Judging by the frequency of the dessert recipes I’ve been posting lately, you’d think that all I eat are sweets. (Well, actually you wouldn’t be too far off the mark.) But I just had to bake this cake, which I also ate at the annual picnic of my Italian chit-chat group, “Le Matte.” My friend Maria, a member of the group, brought this stellar dessert but unfortunately, I never got a photo of it last week. I’ve been bugging her for this recipe for more than a year, so when she sent it to me following the picnic, I had no choice but to bake it in order to photograph it for you. Truth be told, it tastes so divine, I was compelled by forces greater than nature to make this. Who am I to resist with those kinds of powers? Maria warned that the cake may sink a little in the middle and mine was no exception. I’m not sure how to remedy this, so if you have any ideas, send ‘em my way. In any case, the rich almond flavor and moist texture makes this a delicious dessert all on its own, but if you want to gild the lily, serve it with berries or a scoop of ice cream. Addendum: Following a reader’s suggestion, I baked the cake again, altering the preparation, and lowering the oven temperature as well. It worked out PERFECTLY with nary a dip or valley in the cake. Rather than beat with a mixer for a long time, as the original recipe called for, I used a stick blender to mash the almond paste and butter together. It kept too much air from being incorporated into the batter, which was my goal, but I think a food processor would work equally well. This method not only produces a level cake, but it’s so much faster and easier too. So follow this if you want the same results. The picture on top and at the bottom of this post were of the first cake, and you can tell the cake has a slight dip in the middle. It was delicious nonetheless. But here’s a shot of the cake I made with the altered preparation instructions, cooking temperature and time. Here’s what it looked like out of the oven, with nary a dip or valley in sight: Five-Star Almond Cake 2 sticks butter, leave at room temp. until VERY soft 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measure after sifting) 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cup sugar 7-ounce tube almond paste, at room temp. until soft 4 egg yolks, room temperature 1 teaspoon almond extract (I do not use this but use vanilla extract) 1 cup sour cream 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup slivered almonds, optional Powdered sugar for sifting over cake Oven 300 1. Butter sides and bottoms of 2 8-inch spring form pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter paper. Place pans in freezer 2. Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a medium-size bowl. Set aside. 3. In a food processor, place almond paste and butter and pulse until smooth. Add sour cream, egg yolks, almond extract and sugar and whir until blended. 4. Take the mixture out of the food processor and place in a bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir with a spatula or a spoon just until blended. 5. Divide batter between prepared pans and spread evenly. (I added slivered almonds on top here.) 6. Bake 1 hour and 5 or 10 minutes or more until tops are golden and spring back when lightly pressed and cakes shrink from sides of the pans. 7. Cool in pans on wire rack. Remove sides of pans and paper. 8. Sift powdered sugar on top before serving and slice like a pie. The cake improves with age but is fabulous the same day. Yield: 2 cakes, 8 to 10 servings each.