satan.

With as many errands to run, bills to pay and cats to appease before I leave my time on the blog will be limited over the next couple of days. The next time I post will be from across the pond, so this is my official American sendoff. See you on the other side!

VANILLA ALMOND CAKE

Vanilla Almond Cake

[print_this]Recipe: Vanilla Almond Cake with Almond Meringue Frosting

Summary: A flavorful, dense vanilla almond cake paired with a stark white, SHORTENING-FREE, meringue-based almond frosting. Caution: Share this cake or you will eat more of it than you can handle.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 40 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Ingredients

For the Vanilla Almond Cake

  • 1 cup organic, fair trade sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp pure almond extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 3/4 cup milk

For the Almond Meringue Frosting

  • 1 cup organic, fair trade sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp scraped vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup almond slices, for decoration

Instructions

For the Vanilla Almond Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. In a stand mixer, combine sugar and butter and beat for 5 minutes when mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in eggs one at a time, ensuring they are fully incorporated upon each addition.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder and whisk together. Add to the mixer with the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix well.
  5. Add milk, vanilla bean insides, almond extract and continue to mix for two minutes, or until mixture is smooth.
  6. Divide mixture between two prepared 8″ round cake pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry when inserted. Place on wire racks to cool.

For the Almond Meringue Frosting

  1. Add sugar, water and cream of tartar to a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a light boil and continue to cook until sugar fully dissolves. Remove from heat, stir in almond extract but do not let it cool.
  2. In a stand mixer add egg whites and scraped vanilla bean and beat to soft peaks. While continuously mixing, add the sugar mixture very slowly until fully incorporated and continue to beat roughly 5-8 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.
For the Assembly
  1. Once the cake has cooled, cut off any hard/crusty ends and discard (or eat).
  2. Place the bottom cake slice on a cake stand and add 1/3 of the frosting on top, spreading evenly to ensure a solid strata of filling. Place additional cake slice on top and frost with remaining frosting, or as much as desired.
  3. Add almond slices uniformly around the sides of the cake.
  4. SLICE IT OPEN AND EAT DAT CAKE.

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16 thoughts on “My Final Week in America, TECHmunch Tampa 2012, and Vanilla Almond Cake

  1. I love vegetable shortening. But then again I am a Godless heathen and I love corn syrup in all shapes sizes and types. 🙂 Dont hate. You know you love fried chicken.

  2. This cake looks sinfully good. Jesus…..

    I’m sure you’re going to be insanely busy while abroad, BUT if you get a chance to head farther south of Bologna, I highly recommend you check out La Pievuccia in Castiglion Fiorentino. It’s an agriturismo that makes their own organic olive oil and wine, and hands down serves up some of the best food I ever had during my travels in Italy.

    • That sounds amazing! I’ll be taking two weeks out of my stay in Italy to travel around to the usual places, i.e. Venice, Rome, etc. and will definitely make time for La Pievuccia. If you put “best food ever” and “highly recommended” chances are I’m going to drop whatever I can to make my way out there. Thanks for the recommendation!

      • Excellent! It’s a very picturesque and kind of off the beaten path but worth the trip. The man that owns the place is Riccardo, one of the sweetest Italians I have ever met. He will treat you, and feed you well!

  3. Oh thank god. Your blurb on foodgawker about making frosting without shortening freaked me out, because it somehow implied that one might, under other circumstances, use shortening on a cake and I was like WTF? Glad you gave me the near-coronary though because it introduced me to your blog. Very nice. I’m keen to explore further and discover more about your story (why you’re crossing the pond and where you came from in the first place). Ciao for now and happy travels.

    • You’d be surprised! If you ever have a cake with solid white icing, or any kind of icing decorations (flowers, etc.) chances are that frosting was made with shortening. Weird, right? This frosting provides a nice substitute if you don’t want hugely unhealthy and greasy frostings 🙂

      I’m glad you found my blog and hope you stick around for a while!

    • Absolutely, and there’s no greasy feeling left over in your mouth once you’re done eating. I’m glad you agree 🙂

    • Of course! I have to say thank YOU for being so quick to get it up there. I don’t think I would have done the recap justice, but you summed it up perfectly 🙂

    • Nutella cake sounds like a dream! The almond slices add a nice textural dimension to the cake since the rest of it is so fluffy and smooth.

    • If I’m going to make a pie crust for non-vegetarians, then I use LARD. Straight up lard! It’s natural, it doesn’t have nearly as many unhealthy elements to it and really, who doesn’t like a nice spoonful of lard with their pie?

  4. This looks amazing, if I leave the ends on in order to do a naked cake look, would it be very hard to eat or really just super ugly?? Let me know what you think! Thanks!

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