Almond Cake: “Shar-Pei” from Elizabeth

“I said to the almond tree, ‘Friend, speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.”  Nikos Kazantzakis.

Now I am not a big dessert fan and eschew a tasting menu like we recently enjoyed at Le Bernardin because I don’t crave a sugar-high at the end of the meal like Thérèse. 

 Those few who patronize my bizarre tastes can occasionally entice me out of my dessert-fasting if lemon, lime or almond plays center stage.   In fact, I believe that I have tried any-and-all almond cakes devised by man, woman and quite possibly a few ETs. 

Hands-down, my favorite almond cake is from Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte (Note:  Pit Bull Broderick points out that it is Cooking for Mr. Latte not Mr. Right.  Actually, Ms. Hesser lifted the recipe from Elizabeth, the mother of “Mr. Latte,” (who must be all right) for shortly after marrying him she left writing a food column for the New York Times.  In any event, the following recipe for Almond Cake is “adapted from Elizabeth” and was published many moons ago in the New York Times magazine.   A word of warning:  This cake caves in on itself while cooking and often resembles the face of the delightful Shar-Pei featured in the photograph to the left.   This has now become the featured dessert of Miranda “Peace and Joy” Broderick.   (Editor’s note:  Pitbull Nora ate Miranda’s copy of Cooking for Mr. Latte, but by then she had already found Mr. Right!)

Almond Cake “Shar-Pei” adapted from Elizabeth

Ingredients (makes 2 cakes 8 servings each)

2 sticks of butter, more for buttering pan
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measure after sifting)
1/2 tsp of salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
7-ounce tube of almond paste
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
Powdered sugar, for sifting over cake (this is essential!)


  1. Preheat oven to 325°.  Butter sides and bottoms of 2 8-inch spring-form pans, line sides and bottoms with parchment paper.  Butter paper.  Place pans in freezer.
  2. Sift flour and salt into a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter and granulated sugar at high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add almond paste – a little at a time – medium speed, and beat 8 minutes.  Beat in egg yolks, one at a time and almond extract.  Mix sour cream and baking soda and add the butter mixture.  Reduce mixer-speed to low and gradually add flour mixture just until blended.
  3. Divide batter between prepared pans and spread evenly.  Bake about 1 1/4 hours, until tops are golden and spring back when lightly pressed and cakes shrink from sides of the pans.  Cook in pans on wire rack.  Remove sides of pans and remove paper.  Elizabeth says:  “This is the Shar-Pei of cakes.  It doesn’t look very pretty; it crumbles on the edges and invariably falls in the middle.  No matter – it is still delicious.  Store in a covered tin in or out of the fridge.  It improves with age and can be made 1 to 2 weeks ahead.”  When ready to serve, sift powdered sugar on top and slice like a pie.

Almond Cake “Shar-Pei” is like old age:  it doesn’t look pretty, but it is pretty damn good and ages well. 


  1. I have been advised by Pit Bull that Miranda is now “Peace and Joy” rather than Panda. Duly noted!


  1. […] would like to share this recipe for puntarelle from Amanda “Searching for Mr. Latte” Hesser,  which was published in Jan 27, 2002, in the New York Times Magazine.  Puntarelle is most […]

  2. […] one of the finest writers of the 20th century. Kazantzakis dealt with large themes: life, love and God; in ways that few writers have the authentic passion to emulate. For instance, in his […]

Speak Your Mind


Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.