Burnt Almond Cake

The city where I grew up, San Jose, doesn’t have a nationally known signature dish. It’s more suburban sprawl than cutting-edge culinary destination. However, there are certain foods that I will always associate with San Jose. During high school I practically lived on falafels from Falafel Drive-In, and to this day I swear their spicy falafels and banana shakes are the best I’ve ever tasted.

In the sweet realm, I can’t talk about San Jose without talking about burnt almond cake, and the big cake rivalry between Dick’s Bakery and Peter’s Bakery. (Cake rivalry, you ask? I may exaggerate—but just a little. Check the yelp reviews.)

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See, there are two old-school bakeries that both claim to have the best burnt almond cake in the city. People tend to divide into two camps—you’re either on Dick’s side, or Peter’s side. There’s no equivocating, and there’s no neutral territory. For myself, I’m a Peter’s Bakery girl. This small hole-in-the-wall bakery was near my house, and I actually had my wedding cake made there, so of course I stay loyal, and would defend the superiority of Peter’s burnt almond cake over Dick’s any day of the week.

I haven’t tasted or thought about burnt almond cake in years, but I recently read something that referenced a different almond cake recipe, and suddenly I couldn’t stop thinking about the cake that reminds me so much of my childhood. I had to make one myself.

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If you’re not familiar with burnt almond cake, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. (And also why anyone sane would put the word “burnt” in a cake title in the first place.)  Put simply, it’s a fluffy white cake filled with almond pastry cream, frosted with buttercream, and coated with a thick layer of caramelized almonds. My version has almond flavor in every single component, so if you’re an almond fan who’s tired of vanilla or chocolate (or passion fruit!) having all the fun, allow me to introduce you to your new love.

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Just to be clear, this is my version of a burnt almond cake, not a recreation of the bakery ones. (I feel like I need this disclaimer so that crazed Dick’s and Peter’s fans don’t track me down chanting “Not the same! Not the same!”) For one thing, it’s been ages since I’ve tasted the real thing, and I don’t remember the details well enough to be confident of getting things right. For another—buckle up for real talk—I’d bet anything that they’re actually using cake mixes and prepackaged custard fillings in their cakes. You just can’t do that kind of volume at those price points by making everything from scratch. So, of course, this cake is going to be a bit different than the one from Peter’s or Dick’s.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not AWESOME, though. The almond-flavored white cake is moistened by both an almond simple syrup and the creamy almond pastry cream layers. The buttercream is one of those wacky flour-based ones (newly obsessed with them) that has the light texture and flavor of whipped cream but the stability of buttercream. And the homemade caramelized almonds are the crowing touch, adding a great crunch, a bit of chew, and a whole lot of flavor from the deep, darkly caramelized toasted nuts.

No, it’s not the cake of my childhood—but at the risk of boasting, I think it’s even better. And the fact that I can make it in my own kitchen any time I want? That’s the best part of all.

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Recipe notes: It is possible to make this cake in one day, but since there are multiple components and some involve substantial chilling times, I think it’s easier to break the preparation and assembly up into two days. For instance, you could make the cake, pastry cream, simple syrup, and buttercream on one day, and then make the caramelized almonds and assemble the cake the next day.

Regarding ingredients, I used 1% milk in all of these recipes with good results, but 2% or whole milk would also work well. I don’t recommend using fat-free milk. I like to use superfine sugar in the frosting, to eliminate any grittiness. It’s easy to make superfine sugar at home if you don’t want to buy it. Or, you can use regular granulated sugar. I’ve found that granulated sugar makes the frosting gritty at first, but after several hours, the sugar grains seem to dissolve and the texture becomes smooth.

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Burnt Almond Cake
yield: one 9-inch layer cake
Cake recipe adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Cake Bible

For the Almond Cake:
4 extra-large egg whites
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
3 cups (10.5 oz) cake flour
1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz) granulated sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
6 oz butter, at room temperature

For the Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp amaretto, or 1 tsp almond extract

For the Almond Pastry Cream:
1 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
1 tbsp cold water
4 yolks
1 whole egg
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp powdered sugar

For the Almond Buttercream:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
12 oz butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I used superfine so it dissolved quickly)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt

For the Caramelized Almonds:
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) sliced almonds
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter

Recommended equipment:
Candy thermometer
Pastry bag
Pastry tips
Cake turntable (optional but makes decorating easier)

To Make the Almond Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two 9” cake pans with parchment, and spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl whisk together the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla and almond extracts. Set aside for now.

