Found this recipe @SmittenKitchen. It reminded me of a cake my grandfather used to make at Alpine Bakery. His had a thin layer of some sort of buttercream (or the like) on top layer and that was sprinkled with toasted, flaked coconut instead of almond slivers but it was essentially the same: a delicate almond cookie-cake with citrus notes and a creamy raspberry jam. Every year, my mother complains that she isn’t a big fan of frostings and whipped creams and wishes someone would get her a birthday cake like her father’s Neapolitan. Unfortunately, my grandfather died when I was 10, and so did most of his recipes along with him. And, in this house heaps of chocolate and whipped cream tend to win out over delicate European torte cakes every time.
First, let me get this out there: this recipe is a time consuming pain in the ass. But it’s totally worth it. It’s also expensive if you don’t keep vanilla beans, orange blossom water, whole raw almonds and almond extract on hand. Since Deb @SmittenKitchen commented on the caramel flavor not coming through as much as she hoped, I made use of my favorite caramel substitute - Cajeta aka Dulce de Leche.
1 cup sugar
1.5 cups seedless raspberry jam (go for good quality here people!)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Half of a vanilla bean
.5 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup whole blanched, peeled almonds, toasted
3 cups flour, sifted
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
.5 tsp almond extract
1 tsp orange blossom water
.5 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Filling: Remove the wrapper from the can of sweetened condensed milk. Place can (UNOPENED!) on it’s side in a large, non-reactive pot and almost cover with water. Cook over medium-high heat for several hours, adding more water as necessary. Keep in mind, the longer it cooks the darker and richer the caramel will be. I normally let mine cook for 2-3 hours. Using a silicon oven mit, remove can from boiling water and place on a heat-resistant surface. When cool to touch, carefully open can, being sure to stand to the side so that any heat/pressure still in the can will not cause the hot, sticky, sugary goodness to spray out on you (or buy a can of Le Lechera pre-made Cajeta). Scrape about half of the can into a small sauce pot and over low heat carefully whisk in the jam, the scraped vanilla bean and seeds, 1 tablespoon of water, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. (The caramel will bubble violently.) Simmer, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves into the jam. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Cookie Cake Layers: In a food processor, pulverize the whole almonds with 2 tablespoons of the flour to make a sort of almond flour
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and zests until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix in the pulverized almond mixture until combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and then add the almond extract and orange-flower water. Mix in the remaining flour.
Divide the dough into six equal balls about 6oz each (weigh them, people! it matters when baking!) Place each ball between two sheets of plastic wrap and press into an 8-inch circle, using the inside of an 8” cake pan as a guide. Try to keep the edges as neat and clean as possible. Make sure to keep the plastic wrap nice and smooth or you’ll break your dough into a zillion pieces when you go to bake it.
Chill the dough rounds in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or freeze for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Carefully remove plastic wrap, place a dough round (or two, if your cookie sheets are large enough) on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake until golden, about 12-15 minutes. Watch this baking time carefully, as ovens vary and the cookies are so thin, even an extra minute or two can overly darken the edges. This is where the even weight of your dough rounds is important! If you have two on the sheet and they’re different weight/thickness, they won’t cook evenly. Nobody likes a burnt cookie cake!
Cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining rounds.
Assembly: Lay a round in the center of a flat serving plate. Spread .25c of jam to just before the edge. Place the next round on top. Continue to layer the rounds, spreading jam between each. Spread a thin layer of jam over the top and cover with sliced, toasted almonds.
The cake can be served immediately, but tastes even better, and is easier to cut, if tightly wrapped and served 1 to 2 days later so that the jam soaks into the cookie layers and the flavors come out (remind you of an icebox cake, maybe?). If the cake looks too delicious to wait, be very careful when cutting or the rounds will crumble. If you have the patience of a saint and can wait the day or two, wrap the cake without the final layer of jam and almonds and spread it when you’re ready to serve.