This Catalan Salt Pinch Cake doesn’t have any salt in it at all. I know, the name is a bit misleading; but, there is a rational explanation. According to the baking book, the name was derived partially from the recommended way of eating it i.e. pinching out pieces of the fluffy cake between your fingers. The most exquisite of all the versions is called Salt because it was created by Miquel B. Costabella, a baker and patissier of Salt Bakery, which was named after the village of Salt, close to Girona, Spain. Naming semantics aside, this cake is very soft and fluffy. The texture is quite similar to a chiffon or an angel cake. If you like cottony soft and nutty cakes, then I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy this cake.
Recipe adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Catalan Salt Pinch Cake
112 g (1 Cup + 2 Tbsp) Slice Almonds, preferably unblanched
181 g (3/4 Cup + 2 ½ Tbsp, divided) Superfine Sugar
6 Large Eggs, whisk lightly in a cup
2 Large Egg Whites, at room temperature
1 tsp loosely packed Lemon Zest
56 g (½ Cup + 1 Tbsp) Cake Flour, or Bleached All Purpose Flour, sifted
Equipment: One 9 x 2 ½ to 3-inch spring form or cake pan.
Coat the pan with shortening, bottom and sides and line with parchment paper. For sides cut a 33 x 3 inch band of parchment, overlapping an extra piece if necessary to make long enough. Wrap and press it against the inside wall of the pan. Use some extra shortening to coat the overlapping ends to hold them in place against the first strip of parchment.
Preheat the oven to 325˚F or 160˚C.
Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes, or until pale golden in color. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting and avoid overbrowning. Cool completely. In a food processor, pulse the almonds and 2 ½ Tbsp of the sugar until as fine as possible. Stop before the nuts start to become pasty.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until soft peaks form and gradually beat in the remaining sugar, stopping the mixer once to scrape down sides of the bowl. Continue beating until the meringue is very thick and glossy, but will not be smooth. Detach the whisk from the mixer and use it to stir the almond mixture into the meringue until evenly incorporated.
Reattach the whisk beater and with the mixer on medium speed, add the beaten egg to he meringue 2 Tbsp at a time, beating for 2 minutes between each addition. It should take a total of 20 to 25 minutes, but be sure to beat for a minimum of 20 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest. Remove the bowl and beater from the stand. While the mixture is beating, weigh or measure out the flour.
Sift the flour onto the batter and, using a large whisk, fold in the flour until fully incorporated. Reach to the bottom of the bowl and be sure that no white specks of flour remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake spring back when pressed very lightly in the center. The cake will rise just a little and then sink slightly in the center.
Set the pan on a wire rack and immediately loosen and remove the sides, leaving the parchment attached to the cake. Allow the cake to cool until it is warm or at room temperature, about 1 hour. Slice the cake or eaten in the traditional way by pinching out pieces of the fluffy cake. The cake keeps wrapped airtight for 1 week at room temperature, for 10 days refrigerated, and for 6 months frozen.
Serves 8 to 20