In the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to mix and sift the ingredients. Add the softened butter and the remaining 3/4 cup milk to the bowl, and mix on low speed until the flour is moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 90 seconds.

Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the egg white mixture in 3 parts, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, until the tops spring back lightly when pressed. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes, then gently invert them out of the pans, invert them again until they’re right-side up, and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

To Make the Simple Syrup:
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir them together until the sugar dissolves, and heat the sugar syrup until it just starts to boil. Remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Stir in the amaretto or almond extract.

To Make the Almond Pastry Cream:
Combine the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to let the gelatin absorb the water. Once absorbed, microwave the bowl for 10-15 seconds, until the gelatin is liquid. Set aside for now.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, egg, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup of sugar. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and salt. Heat the milk over a medium burner until it just starts to boil. Start whisking the egg mixture, and while you’re whisking, drizzle a little hot milk into the eggs. Continue to whisk and drizzle until you’ve added about half of the milk. Switch to whisking the milk, then pour the eggs into the milk mixture while whisking.

Return the pan to the burner and heat the cream, whisking constantly. Use a rubber spatula to periodically scrape the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t scorch. Cook until the pastry cream thickens and starts a very gently bubbling, then cook for about 2 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the liquid gelatin, vanilla extract, almond extract, and butter.

Pour the cream through a wire mesh strainer into a bowl. It will be somewhat thick, so use a spatula to help work it through, straining out any clumps of egg that have developed. Press a layer of cling wrap directly on top of the pastry cream, and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 2 hours. (To speed the cooling process, the cream can be spread onto a baking sheet and put in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, but don’t forget it in the freezer!)

Right before you’re ready to use the pastry cream in the cake, whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar together until it forms firm peaks. Gently fold together the pastry cream and whipped cream together.

To Make the Almond Buttercream:
In a bowl, whisk together the flour and milk. Pour it through a fine wire mesh strainer into a medium saucepan, straining out any flour clumps. Heat the flour mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens. It will go from being a thin liquid to being a very thick paste. It should have the consistency of a very thick pudding when you’re done. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the flour mixture cool completely. To speed this process, I like the fill my sink with an inch or two of cold water, and submerge the bottom of the pan in the water, making sure to not get any in the pan. Stir occasionally while the mixture cools.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy and no longer gritty, about 5-7 minutes.

Once the flour mixture is no longer warm at all, and the butter/sugar is light and fluffy, add the flour to the mixing bowl, along with the vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt. Whip together for 2-3 minutes until well-combined, light, and fluffy. If it seems to separate continue to beat it until it comes back together.

To Make the Caramelized Almonds:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray it with nonstick spray. Place the nuts on the baking sheet and toast them in the oven while you prepare the caramel.

Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the water dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Insert a candy thermometer and boil the sugar until it starts to turn a golden brown and reads between 310-325 on the thermometer.

Remove the pan from the heat, and add the hot nuts from the oven. Stir until the nuts are coated with caramel. Add the butter and stir, then pour the nuts out onto the foil-lined baking sheet. Use a spatula to spread them into a thin layer without many nuts overlapping.

Let the nuts cool completely, then break them apart. If they’re in large chunks, chop them coarsely.

Assembly:
Using a large serrated knife, cut each cake layer in half. Place one layer on a cake cardboard (or your serving plate) and use a pastry brush to brush it generously with the simple syrup.

Scoop some buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe a ring of buttercream all along the edge of the cake round to act as a barrier and hold in the filling. Scoop 1/3 of the pastry cream onto the cake, and spread it in an even layer until it covers the cake and reaches the buttercream ring. Top the cake round with a second round, and repeat the process of brushing it with simple syrup, piping a ring of buttercream, and spreading the pastry cream in the center.

Repeat with the remaining layers, until you have a 4-layer cake with 3 layers of buttercream. Spread buttercream along the sides and top of the cake. It doesn’t have to be super-smooth since most of the surface will be covered with almonds.

Press caramelized almonds into the sides of the cake. This is easiest if you use a cardboard cake round—hold the cake in one hand, over the baking sheet full of almonds, and use the other to press almonds into the sides, letting the excess fall back onto the sheet.

