For our fanciful pinecones, oval almond cakes are crafted with cookie cutters, covered with chocolate frosting, and topped with "scales," each one a carefully arranged almond slice.
- Yield: Makes eight 3 1/2-inch cakes
Photography: Sang An
Source: Martha Stewart Living, December 2003
- 10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
- 1 cup whole blanched almonds (5 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 8 large egg whites, room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- Chocolate Frosting for Pinecone Cake
- 6 cups sliced almonds (1 1/2 pounds)
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
- Chocolate shavings, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch round cake pan, line bottom with parchment paper, and set aside. Spread whole almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven, tossing occasionally, until light golden and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool.
Place the toasted almonds and 3/4 cup sugar in a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in flour; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan; remove from heat, and stir in rum and vanilla. Let cool slightly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, beating to stiff glossy peaks.
Fold the flour mixture into the egg-white mixture in three batches, alternating with the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour into prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 40 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 20 minutes on wire rack. Turn out cake onto wire rack, and let cool, top-side up.
Using a 3-inch oval cookie cutter, cut eight ovals from cake. Discard scraps. Trim each to resemble a pinecone with a rounded base and a pointed tip. Leaving bottom unfrosted, spread about 1/3 cup frosting on each pinecone; smooth and round to create a three-dimensional shape.
Start at the base of one cake, arrange sliced almonds in a spiral, overlapping slightly. Continue arranging almonds in closely set rows to cover the entire surface. Transfer finished cake to a baking sheet in the refrigerator to set while repeating process with remaining cakes. Just before serving, dust the cakes with confectioners' sugar and garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired.