The fallback: Chez Panisse almond torte
When I don't have time to shop or produce an elaborate dessert (who am I kidding? I hardly ever make elaborate desserts), my fallback is inevitably the almond torte from "Chez Panisse Desserts" by Lindsay Shere. The book is a classic and includes illustrations by artist Wayne Thiebaud.
Butter, eggs, flour, vanilla extract, I've always got. And most of the time I keep some rolls of almond paste lurking somewhere in the pantry.
That's basically it.
Time to mix up the batter: maybe five minutes, including dragging out the mixer and putting it back again and cutting a parchment paper circle for the bottom of the springform cake tin. It's important to beat the eggs in one by one.
Sometimes while the cake is baking (it takes an hour or so), I cut a snowflake stencil for dusting the powdered sugar on top.
Oh, and you want to bake the cake ahead of time, so it has time to cool.
Easy. Easy as, well, not pie, but pound cake.
Everybody, everybody loves this cake. Thank you, Lindsay Shere. And happy birthday Chez Panisse, which celebrates its 40th anniversary later this month.
"Chez Panisse Desserts" by Lindsay Remolif Shere (Random House, New York, 1985, 341 pages, $17.95). Random House published a paperback edition in 1994, which is still in print and available online through the restaurant.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photo: Almond torte. Credit: S. Irene Virbila