Last year on this day, we were still living in Maryland and we drove into DC to spend some time exploring the Capital for my birthday... so I never did get a chance to make anything. In '06, we were living back in Phoenix(!) and I made that enjoyable Peanut Butter Cake. We decided to stay in this year, so I spent some time making my own treat... I couldn't pick one out, so I showed Jeff some options and he plucked out a recipe for this Linzer Cake.
Of course, this happened to be the recipe that probably used the most bowls... hee hee! There are quite a few steps to this cake, but don't let that deter you from trying it out as it reads more complicated than it is. On to the birthday cake!
When you go to grind the almonds, you want to get them fairly fine, but you don't want it to start turning into almond butter. If you are afraid the nuts might go too far, go ahead and add a little of the granulated sugar from the cake and it will help keep the oils in check. This almond-infused cake has a very light texture to it - almost angel cake-ish, but with a rich note. The eggs are easiest to separate when cold, but the whites will whip up to their fullest volume when they are at room temperature. I used a hand mixer for the whites while the stand mixer was churning away on the egg yolks - talk about multi-tasking! You could just use one or the other (especially if you have two bowls on your stand mixer), but I don't and I didn't want the egg whites standing around for too long.
This type of cake is easy to tell when it is done - the top will be golden and if you lightly press your finger into the center, it will spring right back. If you prefer the toothpick test, you want a few moist crumbs attached when you pull it out. Since these layers are pretty soft and delicate, you will want to use a gentle hand when working with them. We kept with the "linzer" theme, so when the cake has cooled completely, we spread a thick layer of raspberry jam on top of one and sandwiched the other layer on top. We both thought any kind of frosting might have been a bit too heavy, so a shower of confectioners' sugar and a few fresh plump raspberries were the only thing we decided to decorate with - maybe a dollop of whipped cream, if so inclined, could also be a welcomed accompaniment. I think you could go any direction with this cake to suit your own personal tastes - how about blackberry jam and fresh blackberries or maybe you would prefer a strawberry cake?
We made sure to assemble the cake a few hours before we were ready to let that raspberry essence soak into the layers. Laced with the rich almonds, this moist cake was not too sweet, so that pure layer of ruby jam brought just the right amount of oomph needed.