I made this gorgeous cake using Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima app, which is fantastic; not least because every time you open it Nige pops up shouting ‘Ciao!’ in a fabulous, totally camp demeanor only she can get away with.
I have been obsessed with almond cake since I was living in Paris as an Au Pair. I had to stay with the baby’s grandma for a couple of weeks in the family’s Dordogne farmhouse, where she would condition me to eat like a real french person (I came close to death one day when I tried to put a Camembert wheel in the fridge…) Thus, I was only allowed 2 squares of plain chocolate per day, mid afternoon, with coffee, while the baby was napping. I mean, COME ON, that’s what they suggest you eat on diets, so you can imagine my frustration.
Now, at this time I was living the glorious life of an Au Pair; looking after a baby, full time (including through the night..) as well as 3 other kids under 10. I had no energy and a serious sugar addiction. So much so that I used to walk the baby in the pushchair, 3 MILES to the nearest sign of civility – some caves with a tourist gift shack attached. They sold stalagmite paperweights and out of date 4 bar KitKats. I would bulk buy the KitKats, hoard them away in the baby’s changing bag and then transfer them to an under-bed hiding place in a cold draught when back at the farmhouse. I would eat one finger per day and wrap the rest up, so as not to look like I was having an affair with a cave tour guide.
One day, one glorious day, I went down to the kitchen for petit dejeuner and Catherine, the family’s cook and housemaid (yes that’s right…) had bought a huge frangipane-almondy-galette like cake. It was laid out on the table with the baguettes and coffee. I didn’t touch it until Grandmere Edith gave a slab, for fear that more than 2g of sugar would send me into a coma/ecstatic fit of joy, I don’t know which would have been worse.
It was the best cake I’ve ever tasted. Sweet, sooo sweet, dense and rich and buttery with that fragrant, almost floral nuttiness of so many almonds the cake could have been marzipan. I had 3 slices, shamefully, but it really was that good. When I asked why we had cake that day, Edith replied, in her stern french manner “because if you leave any more half-eaten KitKats under the bed the mice will come back”.
Nigella’s almond and cinnamon cake is the closest I’ve come to that cake, including raids in numerous french patisseries every time I’ve crossed the channel since. It’s really delicious and the almonds get sweeter and more pungent every day you keep it. PLUS it’s gluten and dairy free!
Preheat your oven to 180C and grease a mid-sized cake tin with a little olive oil. Line the base with baking parchment.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 mins, but test with a skewer at 30. It can be tricky to know when a flourless cake is ready, but generally, when baked, the skewer will come out mostly clean, but with a few crumbs on it. If there is wet mixture on the skewer, you will need to return the cake to the oven and test every 5-10 mins from then on.
Let the finished product cool in it’s tin before gently removing. If it’s very sticky then you might be best leaving it in the tin, the meringue-type mixture is fragile and breaking a freshly baked cake in half is heartbreaking!