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Cashew Cake with Madame Constance’s Maple Frosting
From Seasoned in the South by Bill Smith
Madame Constance was a housemother of a remote youth hostel on the northeastern shore of the St. Lawrence River at Sault-au-Mouton. The recipe calls for cashews but you can use pecans, almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts. You can ice it with lemon curd, whipped cream, and in this instance a sort of buttercream made from maple syrup.
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, soften to room temperature
1 1/2 pounds raw cashews
3 cups sugar
zest of 1 large orange
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups egg whites (about 16 eggs, with yolks reserved for frosting)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
Madame Constance’s Maple Frosting:
This will be a cinch if you have ever made buttercream icing. You will need an electric mixer.
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Grade B pure maple syrup
1 pound unsalted butter, cut into small bits and softened
Makes 2 cups of frosting, enough for a two-layer cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch springform pans, line them with parchment, and butter and flour the parchment.
2. Grind the cashews coarsely with half of the sugar and the orange zest in the food processor. Cashews are every oily so beware that they are not ground so far as to begin to form a paste. Toss in a bit of flour t help keep the nut meal separate.
3. Rinse a mixing bowl with vinegar. Swirl in the salt. Shake the bowl over the sink, but don’t wipe it out. In it, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and then the rest of the sugar. Beat until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the nuts by thirds, and with the last third gently include the sifted flour. Divide batter between the two cake pans.
4. Bake for about one hour. The cake should be pretty and brown and a toothpick or broom straw should come out clean when inserted at the center. Allow it to cool on racks for at least 1 hour before removing the springforms. Each cake will be a layer. The cakes must be absolutely cool before they can be iced or the icing will spoil.
1. Beat the egg yolks with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer for 10 minutes or so on high until they have become pale yellow. Combine the sugar and the maple syrup in a saucepan and bring them to a boil that can’t be stirred down, about 3 minutes.
2. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly drizzle the maple syrup in a thin stream into the egg yolks. Aim so that you don’t hit the whisk and sling the hot sugar out into the room. Add all the syrup. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Return the mixer to high speed. The egg yolks will be fairly hot, so beat the mixture until it has cooled back down to room temperature. Don’t cheat. The eggs must be cool enough so that the butter does not melt when added to them. When the side of the mixing bowl feels cool, add the butter, bit by bit until it is all absorbed.
3. This recipe will make enough frosting to put between the layers and to ice the outside of the two cashew layers. Needless to say, this is very sweet, so sometimes I put barely sweetened whipped cream between the layers and on top of the cake and only use the frosting on the sides. The extra frosting will refrigerate fairly well for a week if tightly wrapped in plastic. It must be softened very slowly at room temperature and applied with a warm knife or spatula.