Courtney Moisant, pastry chef from the three Michelin-starred Manresa, in California makes warm baking spices, almond and citrus shine in this decadently simple personal favorite that celebrates the holiday season.
“There’s something so nostalgic about this cake for me! It’s screams ‘holidays’!” she says. Now living in Santa Cruz, the Los Angeles native had dessert on her mind since age 5, when she baked a chocolate birthday cake with her mom. At 13, her parents gave her “Desserts By The Yard,” by Chef Sherry Yard of Spago in Beverly Hills. “I could see being a pastry chef,” says Courtney. “I couldn’t draw or paint, but this felt creative, approachable. I loved tailoring desserts to make people feel special. The hospitable nature of baking really drew me in.”
Why this recipe? It’s simple. That, and it features her favorite winter flavors. “This is the ultimate trifecta for me: warm vanilla, almond and baking spice. It’s an absolute showstopper!” This quick, bread-style oil-based cake can be baked in a loaf or round cake pan. “Put some powdered sugar and sliced almonds on top, and TADA!” But it’s the citrus, abundant in California, that makes this cake shine. “I have a soft spot for citrus. I am a big grapefruit fan. The bitter flavor adds dimension. Meyer lemon would be nice, for its floral element. Use blood oranges if you’re lucky enough to have them.” Derived from a recipe she’s been fiddling with since her student days in New York City, it takes her back to her early days of baking.
Spiced vanilla almond cake with honey roasted citrus
Spiced almond cake
- 250g sugar
- 190g all-purpose flour
- 45g almond flour
- 2g baking soda
- 2g baking powder
- 3g salt
- ¼ tsp cinnamon ¼ tsp ginger
- 1/8 tsp clove
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 160g olive oil
- 160g milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- 25g sliced almonds (with skin)
Set your oven to 350F/175C and prepare a loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom and two long sides with a piece of parchment.
In a bowl with a whisk, combine the sugar, all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and the spices. In a pitcher, combine the eggs, milk, and oil with the vanilla seeds. Pour one third of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until mostly incorporated. Next, add another third of the wet ingredients and mix until mostly incorporated. Continue with the remaining wet ingredients. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and make sure the batter is homogenous. Fill the loaf pan with the cake batter, then sprinkle the top with the sliced almonds. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 20 minutes. If the top starts to brown too quickly, gently cover the top with a piece of tin foil.
When the cake is done cooking, a toothpick will come out clean from the center, the sides will begin to pull away from the pan, and the cake will lightly spring back when gently touched in the middle.
- 130g honey
- 35g lillet blanc
- 25g lemon juice
- 2g salt
- 1 vanilla bean
In a pot, combine all the ingredients and cook to 230F/110C. Set aside.
Select five citrus fruits, any mix of your choosing. You may use more if they are on the smaller side, or less if they are larger. I would recommend a mix of fruits that are acidic, sweet, and bitter.
Cut the citrus into segments and place them in a shallow heat proof container. Cover the segments with the honey syrup. Place the mixture under the broiler and cook until the citrus is just softened and has a touch of caramelization.
1- Make sure your oven is calibrated! You can easily purchase an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is set to the correct temperature. If you set your oven to 350F and your oven thermometer reads 300F, then set your oven to 400F, and the thermometer inside the oven should read 350F.
2- When mixing the cake, make sure you are adding the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in three additions. If you add too much of the wet ingredients at once, your cake will have lumps of dry pieces.
3- When making simple recipes, it is important to use quality ingredients. Use fresh spices in your cake, and a high-quality olive oil. The honey and citrus are front and center, so use a honey that has a flavor you like on its own, and take your time selecting citrus that have unique flavors. I love to use Wild Poppies olive oil from Aptos, and honey from Post Street Farms in Santa Cruz.