Fit a pastry bag with a large star tip and pipe rosettes along the top of the cake. Decorate them with more caramelized almonds, if desired. The almonds will start to get sticky after about a day, so for optimal texture enjoy it on the day it’s made, but the flavor is still wonderful several days after.

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74 Responses to Burnt Almond Cake
  1. simmy says:

    very delicious indeed… great recipy

  2. Emily says:

    Thank you for all of the amazing nut-based dessert recipes. You are so right that chocolate and vanilla tend to steal the limelight…and I love me some almond and pistachio flavored treats!

  3. Your cake looks so stunning! I’ve never heard of burnt almond cake before, but I really want to try it now!

  4. This cake looks wonderful, but did you mean to put 11 1/2 teaspoons almond extract in the cake? I’m thinking you meant 1 1/2 teaspoons?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you, thank you! I love almond and all, but 11 teaspoons would be disgusting. So glad you caught my mistake!

  5. Liz says:

    Sounds amazing Elizabeth and I bet your cake is way better than Peter’s and Dick’s! My husband loves almond flavored things so I will have to try making this….his birthday is coming up!

  6. That totally sounds like my kind of cake! LOVE almond cream. Looks completely gorgeous!

  7. This cake is gorgeous!! This looks amazing. I absolutely need this in my life. I love all the almond components in every aspect of this cake.

  8. Allison says:

    This post has made my day! I too love burnt almond cake, although I have to admit that I fall in the Dick’s Bakery camp (since I grew up so close to their bakery). I’ve always thought about how I could recreate this cake at home, but never worked myself up to the task. Thanks so much for sharing your creation…I plan on making this for my parents (also huge burnt almond cake fans) and know that it will amaze them.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Heeeeey, fellow San Jose native! So exciting to find someone who remembers these cakes as well. (And we can totally still be friends, even if you’re rooting for the enemy.) What high school did you go to? (I was at Lincoln.) Please let me know what you think when you give it a try!

      • Jenn says:

        Hi, my grandma has been going to Dicks for their Burnt Almond Cake for over 60 years now. So it only seems fitting we have one at her memorial service next week, however, the people my mom has been working with at Dicks have not showed an ounce of customer service and have been a little rude; do you know of any other bakeries in the area that have Burnt Almond Cake and deliver as well? I contacted Peter’s but unfortunately they do not deliver.
        Thanks

        • Elizabeth says:

          Hi Jenn, Thanks for the comment. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother, and I think having burnt almond cake at her memorial sounds lovely! Unfortunately I haven’t lived in San Jose for a decade now, and I’m not very familiar with the bakery scene there anymore. I hope you’re able to find something that works for you and your family! Best to you.

          • Veena Ramachandran says:

            Hey guys,

            I know it’s a year since the memorial service (hope your family is doing better after the loss) but I live in the Bay Area now and can recommend a great bakery that sells one of the best burnt almond cakes ever. I hadn’t had a burnt almond cake until I came to the Bay Area and I can vouch for it being the best out-of-the-ordinary cake I have EVER had (I am usually a chocolate anything freak).

            You can go to the La Patisserie bakery on Stevens Creek Boulevard. Boy! That cake is to die for. :)

            Hope this information helps fellow San Jose burnt-almond-cake fans! :D

            Have a great day!

  9. While I’ve never had a “burnt” almond cake, wedding cakes down here are almond flavored and are my ABSOLUTE favorite.

    (I always assumed the whole world had almond flavored wedding cakes until a friend of my got married and had to bring a taste somewhere so I’m thoroughly confused…)

    BUT I’m so excited to see an almond cake recipe that doesn’t start with a white cake mix and then get doctored up. I LOVE the idea of using an almond simple syrup and an almond pastry cream. This looks gorgeous and delicious Elizabeth!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      I didn’t realize almond wedding cakes were commonly a “thing”! Can’t argue with that custom, though, since almond cakes are pretty darn delicious. I’m anti-cake mix and try to avoid them when possible, for sure!

  10. It sounds as if these two bakeries should have a reality tv show centered around their rivalry. This Burn Almond Cake is gorgeous!

  11. This cakes looks delicious and anything with almonds, count me in. Your decorating is superb!

  12. Margot says:

    I think it’s awesome you posted this, the cake looks amazing. I grew up in San Jose too (closer to Dick’s, but my mom lives near Peter’s now), and I love that cake.

