The main layer is the basic génoise recipe from the site, only with some toasted almonds added. It also has a little orange zest mixed in, a great idea that I stole from Rick Bayless. Why a génoise for a Latin American cake? First, because spongecake is Latin American (by way of Europe, of course). Second, because few cakes rival génoise for its ability to soak up liquid without getting mushy. Here’s the formula.
For the Cake
3 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
Zest of one orange
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter (preferably clarified butter)
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extact
For the “Syrup”
1/2 cup dulce de leche
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup evaporate milk
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
For the Frosting
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (if desired)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lay your almonds out on a sheet pan and toast them until lightly browned, about ten minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour. Cool the almonds for a few minutes, then grind them to powder in a food processor. Add the flour, orange zest and salt to the food processor and process about ten seconds to blend everything. Set the mixture aside.
Drop your oven temperature to 350.
Set a saucepan big enough to hold your mixer bowl on the stove with an inch of water in it. Bring it to a simmer. Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt together into a medium bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside.
Pour the sugar into the mixer bowl, add the eggs and whisk to combine. Set the mixer bowl over the pan of water and heat the mixture until it’s warm to the touch (no more than 120 degrees). What you’re trying to do is simply melt the sugar…don’t cook the eggs! It’ll only take a minute or so.
Remove the bowl from the heat and, using the paddle attachment, beat the mixture on medium high until it’s very light and foamy, about triple its original volume (this will take up to ten minutes with a stand mixer). Add the vanilla and beat an additional 10-15 seconds.
Pour a cup or so of the egg foam into the cooled melted butter and stir it until it’s completely incorporated, then gently pour the mixture back into the mixer bowl (this eases the incorporation of the butter into the batter). Next, sprinkle the flour mixture into the mixer bowl and carefully fold (instructions under the “Techniques” menu to the right) until the flour mixture and the butter mixture are completely incorporated.
Gently pour the batter into a parchment-lined 9″ springform pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool about ten minutes, then turn it out onto a rack and let it cool completely. The cake can be frozen at this point, and I usually do. First, because I normally make this several days ahead, second because it makes the cake a bit easier to work with.
When you’re ready to assemble the cake, “top” it by slicing off the very top layer of crust (this will make it easier for the syrup to penetrate it). Place the cake between two 8″ cardboard cake rounds. If frozen, allow the cake to thaw at this point, about an hour. Meanwhile, make the syrup: combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk them lightly.
To assemble: remove the top cardboard circle and with a brush, paint about 3/4 cup of syrup onto it. It’ll take you 5-10 minutes as it soaks in. Put the circle back on and flip the cake over, remove the “bottom” circle and paint on more syrup. Apply about half a cup and judge for yourself how well the cake is taking up the liquid. If it seems to have an appetite for more, paint on more, because you want it fully saturated. If the syrup is already starting to leak out from the bottom of the cake, stop. The cake can rest in the fridge for 2 days at this point if you wish.
For the final assembly, whip the cream to soft peaks and with the machine running sprinkle in the sugar and drizzle in the Grand Marnier. Continue whipping a few seconds more to stiff peaks. Remove the top cake circle and apply the whipped cream with a spatula. Lay the cake on a platter of your choice, slice into small wedges and serve.