Rich and buttery with big almond flavor, this cake is mixed in seconds in a food processor, but it tastes fancy and sophisticated, and it keeps for days. Serve it solo with great coffee, or garnish it with fresh fruit, Raspberry Blackberry Puree or Saucy Berries, poached pears in wine, or any of the cherry compotes. See the many variations that follow for more reasons to make it again. The flavor and texture are best if you bake the cake at least a day before serving.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides of the cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Put the almonds, granulated sugar, salt, and almond extract in the food processor and process until the nuts are finely pulverized. Add the butter and kirsch, if using, and pulse until blended. Add the eggs and process until thoroughly blended. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse just until incorporated, scraping the bowl once with a rubber spatula to be sure.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
To unmold, slide a thin knife or a small metal spatula around the sides of the cake to release it. Cover the cake with a serving platter and invert. Remove the pan, peel off the parchment liner, and turn the cake right side up. Wrapped airtight, the cake keeps well at room temperature for several days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months; bring to room temperature before serving.
If desired, dust the cake lightly with powdered sugar before serving.
Excerpted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright (c) 2012. Photographs by Sang An.