    • Elizabeth says:

      So fun to hear from another San Jose native! And one with ties to both bakeries, no less… :) This cake will forever remind me of SJ. Let me know if you give it a try!

  13. Sherie says:

    I grew up in Almaden area of San Jose and fell in love with these cakes from Dicks (didn’t even know of Peters bakery until I started trying to locate this recipe myself). I live in FL now and would love to bring this awesome cake to the East Coast… Will try your recipe as it looks like what I remember. Thanks for giving me the opp to bake this awesome cake!

  14. mlle p says:

    I grew up in Santa Clara (Wilson’s bakery turf) but have been thinking about the fab Dick’s bakery almond cake for the last few weeks! Did not even know of Peter’s – wayyyy on the other side of town.
    Also love Falafel Drive-In, still as great as ever when I get a chance to go back there, and also the incredible Stan’s Donuts. Will definitely try this version of the cake – thanks!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Oh man, now I’m craving a falafel AND Stan’s Donuts! So glad to share the recipe with a local, and please let me know what you think if you try it!

  15. Nan says:

    I’m so excited to find this receipe. My older sister is turning 50 this year and burnt almond cake is her FAVORITE. We are from Los Gatos and I cannot wait to make this cake for her here in Florida while she is visiting me. THANKS!!

  16. Angela says:

    Hello! I’m making your burnt almond cake right now. And something went wrong with the buttercream. I’m on the final step of the buttercream and when I tasted it, there are small lumps of gelled material in it. It totally ruins the buttercream because it throws off the texture. What did I do wrong? I don’t want to keep mixing it cause I’m not sure if that will make it worse. I do t mid doing the buttercream over but I want to improve my technique. Your directions are awesome by the way and everything tastes wonderful so far!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Angela! So sorry to hear about the buttercream. Those lumps are from the flour mixture that you added. I think there are a few possibilities: 1.) the flour mixture itself was lumpy (this sometimes happens to me when I skip the straining step before cooking it, which is why I included straining in the recipe. If you strained it before you cooked it, this shouldn’t be a problem.) 2.) The flour mixture was cooked too long, and got really really thick and congealed, 3.) it wasn’t stirred enough, either during the cooking or cooling phase or 4.) it was left out at room temp for awhile and got a little dried out on top and formed a “skin,” and these drier top bits didn’t incorporate.

      Do any of these sound possible? If you’d like to try again, I’d say DEFINITELY strain the flour/milk through a fine strainer before cooking if you didn’t do it this time, whisk constantly while cooking, cook until it’s thick like a pudding but not much beyond that, stir it often while it cools, and use it once it’s room temp but if you’re not ready to use it right away, press plastic wrap to the top so it doesn’t dry out.

      I know that seems like a ton of things, and I’m sure you were doing most of those already, I just wanted to cover all the bases I could think of. :) I hope this helps! And if you’re not excited about the possibility of trying it again, you could always make your favorite buttercream and just add some almond extract to that. Please let me know how it turns out!

  17. Heather C. says:

    Ahhhhhhh Falafel Drive-In! I miss that place. I grew up in the Santa Cruz mountains and went to Los Gatos High School so I don’t remember either bakery, but I do remember those falafels.

  18. maryanne says:

    thanks for this posting. I am also from SJ and used to order the dick’s version for all special occasions. I am anxious to try this one. PS…The felafel drive-in was featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives

  19. Michelle says:

    So fun to read the comments – I’m also from the San Jose area (Campbell) and had burnt almond for my birthdays and first baby shower. I would have had it for my wedding cake, too, but my wedding venue forced us to use a baker that didn’t offer it. Boo. And Stan’s! The best! Thanks for the recipe; I can’t wait to try it!

