This cake is not quite as easy as your run-of-the-mill chocolate cake. But it is still worth the hour or two of your life that you will give it.
Also--One thing about Julia Child. Her instructions are wordy (yeah, who am I to talk?). I appreciate very thorough instructions; I do. But it's one of those things that I think sometimes makes people feel too overwhelmed to try making a cake. And that's a pity. Because everyone should have a chance to know how good homemade cake can be. So I've tried to streamline the instructions just a wee bit.
Julia Child's Chocolate Almond Cake
adapted from Apron Strings
Prep time: 30-40 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cool time before frosting: at least 2 hours
chocolate: 1.25, butter: 1.25, sugar.14, eggs: .30, almonds: 1.00, flour: .06, powdered sugar: .10
Note: To pulverize almonds, I just put sliced almonds in a small blender and pulsed until they were crumb-like. I used a bit over a cup and got a little over the 2/3 necessary. Any leftover can be used in a banana smoothie or your morning oatmeal.
For the cake:
4 oz semisweet chocolate melted with 2 Tbsp hot water (I used 60% chocolate)
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 C granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 C pulverized almonds
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 C flour (I used all-purpose; cake flour would work too)
For the icing:
2 oz semisweet baking chocolate
2 Tbsp hot water
5-6 Tbsp butter
1/2-1 C powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350.
Butter and flour an 8-inch pan (I only had a 9-inch and it worked just fine.) Line the bottom with parchment paper.
Heat water and chocolate. I put it in a microwave safe bowl and nuke it at 20-30 second intervals, mixing in between. If you have big chunks of chocolate, you'll want to chop it first.
Cream together butter and sugar (2/3 C). It will eventually be paler and fluffy--this takes about 3-5 minutes with a hand mixer.
Add egg yolks and beat until well blended.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Sprinkle sugar on and beat until stiff peaks form. If you've never done this, it takes several minutes. Stiff peaks means that when you lift the beaters out, it leaves a little mountain of egg white behind.
Set the egg whites aside.
With rubber spatula, blend melted chocolate into butter/sugar mixture. Mix quickly as you pour. Then stir in almonds and almond extract. Stir (or fold) in one forth of the egg white mixture. Then fold in another 4th of the egg whites, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/3 of the egg, 1/3 of the flour. Then the last of the egg and flour. This keeps the whole thing nice and light while still ensuring that everything gets well incorporated.
Put batter in cake pan. Bake in middle of oven until the outside 2-3 inches have set, but the middle isn't quite set. So if you stick a cake tester in the outside 2 inches, it will come out clean. But when you stick it in the middle, you want it to come out a bit wet. The middle might even be a wee bit jiggly, though not much. (Mine was past jiggly point, but still wet when a knife was inserted.) This is the part where trust comes in. Your center will cook once it's out of the oven. Trust me. But if you overcook this whole thing it will be dry and crumbly (or that's what I'm betting; I did NOT overcook my cake.)
This will take 15-20 minutes in a 9-inch pan and probably about 20-25 in an 8-inch pan.
Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and turn it out onto a rack or serving platter. Allow it to cool completely before frosting.
For the Icing:
Place chocolate and water in a medium or large sized mixing bowl. Melt in microwave at 30 second intervals, mixing in between. When it's melted and smooth, take it out and beat the butter in 1 Tbsp at a time. That's where the original recipe ended, but it was too sophisticated for me, so I added 1/2 C powdered sugar and liked that better. Keep beating beating beating. As you do this, the frosting will start to cool. It will thicken and lighten in color. It will look like normal frosting then and you can spread it on your cooled cake. If you'd like you can press some almonds in in a nice design.