This tea cake is from Flo Braker, author of The Simple Art of Perfect Baking, among other books, and it is one of the most perfectly textured, moist, and flavorful cakes that I have come across. It is rich with almond paste, which is what keeps it so moist, and it is glazed with a mixture of lemon juice, orange juice and sugar, which crystallizes to create a perfect citrusy-tart contrast to the rich almond cake and helps to seal in the moisture.
The key to making this cake batter smooth is incorporating the almond paste completely before the eggs are added. The success of the glaze - a pretty crystallized look and a proper set - is dependent on two things: the glaze must be made just before it is brushed on the cake, and the cake must be warm from the oven so that the sugar and juices penetrate to form crystals.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly butter and flour and 8 1/2" tube pan or a 9" x 5" loaf pan, knocking out the excess flour. To make the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds twice. In a small bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla and whisk together just to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste on low speed until it breaks up. This can take up to a minute, depending on how soft and warm it is. Slowly add the sugar in a steady stream, beating until incorporated. If you add the sugar too quickly, the paste won't break up as well.
Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. Continue on low speed while adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Then turn on the mixer to medium speed and beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs in a very slow, steady stream and mix until incorporated. Stop the mixer and again scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn on the mixer again to medium speed and mix for another 30 seconds. Add the citrus zests and mix with a wooden spoon.
Finally, add the flour mixture in 2 batches, stirring after each addition until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time, and then spoon the batter in to the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.
Bake until the top springs back when lightly touched and a cake tested inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 to 7 minutes while you make the glaze.
To make the glaze, stir together the lemon and orange juices and the sugar in a small bowl. Place the wire rack holding the cake over a sheet of waxed paper or aluminum foil to catch any drips of glaze, and invert the cake onto the rack. Brush the entire warm cake with the glaze, then let the cake cool completely on the rack. The cake breaks apart easily when warm, so don't attempt to move it.
When the cake is cool, transfer it to a serving plate, using 2 crisscrossed icing spatulas or the base of a two-part tart pan to lift it. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, well wrapped, for 1 week in the refrigerator.
Chef's Tip: If the cake does not want to release from the pan, run the tip of a small knife around the edge to loosen it.
Makes 1 large loaf; 8 to 10 servings.
Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson, Tartine (Chronicle Books, 2006).
If you would like to purchase this book, please visit Chronicle Books.