© 2018 Can Caramelo

Almond Summer Cake

I’m reading a book about raising children stressing the importance of nature for the healthy development of kids. Although it is really more about nature as an example of what kids need. They need to play because that is how they learn, how they challenge themselves, how they reproduce what they live, confront their fears and try out different roles. For this to happen, it’s important that they can determine the rhythm themselves, in games that are not or only slightly structured. And most importantly, there are the relations with others, both adults and other kids. Other humans provide meaning to the infant world by means of their mimics, prosody and body language. Knowledge without the relationship is not very attractive to kids, and they usually don’t learn this way. They learn by getting excited about things, experiencing strong emotions.

The influence of emotional stimuli on perceptive and cognitive processes has actually been one of my research topics in neuroscience. Recently it has become fashionable to talk about the brain and many people without too much knowledge about it do so, which often leads to reductionism or even just wrong affirmations. One example is the concept of the “reptilian brain” as the center for emotional processing (especially in the world of marketing). Reptilian because the brainstem and the cerebellum are, evolutionally speaking, a very old part of our brain, and one that we share with reptiles and other animals. I guess this theory is widespread partly because it is not completely wrong. Still, it’s not really accurate. There is an involvement of the brain in emotional processing, but in fact other subcortical structures like the amygdala and other parts of the limbic system are more important for emotional processing. Moreover, social behavior and the associated emotions are rather processed at prefrontal cortex, one of the structures that is evolutionally new and is developed in humans as in no other animal and doesn’t fully mature until we’re around 25 years old. Besides emotional processing, prefrontal cortex is also associated with complex cognitive functions like executive control, working memory and sustained attention. But most importantly, emotional processing cannot be reduced to a specific area of the brain, but engages a widespread neuronal network. Through multiple mechanisms (modulation by neurotransmitters, rhythmic oscillations at different time scales, etc.), different areas of the brain, both cortical and subcortical, communicate fluidly and continuously. And, such as the emotions kids experience in their relations with other humans are the motor for learning, for adults they are fundamental too. There are examples of patients who lost the part of the prefrontal cortex that is essential for emotional processing due to a lesion and as a result they are completely incapable of taking the simplest decision, because they deliberate the different options forever.

And now on to a cake that will excite you. I wanted to make a special birthday cake for a special friend. Layer cakes are just spectacular, but I didn’t want one with lots of buttercream, I had something lighter, fresher, reminiscent of spring in mind. So here is the result, almond sponge cakes with no gluten, no added fats, but super moist with an intense almond flavor and hints of citrus fruits, with a tangy lemony-orangey yoghurt-mascarpone filling and lots of fresh fruit as well as some lavender and thyme. All sweetened with honey. I know that making a layer cake might intimidate some of you, but this one is actually pretty easy and quick (except baking the sponge cakes one after the other if you, like me, don’t own more than one pan that has the same size). Still, it’s one batter for all 3 cakes and the ingredients for the filling just have to be whisked together. In addition, this is a rustic or naked kind of layer cake, so no need to get a regular layer of frosting all around the cake, which I find aesthetically pleasing and also a lot easier. Lastly, if you make the cake, please take a picture and show it to me via instagram (@cancaramelo, #cancaramelo) or any other way, because I really love to see how you make my recipes yours.

Notes:

You don’t have to make a layer cake, you can divide the recipe in 2 or 3 and make one almond sponge cake, topped with the yoghurt-cream and fresh fruit.

Ingredients

For the sponge cakes:

  • 6 cups/ 525g almond meal (ground almonds)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk of choice
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1-2 vanilla beans, scraped
  • zest from 1 organic lemon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • juice and zest from 1 organic orange
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 700g greek yoghurt
  • 250g mascarpone
  • zest from 1 organic lemon and 1 orange
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup honey (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt

To top:

  • 3 cups of berries (I used blueberries, blackberries and raspberries when I made it first, and then for recipe testing strawberries and blueberries but you could use currants, cherries, grapes, peaches… any soft and juicy fruit really)
  • lavender and thyme (optional, mint would also work nicely)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Line a 20cm/8 inches springform pan with parchment paper and grease it (I have only one springform pan that size, so I did one after the other, if you own to or three, prepare them). Separate the eggs. Add the rest of the cake ingredients to the egg yolks. Now first whisk the egg whites until stiff (I use a hand-held electric mixer), then whisk the other ingredients until well combined. Now add the egg whites to the rest of the ingredients and carefully fold in. Pour one third of the mixture into the springform pan and bake for 22-25min, until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean. Repeat until you have your 3 cakes. Let cool completely.
For the filling whisk together all the ingredients.
To assemble, top the bottom cake with one third of the filling and top with one third of the fruit (mixed, or in separate layers). Repeat. Garnish the top with lavender flowers and thyme if you wish.

2 Comments

  1. monika
    Posted 5 May ’18 at 6:26 pm | #

    How would you divide the ingredients into THREE – I am mostly concerned about the eggs and milk…See below

    6 cups/ 525g almond meal (ground almonds)
    –> Easy, 2 cup almond almeal
    1 cup honey
    –> 1/3 cup honey
    8 eggs
    –> 2.67 eggs? (Can we just say 3 eggs?)
    1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk of choice
    –> 2.67 Tablespoons? (Can we just say 3T?)
    1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1-2 vanilla beans,
    scraped
    –> Easy, 1 tsp.
    zest from 1 organic lemon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    –> Easy, zest from 1/3 of lemon and 1 tsp. lemon juice
    juice and zest from 1 organic orange
    –> Easy, zest from 1/3 orange
    1 teaspoon salt
    –> Easy enough…1/3 tsp. salt

    • Posted 6 May ’18 at 6:32 am | #

      Hi Monika! Thanks for your comment, yes, 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons! Also, if your pan is not exactly the same size, you could use a slightly bigger one and just do half the recipe! I hope you enjoy the cake and would be overly happy to see a picture. Love, Lenka

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