  20. Carrie says:

    Hi, I’m making this recipe right now, and I’m afraid I may have actually burnt the almonds or the caramel. I put them into the oven like it said for the duration of the time it took to make the caramel to coat them… and they are more brown than what is pictured. At the very end of making the caramel mixture, it started smoking right at the temp suggested, and I took it off, and added the almonds. Are they supposed to have a little bit of the “burnt” smell/taste to them, or should I do this step over? Thanks

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Carrie,

      Sorry this step is giving you trouble! As far as whether you should re-do the step, I think it all comes down to whether you like the taste of the almonds or not. If they were overcooked, but you still think they taste great, then you can keep going! But if there’s a burnt undertaste that bothers you, then I’d just re-do–it would be a shame to have a cake that you like with a topping that ruins the whole thing. As for what they “should” taste like, I would say no, they shouldn’t taste burnt. When I caramelize nuts I do take them to a dark, almost smoky place, but the final flavor is one of deeply caramelized sugar, not burned or bitter. It’s possible that your stove takes longer than mine does to cook the caramel, so the almonds are over-toasted, or perhaps your candy thermometer is off by a few degrees, so the sugar cooked too much. There are a lot of variables and even a few minutes or a few degrees can give very different outcomes. If you do decide to do it again, I would change a few things just to be safe. Use pre-toasted almonds so they’re already crunchy, and keep them at 300 instead of 350–the most important thing is that they’re hot when you add them, so 300 should heat them up without overcooking them. Caramel usually doesn’t smoke if it’s at 310 F (when I make caramel candies I take it to 350 without problems) so try to keep your caramel on the lower side of the recommendation, and maybe test to make sure your thermometer is accurate before starting again. Here’s an easy way to check your thermometer:

      http://candy.about.com/od/candybasics/ht/How-To-Test-Your-Candy-Thermometer.htm

      And finally, are you at high altitude? If you are, you will definitely need to make adjustments in the temperature of your caramel so you don’t overcook it.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Oh, one other thing I thought of. If you’re near a Trader Joe’s, they carry a product called honey-roasted sliced almonds. They’re basically sliced almonds with a crunchy, sweet coating already on them. Like a cheater’s version of caramelized almonds. You can use those if you don’t want to go to the trouble of re-making them! Not quite the same but a pretty good substitute.

      • Carrie says:

        Thank you. Unfortunately I won’t be the one enjoying this cake- it is for my husband for his birthday. I am weird, and don’t eat anything with gelatin in it. lol. Oh, and we are not at a high altitude, or near a trader joe’s. So, I may ask a few opinions if of friends who can taste test them, and go from there. Thanks for all the input! :)

  21. Navigail says:

    I too am from San Jose and just came back from a recent visit as I now live in Seattle. The burnt almond cake is a San Jose classic! Can’t wait to try to recreate this at home :)

  22. Rahmah says:

    Hi Elizabeth! I’m gonna try this recipe soon. One question though, Is the butter salted or unsalted? Thanks! :)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Rahman,
      I always like to use unsalted butter in my recipes–that way I can always control how much salt is in them. :) That being said, if you use salted, you probably won’t notice much difference, with the exception of maybe the frosting, where the butter flavor is stronger.

      And please let me know how the recipe turns out for you!

  23. I have so been needing a break lately and now I know I am going to take a day and make this cake. It looks too good to miss!

  24. jina says:

    has anyone made this cake and how did it turn out?

  25. Moe Hassan says:

    Elizabeth; you are the woman after my taste. I lived in San Jose as well from 1972 to 2004. I now live in Raleigh, NC. And boy; do i miss the Burnt Almond cake from Peter’s bakery and the flafals from the Flaffal Drive-in on San Carlos and Highway 17. What memories. I actually ate my first falaffal pita at that place in December of 1972 – i was there a year ago and those benches and trash-cans are still there. Albeit painted a thousands times over. I was just showing your receipe to my wife and pleading her to please bake the cake tomorrow.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Moe, that is so cool! I didn’t realize it had been around since the early 70s (although heaven knows it looks like it!). I haven’t eaten at the falafel place for probably a decade, and I don’t know how I’ve let it go that long! Did you know that place was featured on the Food Network Show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives? Aaaanyhow, please let me know what you think if you give it a try!

  26. Cathy says:

    Hi Elizabeth, I grew up in San Jose as well. :) This is by far my fav. cake. I am so very happy I found your’s!! I plan on it being a Christmas treat for my family. Thank you so much!! :)

  27. Jennifer says:

    THANK YOU! I grew up in Santa Clara and always loved Dick’s Bakery. Their Almond Cake is legend! I am very much looking forward to trying out this recipe.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks Jennifer! I agree that Dick’s burnt almond is a classic. Please let me know what you think if you give it a try!

