This plum almond honey torte is made from a rich combination of ground almonds, butter, egg yolks and sweet honey. It’s topped with plums for an autumnal spin, and being made without flour is naturally gluten free.
When you spend 4 days cooking a shed load of tasty vegetables for a bunch of yogis and all they can remember what you fed them was cake.
I guess I’ve discovered over the years, that a cracking dessert is always the best way to put a smile on people’s face. Not the type of dessert to leave you bursting at the seams, but one with enough sweetness and light to leave you satisfied, nourished and still hungry for breakfast the next day.
Last weekend I had the absolute joyful experience of cooking for my first retreat abroad. I was invited to cook for one of my yoga teachers Will Wheeler at a beautiful place called Maison de la Vaure in the Bordeaux/Cognanc region of south west France.
Catering abroad brought me so many new challenges, and one I was ready to take on after a safe couple of years in the UK. UK retreats usually mean ordering food via an online supermarket from the comfort of my laptop a few days before the trip and popping my prized kitchen equipment in my van. French retreats mean 1 suitcase on a plane with whatever I could fit in (a cake tin, my knives, clothes and a jar of tahini), driving on the left and visiting local supermarkets armed with my GCSE level French. Ou’est le quinoa?
So, I kept my fingers crossed for finding the ingredients I wanted to enable me to serve the menu I had carefully planned in advance. Apart from a lack of fresh beetroot which still baffles me, it all worked out just fine.
Since French desserts are fairly often almond based I suspected that I’d be able to get hold of ground almonds – or poudre d’amandes – fairly easily, and thankfully I was right. Plum almond honey torte and chocolate almond olive oil cake were staying on the dessert menu!
Since Will and I arrived a day before the guests to do our shopping, and generally settle into French life it gave me ample time to get some of my baking (i.e granola and cake) done ready before the mania of the retreat began. It also gave me an opportunity (one I had not planned at all!) to photograph the plum almond honey torte in the beautiful late afternoon light of the dining room of the Maison de la Vaure. The roses were cut fresh from the garden, just minutes before hand to decorate the dining room for the guests and provided the perfect photography prop.
I’ve baked this almond honey torte quite a few times in recent years and its based on a recipe in the Yummy Supper Cookbook by Erin Scott whom I met when I lived in Berkeley, California. It’s extremely simple, and the only adaptations I make are are baking fruit into the top and adapting the cooking method to get the finish and taste I like (as well as scaling it up for 12). Erin serves hers without the fruit baked in and with fresh berries on the side. You can make this in a wider or rectangle flan tin if you have one (adapt quantities to suit), or in a smaller cake tin like I did for a deeper torte. Totally up to you.
Adapt the recipe for your season. Plums, apple, pear, figs – all make the perfect topping. Serve with a dollop of French crème fraiche – a tang to offset all that sweetness from the French floral honey. I really like adding almond extract to the torte too for a strong frangipane flavour, although it’s not essential if you cant find it in a french rural supermarche.
- 165g salted french butter (or use whatever you can find plus pinch salt)
- 330g ground almonds
- 180mls honey
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla essence (or almond extract for a frangipane taste)
- 3 plums, sliced into crescent moons.
- Grease and line the base of a 9 inch spring form cake tin with parchment paper and grease the sides.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan, till it starts to go golden brown. You can go one step further and make a beurre noisette if you enjoy the deeper flavour of browned butter. I didn’t on this occasion
- Take off the heat, leave it cool for a few minutes, then add the honey and stir well, wait for it to cool down a little more before adding in the egg yolks and vanilla and stirring well to combine.
- Finally add the ground almonds, salt and and combine till you have a thick paste.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and flatten down with your fingers. I often use some parchment paper in between the cake and my fingers to stop them sticking.
- Take the plum slices and lightly push them into the batter in a circular fashion taking care not to destroy the top of the cake.
- Put the cake into the freezer for 30 minutes, this stops the butter from melting before the rest of the cake cooks.
- Pre-heat the oven to 150ºC (fan).
- Then slide the torte into the oven for ~30 minutes, if after this time the edges have cooked and the middle has not (this often happens for me), then finish off under the grill until the almonds have browned all over and the plums start to glisten.
- Remove from the oven/grill and when completely cooled remove from the cake tin. Chill in the fridge until about 30 minutes before you are ready to eat it. Slice into 12 portions using a serrated knife being careful when you slice through the plums.
- The torte will keep for a few days in the fridge, but it's likely your guests will plead you for a second portion and who are you to say no.
What fruit would you bake into the top?
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