Tosca Cake

Tosca cake is a Scandinavian favorite, thought to be named for Puccini's opera. It's a delicate sponge, crowned with a caramelized almond, praline-like topping. It's luscious enough on its own, but it also makes a great accompaniment for a pile of tiny new summer strawberries.

Tosca Cake i
Alex Trimble for NPR
Tosca Cake
Alex Trimble for NPR

Makes about 8 servings

Cake Layer

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 stick butter (8 tablespoons), melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup milk

3 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

Tosca Topping

1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons)

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

1 cup sliced/flaked almonds (you can substitute slivered almonds if desired, though I think the thin-sliced almonds make a more delicate topping)

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment, and butter that as well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Mix together the butter, vanilla and milk, and set aside (it should be warm enough that the butter is liquid, but not too hot).

With an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar on a high speed until pale and thick. Add the flour mixture and the milk mixture in turns, mixing after each addition until just barely combined, ending with the dry ingredients. Do not overmix (it's better to err on the side of undermixing to ensure a tender cake). Pour into the springform pan and place in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is just barely set.

While the cake is baking, prepare the topping. Combine the butter, sugar, cream, flour and salt in a saucepan. Place over a medium-high flame and stir to combine as the butter melts. When the mixture has combined, add the almonds and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Let simmer 1 minute, then turn off the heat. Stir in the extracts and set aside.

When the cake has baked for 20 to 25 minutes and is just barely set, gently remove it from the oven. Raise the oven temperature to 400. Gently spread the topping on the cake. Place the cake back in the oven, and bake an additional 15 minutes or so, until the topping is golden brown. Allow to cool before slicing.

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