almond-brown sugar potica cake


Pronounced paw-TEET-zha, this cake is light and moist with a crunchy brown-sugar-and-almond filling. I made this cake once before in New York so it’s only fitting that I try it again in Bangkok. I had a near disaster because my oven was too slow, so the center of the cake was still raw when I made a test slice. So I put it in the microwave for 4 1/2 minutes on high, and that finished the cooking.

Almond-Brown Sugar Potica Cake (adapted from Gourmet magazine)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 35-40 minutes
Cooling time: 2 hours

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter plus more for greasing, room temperature
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups low fat yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325˚F/165˚C. Grease a 10 inch tube cake pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. Mix together the yogurt and vanilla; set aside. Make the filling and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-6 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until just combined.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until just combined. Add 1/2 of the yogurt mixture and combine. Add half the remaining flour and the remaining yogurt mixture, beating after each addition. Add the rest of the flour and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pour 1/3 of the batter into the prepare pan, spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle 1/3 of the filling on top. Drop spoonfuls of half the remaining batter on top of the filling. Sprinkle half of the remaining filling on top of the batter. Scrape the rest of the batter on top of the filling. Sprinkle the remainder of the filling on top of the batter. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean, with just a few crumbs attached. If the batter is still raw, continue baking in 5 minute increments.

Cool on a wire cooling rack placed over a baking tray. Cool 2 hours in the pan, then unmold. To remove the side, use a thin blade by placing the blade against the side of the pan and pressing it towards the center. Use your fingers to push up the centerpiece from the bottom, and separate it from the side. To release the centerpiece, Turn it upside down over the rack with the tray underneath. The tray will catch all the sugar and nuts that fall off the top of the cake. Re-invert the cake. Slice and serve.




chocolate sponge cake

Now I’ve come to the best part of any meal, the dessert. I made a chocolate sponge cake from the South Beach Diet cookbook. This recipe frustrates me because I can never get consistent results. The method is not very clear, and sponges, alas, are delicate. Sometimes when I make it, it is humongous! Other times, it’s only six inches high because of over mixing. I think a height of eight inches signals success. So here is what I think: when combining the batter with the meringue, the flour, and the melted butter, mix them up all at once. It’s a light and airy cake when done well. Not as moist as a chiffon, but it has its charms, particularly with  the rich chocolate ganache that just oozes down the sides. Included at the end of this cake recipe is the chocolate glaze from the South Beach Diet cookbook. In the photograph above I used a chocolate ganache that’s 1/2 cup whipping cream and 11 1/2 oz milk chocolate.

Chocolate Sponge Cake (

Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes (includes cooling time)
Baking time: 40 minutes

7 egg whites (210g) separated while cold then bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup (169g) superfine sugar
3 egg yolks (75g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (130g) cake flour
3 tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm

1 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Make the sponge cake. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Use one 10-inch tube pan, ungreased and un-floured, Microwave the butter in a glass one-cup measure for 30 seconds on high heat. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together the egg yolks and vanilla. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the meringue forms stiff glossy peaks. Fold in one-third of the meringue into the egg yolk mixture.

Gently scrape the remaining meringue into the egg yolk mixture. Using a sifter or a strainer/sieve, sprinkle the cake flour over the top of the mixture. Pour the cooled melted butter on top. Very gently, fold—do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into the pan, spreading evenly. Use an skewer to make cuts in the batter around the inner and outer edges to reduce air pockets. Bake 40-45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted hear the center comes out clean.

Invert the tube pan onto a large funnel or bottle, or if it has feet, let it rest on the counter top. Let the cake hang until it is completely cooled, about 1 hour. Press a thin blade knife towards the cake around the inner and outer edges of the cake to release the cake. Use a skewer to do the center. To release the bottom, turn the cake on its side and rotate it as you press between the cake and the cake bottom. Turn out onto a rack, and cool completely, with the crusty topside up to prevent splitting.

Make the chocolate sauce. Melt the chocolate and shortening in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Cool slightly.

Put the cake bottom-side up on the rack in the center of a large cookie sheet. Drizzle the melted chocolate in a criss-cross pattern across the top of the cake, letting the excess run down the sides and onto the cookie sheet below. Using a large spatula, lift the cake and transfer it to a serving platter.