Almond Cake

almond cake on cake stand

We all have our ride-our-die recipes. These are the recipes we love above all others, the recipes that we’d go to hell and back for, the recipes that we want chiseled into our gravestones. In my particular case, I have two: the cavatappi with sun-dried tomatoes that I talk about all the time, and this almond cake… which I also talk about all the time. It’s a recipe that I first wrote about back in 2004 (!) when I made it with my friend Lisa in the kitchen of my Chelsea apartment, back when I was a grad student at NYU. Since then, I must’ve made this recipe at least a hundred times. It’s my go-to dessert in almost any and every situation and it always dazzles. And I’m doing a new post about it now because I want to really emphasize the point: this is a recipe that you need in your repertoire.

Mr. Latte’s Mom’s Recipe

The first thing that you need to know about this almond cake is that it’s from Amanda Hesser’s wonderful book, Cooking for Mr. Latte. This book (one of the only books I’ve ever read twice) covers Amanda’s courtship with the New Yorker writer, Tad Friend. What makes the book charming and perennial is Amanda’s fearlessness in writing about her life; from getting annoyed with her grandmother on a trip to Italy to hating to share her food when she’s out at a nice dinner, Amanda’s a lovable anti-hero. And some of the best parts of the book are her descriptions of Tad’s mother, Elizabeth Groesbeck Pierson, a wonderful cook who passed this recipe on to her future daughter-in-law.

Like the best recipes, the cake seems really simple at first. It’s just almond paste, butter, sugar, sour cream, almond extract, baking powder, and salt. But once you taste it, you’ll understand why this recipe’s a classic: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Prepping Your Almond Cake for Take-Off

There are a few tricks about this almond cake I’ve learned over the years. The main one has to do with lightness. Because of the almond paste, this cake has a tendency to be dense, but there are a few tricks to make it fluff up. Trick #1: Listen to the recipe when it says to sift the flour before measuring. This ensures that (a) you’re not using too much flour and (b) that the flour you are using is aerated.

Trick #2: Really make sure your butter is at room temperature before starting. That’ll help it incorporate better with the sugar and will allow more air to get worked in. Trick #3: Make sure to mix the baking soda with the sour cream before you add it to the batter. Like a science experiment in middle school, the two react together and the sour cream will double in volume. All that activity is your friend in terms of making a light cake.

Dust with Powdered Sugar and Serve

Some cakes need icing, some cakes need whipped cream. This cake is marvelous on its own, but it does need a dusting of powdered sugar just to give it some necessary pizzazz. Sift it on right before serving… it has a tendency to get absorbed into the cake. You could also sprinkle on some raspberries if you want to, that might look nice.

And now you know everything you need to know about one of my favorite recipes of all time. All you have to do is make it and soon it’ll be one of yours too.

almond cake
almond cake on cake stand

Almond Cake

The greatest almond cake of all time, from Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword almond, baking, butter, dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 8 people


  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature (plus more for buttering the pan)
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measured after sifting) This is worth doing to keep your cake light!
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt I use 1 teaspoon, but I like the salty-sweet thing.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 7 ounce tube almond paste
  • 4 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract It's worth buying almond extract for this recipe because you'll definitely be making this cake again.
  • Confectioners' sugar, for sifting over the cake


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan (I use at least a tablespoon). The butter not only ensures that the cake will release later, it adds a little extra flavor. Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a bowl or a large measuring glass. Sift the flour and salt into another bowl.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the two sticks of butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. At that point, start breaking off little pieces of the almond paste and dropping them in. Your goal here is to do a little at a time so each little piece gets worked in before you add the next one. Once all the almond paste is added, continue to beat the mixture for an additional 8 minutes. This ensures that the almond paste really gets worked into the mix.
  • Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. It might look curdled, that's okay! Blend in the almond extract and the sour cream mixture. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until the last streak of flour disappears. Remove from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape around from the bottom just to make sure everything is incorporated.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about one hour. You'll know it's done when it's no longer wobbly in the middle and pressing your finger into it doesn't leave an indentation. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan. Run a knife around the cake, open up the spring form, and flip the cake on to a plate. Then flip the cake back on to a cake stand and sift powdered sugar all over it. Eat right away or save for later… this cake actually gets better as it sits.

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