Toscakaka (Tosca Cake)

When I’m stressed, sad or just generally feeling a bit down, I bake a cake. I found it has some very deep therapeutic effects on me and it instantly calms me down. And by cake I do not mean one of those fancy and intricate layered-sponge-cum-mousse masterworks a proficient patissier would find hard to pull off, but, rather, a very simple and traditional cake which looks hearty and warming. That’s when I laid my eyes on this Scandinavian cake, which I found on the Poires au Chocolat blog. I have in fact merely followed Emma’s take on it (the original recipe is in the Scandilicious Baking recipe book by Signe Johanson), although I opted for golden caster sugar rather than simple caster and used beurre noisette instead of standard butter.

This is a caramel sponge cake topped with a very soft and moreish almond layer. The name sounds very weird to Italian ears as ‘cacca’ is the equivalent of ‘poo’, and I find it very hard to associate it with baking. However, as it turns out, ‘kaka‘ is Swedish for ‘cake’ – incidentally (and very interestingly), the word ‘cake’ comes from the Old Norse kaka (Merriam Webster). As for ‘Tosca‘ , opinions vary: some believe the cake was inspired by Puccini’s opera, while others believe it comes from the almond cakes made in Tuscany (Toscana in Italian). Nevertheless, the cake is based on a standard genoise-inspired sponge and the caramel-like topping seeps into the cake as it bakes, creating a thick layer at the top which is generously sodden in butter and sugar. The almonds on the top soften while baking, creating an enjoyably tender caramel layer on top (you won’t break your teeth on this one!).

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 75ml buttermilk
  • 75g beurre noisette (see below)
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Ingredients (for the almond topping)

  • 150g flaked almonds
  • 125g butter
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 50ml milk
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract (my addition)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160C and line and butter a 23cm round cake tin, preferably with a removable bottom or springform.
  2. If you prefer, you can toast the almond flakes either in the oven for about 10 minutes or on the hob in dry a frying pan, then set aside.
  3. To make your beurre noisette, melt unsalted butter in a saucepan, then increase the heat to medium until the mixture starts foaming and bubbling up. Leave to bubble away until it turns a dark caramel colour, by which point it will be done. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whip the eggs, sugar and vanilla together on high for 5 minutes, until the mixture is a pale and very thick. While it whisks, sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture over the egg bowl, then gently fold in with a large spatula. Drizzle half of the buttermilk over the top and fold in. Repeat with the next 1/3 of flour, the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour. Finally drizzle half of the butter over the top, fold in, then repeat with the remaining butter. Be gentle but thorough, scraping the bottom and ensuring all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  6. Transfer to the tin, then tap on the counter once to remove any big air bubbles. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden and set (check for doneness with a skewer).
  7. Start making the topping 10-15 minutes before the cake is due to be ready. Mix all of the ingredients in a saucepan and stir as the butter melts. Keep on stirring over a medium heat. The mixture will bubble and slightly thicken. Remove from the heat.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and set over a wire rack. Pour the caramel and almond topping over the cake, then spread with a palette knife right until the edges. Increase the oven temperature to 200C, then put the cake back in for another 10 minutes, until the top is bubbling.
  9. Remove from the oven, leave to stand for 3 minutes, then use a palette knife or a round bladed knife to run alongside the edges of the tin and to release the cake and the topping. Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

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