  28. Alta says:

    Born and raised two blocks from Dick’s bakery. Burnt almond cake is no exception top of the food chain! My sister and my mother worked at Dick’s many years ago and I know there secret to the awesome crunch of the frosting… They keep a hot poker in the oven and lay it quickly across the top to make the cross marks. The cake is a sponge cake and it is made at the bakery from start to finish.. Im a Willow Glen girl now stuck in Michigan missing Dick’s bakery and Race St. Fish and chips!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Ooh, inside info! I love it! The hot poker tip is amazing. Sorry to hear about the lack of burnt almond cake in your life–hope you’re able to take a trip to SJ and try some again soon!

  29. Dany says:

    I too am a Peter’s girl stuck in Maryland! I plan to make this for our Easter celebration next month! I am sooooo excited! My family just sent me pics of their Peter’s cake from a birthday celebration… My jealousy found your webpage! lol :)

  30. Anne Haynes says:

    I’m going to make this for the first time this weekend!

  31. Lyndsee says:

    I am going to make this cake for Easter! I am going to do the 2 day process as you suggested. What would you say is the best way to keep the simple syrup, pastry cream and buttercream until the next day? Covered in the refrigerator? And the cakes what is the best way to keep them moist until the next day?
    Thanks!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Awesome! The simple syrup can be kept at room temperature. I usually just cover the saucepan and leave it near the stove until I’m ready to use it. (Or you can transfer it to a container with a lid–it’s not too picky.) The pastry cream can be stored in the refrigerator with a layer of cling wrap on top, to keep it from getting a skin. I’d hold off on adding the whipped cream to the pastry cream until you’re ready to fill the cake. The buttercream should also be stored in the refrigerator in a container with a lid. Let it come to room temperature before using it. For the cakes, if it’s only a day, I wouldn’t worry about them too much. I’d just wrap them well in cling wrap and leave them at room temperature. Freezing is actually the best way to keep cakes fresh and moist, but because you’ll be brushing them with the syrup (which adds moisture) and because it’s only a day, it’s not a big concern. If you do want to freeze them, let them defrost partially before you use them, to make them easier to cut. Good luck, Lyndsee, and let me know how it goes!

  32. Tanya Goff says:

    I live in the San Jose area, and YES, we love Burnt Almond Cake from Peter’s Bakery! I am going to try your recipe to make my birthday cake for this weekend. I had a question regarding your recipe though. You have a butter cream, and pastry cream recipe. But in the assembly directions, it only shows the butter cream. Where do I put the pastry cream? I apologize if I sound clueless. :)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Tanya! No worries–layer cakes can be confusing! The pastry cream is in between the cake layers, surrounded by a ring of buttercream: “Pipe a ring of buttercream all along the edge of the cake round to act as a barrier and hold in the filling. Scoop 1/3 of the pastry cream onto the cake, and spread it in an even layer until it covers the cake and reaches the buttercream ring. Top the cake round with a second round, and repeat the process of brushing it with simple syrup, piping a ring of buttercream, and spreading the pastry cream in the center.” The buttercream ring keeps the pastry cream from squishing out the sides and helps keep the cake secure. You can see the pastry cream in the pictures of the cut cake slices, it’s the yellowish custard in the middle. :) Hope this helps! Feel free to hit me up with any more questions you have.

  33. OMG I have been looking for a Burnt-Almond Cake
    recipes for years. I can’t wait to try this. I also grew up in San Jose and loved Dick’s Burnt-Almond cake and I have never found anything like them since. I’m now 58 years old and have been living in Emmett Idaho for 16 plus years and every bakery I’ve been to they have never heard of Burnt-Almond cake. I’m sure this cake will also bring back some childhood memories.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Sharon, Isn’t it strange that it’s so hard to find burnt almond cake anywhere else? I didn’t appreciate it enough when I lived in SJ! I hope you give this cake a try and let me know what you think!

  34. Mary says:

    Well. Thanks SO much for this recipe. I have a coworker originally from San Jose. He has raved about Peter’s bakery and it’s Burnt Almond Cake. Today is his last day here at work and I tried this recipe. We have MANY cake connoisseurs here and they are just over the top about this cake. They say it’s the best they’ve ever tasted! Many steps but totally worth it!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Mary, Thanks for the comment! I’m thrilled that it worked out for you and that your coworkers enjoyed it! Definitely a lot of work, but I’m so glad you thought it was worth it. :)

  35. Sandy Chang says:

    I’m originally from the Bay Area, and I’ve had the Burnt Almond Cake from both Dick’s and Peter’s which is why I was so excited to try this recipe. I’m about 85% done with the recipe at the moment. For the most part everything turned out except the candied almonds and the buttercream. The buttercream came out out with more of the consistency of a cream cheese frosting. So I’m going to grab my stand-by buttercream to substitute. I’m on my second batch of candied almonds and they still have a hint of burnt flavoring. The technique seems similar to that of English toffee, but for some reason it is not turning out for me. So running to the store to purchase some premade candied nuts to finish this recipe.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Sandy, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had trouble with the almonds and buttercream. I’d love to hear what you think when it’s finished, and how it all comes together in the end!

