«Nougatina» – Heavenly Almond Layer Cake

nougatina 1.jpgThe cake to celebrate all moms! I don’t really know why it‘s called “Nougatina”. Maybe the Cypriot bakers of the 60’s got inspiration from the French word “nougatine” which is almonds and caramel or “nougat” which is almonds, egg whites and honey. Also, I don’t really know if this layer cake exists in any country other than Cyprus! What I do know is that these divine layers of deliciousness deserve a very high place in my hall of fame.

In the 60’s and 70’s, even 80’s, “Nougatina” was really popular especially at kid’s birthday parties. Sometimes it was the actual birthday cake. Layers of almond-rich, flourless sponge, sandwiched with dreamy, vanilla pastry cream and finished with a whipped cream frosting. I remember some moms used pistachios to make the sponge instead of almonds and their cake was called “Pistachio”.

nougatina close up.jpgThis is a memorable, moist and delicious layer cake. If I had to choose my favourite cake, after chocolate, this would be it. It’s not difficult to put together, it’s as time consuming as the average layer cake. In fact, the sponge is very simple to make. Ground almonds mixed with whipped egg whites and sugar, then baked. I have been making this layer cake for years now, so I have adjusted some of the older traditions with new ones. I have created more, thinner layers to allow for more pastry cream in every bite. Also, I have added mascarpone in the frosting to make it even more luscious.

I can’t tell you enough good things about this cake. I still see it in black and white at my 6th birthday party. I taste the best ever “pistachio” version of Mrs. Corina. And now, I can’t imagine a mother’s day celebration without it.

  • Important note: For the cake in the photo I used 1 ½ times the quantity you see below as I wanted a taller cake. The quantity below makes a 4 layer cake which is enough for at least 12 people.

For the sponge:

  • 2 ½ cups raw almonds, skin on
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 10 large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 5 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbs corn flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50 grams unsalted butter

For the frosting:

  • 100 grams mascarpone
  • 1 ¼ cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Fresh strawberries to serve (optional)

Method

Make the sponges: Preheat oven to 175 C. Grease the base of 2 x 23cm cake pans with removable sides. Line base with parchment paper. Grease and flour the paper.

Put the almonds and flour in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Blend until the nuts are ground finely.

Add the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until frothy. Gradually, while beating add the sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Fold the ground almonds in the meringue, in two batches, taking care not to deflate the mixture too much. Fold in the vanilla extract.

Divide the mixture in the 2 pans. Level the top with a small spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. The sponges will not rise much. They will have a nice golden colour.

As soon as the sponges come out of the oven, run a small spatula all around the sides of the pans to release the sides. Invert the sponges on a wire rack and remove the parchment paper from the base. Invert sponges again so that they are the right side up. Cool sponges completely, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Sponges keep wrapped in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Make the filling: Heat the milk, cream and sugar over medium heat until almost boiling. Beat the egg yolks, corn flour and vanilla until mixed. Gradually, while beating constantly, add the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Transfer the mixture in a clean pot over medium-low heat. Cook stirring constantly with a whisk until thickened. Remove from heat and add the butter. Stir until melted and combined.

Pour cream in a glass bowl. Put a piece of plastic wrap or a greased round of parchment paper, directly on the surface of the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming. Cool cream completely to room temperature, and then transfer in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Assemble the cake: Take sponges out of the fridge and unwrap. With a sharp knife split cakes in half. Layers will be thin with somewhat rough edges. That’s how it should be. Place layers on your working area, cut side up.

Take the filling out of the fridge and discard plastic wrap or parchment round from surface. Use a whisk to beat the cream slightly to loosen it. Divide cream in 3 equal parts.

Place one sponge layer (cut side up) on a cake platter. Spread with 1/3 of the pastry cream. Top with another layer and repeat process two more times. You will have a 4 layer cake. Cover cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. This will give time to the pastry cream to thicken slightly, making it easier for you to frost the cake.

Make the frosting, by adding all the ingredients in a mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until mixture is thickened to spreading consistency. Don’t over do it otherwise frosting might become grainy. Mascarpone tends to separate easily.

Take layered cake out of the fridge. Frost top and sides. Refrigerate frosted cake for at least 2 hours before serving. Serve and decorate with fresh strawberries or plain.

It’s pure heaven.

 

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