RECIPE TITLE "Almond Pound Cake (Pain de Genes)"
Source: The Art of the Cake: Modern French Baking and Decorating
Copyright © by Bruce Healy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
For 6 to 8 servings --- moderate
Andre Massena was one of Napoleon's most important and trusted generals and a Marshal of France. He played a key role in the decisive defeat of the Austrians at Rivoli, in the Venetia, on January 15, 1797; for that service Napolean would one day create for him the title Duke of Rivoli. Later, in the beginning of the year 1800, Napoleon sent Massena to Genoa to command what was left of his Army of Italy. Massena defended Genoa from February until June when, having survived for months on a diet of only rice and almonds, Massena and his army were forced to surrender. However, by keeping the besieging troops occupied, Massena gave Napoleon time to defeat the Austrians at the village Marengo (celebrated in a legendary chicken dish) in the Italian Piedmont, eventually leading to the Treaty of Luneville in February of 1801.
Pain de genes was created in homage to Andre Massena's courage and tenacity in adverse circumstances. The cake has a hefty dose of powdered almonds, and while it is customarily made with potato starch (and sometimes wheat flour) today, originally it was made with rice flour. At first it was called gateau d'ambroisie because Napoleon had nicknamed Massena "l'Ambroise," ambrosia being the food of the gods of Olympus, which, according to legend, rendered anyone who tasted it immortal. During the nineteenth century, the name of the cake was transformed to gateau de genes and eventually to pain de genes (literally "Genoa bread"), which has stuck.
Despite the circumstances which inspired its creation, pain de genes is a very luxurious cake, with almondsmaking up one quarter of its weight and butter nearly the same proportion. It was invented by a pastry chef named Fauvel at the patisserie Chiboust, which was located on the rue St. Honori in Paris.
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon ( 4 1/2 ounces / 125 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups (12 ounces / 340 g) almond-and-sugar powder
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons + 1 tsp (3.5 cl)European kirsch or dark Jamaican or Haitian rum
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces / 45 g) potato starch
8-inch (20-cm) fluted tarte mold or deep quiche pan (or substitute a plain round cake pan)
* brush with melted butter
* sprinkle about 1 tablespoon (10 g) sliced almonds over the bottom of the mold
Heavy baking sheet
Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with flat beater and wire whip
Preheat the oven to 320 F (160C).
1. Cream the butter in the mixer, using the flat beater if your mixer has one. Beat in half of the almond-and-sugar powder and continue whipping at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes to make the mixture very white and light. Beat in the remaining almond-and-sugar powder.
2. Beat in one egg (still with the flat beater if you are using it). Then switch to the wire whip and beat in the remaining eggs one at a time, whipping until the batter is smooth,light, and fluffy before adding each successive egg. When all of the eggs have been added, continue whipping for a few seconds longer, then gradually whip in the kirsch orrum.
3. Sift the potato starch onto a sheet of wax paper, and fold it into the batter using a wire whisk.
4. Scoop the batter into the prepared tarte mold. Smooth the surface from the center out to the sides of the pan, making a depression in the center. Place the tarte mold on the baking sheet.
5. Bake until the top of the cake is light brown and firm to the touch and the cake just begins to shrink from the sides of the mold, about 45 to 55 minutes. When the cake is done, the tip of a paring knife inserted into the center will come out clean.
6. Place the cake on a wire rack and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then unmold the cake onto a wire rack and let it cool right side up (that is, with the sliced almonds on top). Serve at room temperature.
Covered airtight with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days at room temperature (or refrigerated in hot weather).
Or, freeze for as long as 3 months. If frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then unwrap the cake and let it stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving to allow condensation produced by defrosting to evaporate.
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