Almond Torte


I've written before about how cooking for someone else results in more than a simple combination of ingredients. When you've cooked for someone with love and intention, you can just taste it. It's the reason that your family's mashed potatoes are better than anyone else's, or your grandma's chicken soup is what you crave when you're sick. It reminds me of the concept that 1 + 1 = 3. The idea that there is one thing, and another, and then those two things together form a third thing. A sum of more than its parts. To me, food cooked with love an intention is more than just a few tablespoons of this and a few cups of that. It's the stirring and the smelling, the slicing and the folding, the oven peaking - when all of these things done with intention, you really can taste the love.

Gardening is no different. Yes, we add compost and we seed things at the right time of year. We water when we need to, check for pesky pests and prune things out of our path. But when you come to GFE, you feel that third thing. You feel the community that brings the garden to life and the 28 year history that surrounds the space. I wrote last year that "Garden for the Environment is an act of love to our community, our City and our world." The staff, the volunteers, the neighbors walking their dogs, the youth on field trips, the commuter who just needs a break from the noise - all these people bring that third thing to GFE.

There is no better embodiment of that that our departing Education Manager Adam, who brought energy, enthusiasm, talent and heart to everything he did in the garden. We held a little party in the garden last Saturday to celebrate Adam and so I baked a cake, a sum of more than it's parts, a little act of intention.

For his farewell, I made my mom's Almond Torte - a recipe she got from family friend Ann McMahon and now a favorite in my family. It's the cake my mom made the first time she met my now husband. It's my favorite kind of cake - not too much muss or fuss. No frosting or layers, just really good and full of love.

Ann McMahon's/Ian Favorite/Adam's Farewell Almond Torte

1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature (let it sit out for a couple of hours so its nice and soft)
3/4 c. sugar
1 cup of almond paste (or a 7oz. tube)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 Tbsp. of kirsch, Grand Marnier or whiskey
1/4 c. sifted cake flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 or 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper on the bottom then butter the sides and parchment. Dust with a coating of bread crumbs.

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until nice and fluffy. Add almond paste and mix very well. The almond paste is thick and will tend to clump but keep mixing until it as integrated as possible. Add eggs and mix. Add baking powder, salt, almond extract and liquor. 

Gently fold in cake flour with a rubber spatula and be careful not to over mix. Gently pour into the cake pan and bake for about 40 min (I started checking around 35 but have a 100 year old unreliable oven!). It will be done when it is evenly golden over the top and sides just start to come away from the pan. A toothpick will come out dry though it may not look entirely set. It will as it cools. Dust with powder sugar. Delicious with raspberry sauce, with a cup of coffee or covered in garden flowers.