      • Melanie says:

        I also had problems with the butter cream, but everything else came out perfect. My butter cream was really runny and never got firm. DO you know why that would have been? I tried twice and both times it turned out that way

        • Elizabeth says:

          Hi Melanie, I’m sorry that the buttercream didn’t work out! You can definitely substitute your favorite buttercream recipe with a bit of almond extract added instead of this recipe. If you want to try troubleshooting this recipe, I’d ask: did you cook the flour/milk until it was a super-thick paste? Did it cool completely until it was not at all warm to the touch? Was the butter too warm, or was it just softened enough to beat easily but not starting to get melty or greasy? You might also find this photo tutorial from Tasty Kitchen helpful to see how the frosting should look at different stages:

          http://tastykitchen.com/blog/2010/03/a-tasty-recipe-thats-the-best-frosting-ive-ever-had/

          • Melanie Pearson says:

            That did help actually lol from the looks of it I think I may have heated the milk and flour for too long and I don’t believe my butter was soft enough.

  36. Melanie says:

    I just want to say that I am soooooo glad that I stumbled onto your page with this recipe! My Granny absolutely LOVED Dick’s Bakery Burnt Almond Cake and would get it for everyone of my family’s birthday. She for some reason thought that it was all of our favorites, even though no one especially liked it! So now in honor of her we always get that cake from Dick’s Bakery for birthdays, but since my parents and I moved to Seattle we have no where to get one. It is really nice that the recipe I found is from someone that is from San Jose and even knows the bakery we usually go to. :D

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks Melanie! That’s so funny how your grandma thought it was everyone’s favorite even though no one liked it much. :) It’s been so fun to hear from San Jose natives who all have good memories of Dick’s and Peter’s. Please let me know what you think if you give it a try!

      • Melanie Pearson says:

        Everything tasted amazing and turned out great except my buttercream turned out too runny both times I tried so it didn’t look pretty but still tasted really amazing! My step mom even had a second piece, which is way out of character for her lol

        • Elizabeth says:

          Haha we were commenting at the same time. :) I posted a few buttercream troubleshooting suggestions on your other comment, in case you ever want to try it again. I’m so glad that it worked out and that your family enjoyed it!

  37. Eliza says:

    Oh man! Falafel Drive-in!! (excuse me for a moment while I clean up the drool that just dripped on my keyboard while I remembered that yummy place).
    I made this cake for my hubby (we are both from San Jose) after I could not find a bakery in the entire pacific NW that made it (most of them had never even heard of it). While it didn’t turn out as pretty it tasted fabulous, and that’s what counts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Haha, those falfels are unreal, right? I’m so glad that the cake turned out for you, Eliza, and that you guys could enjoy a taste of SJ from afar!

  38. Yadira Tejeda says:

    Hello Melanie!! I’m SO happy I saw this!! I recently relocated to Frederick, MD and I’ve been missing everything about San Jose. I grew up in East Side San Jose-I went to Piedmont Hills High School. I grew up loving Peter’s Bakery’s Burnt Almond cake and cupcakes. A little over two months ago I made a stop there before making my cross county trip-just to buy half a dozen cupcakes. Being a little home sick-it made my day to see this. Thank you 😊😁👍

  39. Laura says:

    Hello! Question on the eggs…for the cake you have extra large egg whites, is this a must? I have large eggs on hand.

    Also in the pastry cream it doesn’t specify egg size…is this just large?

    Thanks so much, looking forward to giving this a try.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Laura, Large eggs are fine throughout! The cake recipe is adapted from one in a cookbook, and I kept the eggs extra-large to stay true to the recipe writer, however, I have made it with large eggs in the past and it works out fine. Let me know how it goes, and feel free to reach out with any other questions!

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