Looking over my list of RHC left to bake, I noticed that the majority of them are from the sponge cake chapter. Do I have a problem with sponge cakes? I always think of them as more difficult to make, usually because the large number of eggs required for most sponge cakes require separating. I don't know why that seems difficult when in reality separating eggs is pretty quick and easy.
So for this week's free choice, I knew I needed to start facing my sponge cake aversion. So I started with the sponge cake I have the most aversion to: the Catalan Salt Pinch Cake. The reviews on this cake have been mixed, and so it was easy to ignore. I'm so glad I finally got around to baking this cake as it is wonderful.
July 10, 2011
Name of Cake: Pinching Never Tasted So Good
Constituents: one seven inch layer almond sponge cake
This cake originated in Spain, where it is known as Pinch Bread as it originally was baked in loaf pans and people tend to eat it with their hands. This particular version is called Salt Pinch Cake as it came from a bakery called Salt, named after the nearby town of Salt. It does not mean this is a salty/savory cake, which many people, including myself, thought at first.
The cake is a simple almond sponge cake, with the usual spongy culprits of eggs, sugar, and cake flour. There isn't much cake flour as the almonds, which are toasted then ground finely, make up the majority of the flour in the cake. Lemon zest is added and that is it.
The unusual thing about this cake, aside from the misleading name, is the manner in which it is mixed. A quarter of the egg whites are initially whipped with the majority of the sugar to create a thick, glossy goo. The almonds are folded in next, then here's the fun part: the rest of the eggs are added to the batter two tablespoons at a time and beat for two minutes per addition. This comes out to about twenty minutes of mixing, but luckily for those with a stand mixer it means that every two minutes you need to go back to the machine and add in another couple of tablespoons, set the timer, and walk away.
After those shenanigans are over, the batter looks thick and fluffy. The lemon zest gets beat in, the flour is sifted and folded in, and the batter is finished. This gets scraped into a pan that is thoroughly lined with parchment and baked for about half an hour.
I actually ended up making a half recipe as I only found enough almonds in my freezer for half a cake. I did find some almond meal that I had hoped to use for the rest of the almonds so that I could make the full recipe, but the almond meal had freezer burn and smelled awful. A half recipe it is then.
I baked the cake in the 7x3 pan that I have, which made the cake shorter than it should have been. It took 30 minutes to bake, so no difference in baking time. It did take less time to cool, so I didn't have to wait a full hour before trying it out.
This cake is really good! The flavor is as delicate as the texture: just a simple almond flavor with a little lemon to perk things up. I am a fan of these simple tasting tea cakes and so I like the Pinch Cake. Rose suggested pairing the cake with raspberries and softly whipped cream, but I have some Hood strawberries and it is delightful. I am glad I waited until the summer to try this cake, as it is perfect for warm summery days when you don't want a heavy dessert and have lovely fresh fruit as an accompaniment. This is the kind of cake that you can just pinch off a little every time you walk by it, and if you start making special trips to the kitchen in order to walk by the cake more often, well, don't say I didn't warn you.
Here's Marie's Salt Pinch Cake and her roundup of the HCB's Pinch Cakes. Congrats to Faithy for being Featured Baker and having such a clean oven!