Toasted almond cream cake

Three tablespoons of almond extract sounds like a lot, but it's the correct amount.

7-ounce package ladyfingers (we used two 3-oz packages of Lady Fingers from Specialty Bakers that were about 3" long. didn't have to split or cut in half)

cup (or more) amaretto or almond liqueur

1 pound mascarpone cheese

3 tablespoons almond extract

2/3 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons finely ground almonds

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter

cup blanched almonds, coarsely chopped and toasted

Cut 10 ladyfingers in half to make 20 shorter ladyfingers. Brush one side of the ladyfingers liberally with the amaretto. Stand them vertically around the sides of an 8-inch springform pan, liqueur-side facing inward. Split the rest of the ladyfingers vertically, to create 20 pieces that are full length, but only half a ladyfinger thick. Brush the cut side with amaretto, and place a layer of ladyfingers on the bottom of the pan, liqueur-brushed side facing up. Use pieces of ladyfingers to fill in any gaps.

In a bowl, beat mascarpone cheese until smooth with a large spoon or stiff spatula. Don't over beat with a beater; the cheese may separate. Blend in almond extract, powdered sugar and about 1 tablespoon of amaretto. Spread half the mascarpone mixture on top of the bottom layer of ladyfingers, coming no more than about halfway up the inside of the pan.

Brush more amaretto on the rest of the split ladyfingers, and make a second layer atop the first layer of mascarpone, using pieces to fill gaps, and pushing the ladyfingers into the mascarpone lightly. If there is more amaretto in the cup you started with, sprinkle the rest over the top of the ladyfinger layer. Spread the rest of the mascarpone over that layer, coming to the top of the ladyfingers lining the inside rim.

In a bowl, mix together the ground almonds and the brown sugar. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almond pieces and toast them in the butter, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes or so. Add the toasted almond pieces and the butter from the skillet to the ground almonds and brown sugar mixture. Toss together to make a sort of crumble topping. Scatter the topping over the top of the mascarpone decoratively. Refrigerate a couple of hours, or overnight, before serving.

Makes 12 servings.

Per serving nutrition data: 320 calories, 21 grams fat, 5 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrate, 0 fiber, 60 milligrams sodium, 2 grams alcohol.

Courier Journal

Wednesday, January 4, 2006