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Red Raspberry Almond (and Chocolate) Passion Cake

3/4 pound butter
2 T Melted butter
3 cups cake flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups toasted sliced almonds, finely chopped
5 large eggs
2 t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly coat the insides of 2 9x 1 1/2 cake
pans with melted butter. Line each pan with parchment paper, then
lightly coat again. If you grease and flour instead, be sure to
do it heavily.

Combine flour, soda and salt in a sifter. Sift together onto waxed
paper and set aside.

Place 3/4 lb butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in bowl of electric
mixer. beat on low for 3 minutes, then on medium for 3 minutes,
scraping the bowl frequently. Add the chopped almonds and beat
for an additional 30 seconds. Add eggs one at a time, beating 30
seconds and scraping down bowl after each addition. Add almond
extract and vanilla extract and beat on high for 2 more minutes.
Reduce speed to low and add half of the sifted dry ingredients and
allow to mix for 15 seconds. Add 1/2 cup sour cream, then the
remaining dry ingredients, then the remaining sour cream, mixing
for 30 seconds after each addition. You beat this cake a lot.
Better to do too much than too little. Add hot water and mix for
15 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat for an additional
20 seconds before removing bowl from mixer. Use a rubber spatula
to finish mixing the batter until it is smooth and thoroughly
combined.

Immediately divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading
evenly. Bake on the center rack in the preheated oven until a
toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 35
to 40 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool in the pans
for 15 minutes at room temperature. Invert onto cooling racks and
remove parchment paper (if used). Allow to cool for an additional
30 minutes.

Turn the cakes over and trim off just enough of the top to create
a level surface. Then slice each cake into 2 horizontal layers,
creating 4 9-inch rounds of cake. Refrigerate uncovered while
preparing raspberry crush.


In a food processor or blender, combine 16 oz. frozen red raspberries,
2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Process
until smooth. Strain through a sieve and discard rough pulp and
seeds. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of raspberry crush.

Spread cooled cake layers with 3-4 tablespoons of raspberry crush.
Do not use more, as cake will become soggy and difficult to handle.
Return cakes to refrigerator while you prepare the Chocolate Almond
Buttercream.


CHOCOLATE ALMOND BUTTERCREAM

6 oz. semisweet chocolate (1/2 oz. pieces)
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (1/2 oz. pieces)
1 lb. unsalted butter cut into 1 oz. pieces
2 t. almond extract
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar

Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over
medium heat. Place all chocolate in top half. Cover with plastic
wrap and allow to sit for 8-10 minutes. (I brought water to a
boil, turned of burner and covered with regular pot lid. Did fine.)
When melted, stir until smooth and transfer to small bowl. Because
you need the double boiler again, that's why.

Place butter pieces in large bowl of mixer. Beat on low for 2
mnutes, then on medium for 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, then
beat on high until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Add almond
extract and beat for 1 minute. Remove about 1/4 of the butter and
whisk it into the chocolate, incorporating thoroughly. Add the
chocolate/butter mixture to the rest of the butter and beat on
medium until they are thoroughly combined. Scrape down the sides
of the bowl. Beat on high 2 minutes until light and fluffy.

Heat water in double boiler. Place egg whites and granulated sugar
in top and gently whisk until temperature reaches 120 degrees.
Transfer to mixing bowl and beat (with a balloon whip for maximum
fullness) until stiff peaks form. Use a rubber spatula to combine
chocolate/butter mixture with egg white/sugar mixture.

Place one layer of the cake, raspberry side up, on serving plate.
cover with 3/4 cup of buttercream. repeat with 2 more layers.
With the final layer, invert it raspberry side down. Cover top
and sides of cake with most of the remaining buttercream. Refrigerate
15 minutes.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the remaining
buttercream. Pipe stars over the top of the cake, working from
the outside edge to the center. Garnish with fresh raspberries,
if desired.

Place a puddle (about 1tablespoon) of the raspberry crush on a
dessert plate. Heat the blade of a serrated slicer under hot
running water and wipe dry before making each slice. Allow to
stand for 15 minutes before devouring.

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