Recipe: Grandma's porcupine cake

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2D

Prep time: 75 minutes plus at least 4 hours freeze time and chill time. Does not include time to make buttercream.

Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves 12-14

This sponge cake with French buttercream frosting gets its name from the toasted almonds studded all over it. Since her German-born grandmother did not leave behind a recipe, McClatchy Newspapers writer Andrea Weigl re-created the cake based on descriptions from her father and aunt. The original was cut into nine layers; Weigl said she managed three.

Note: Recipe requires a kitchen scale.


8 ounces egg yolks, about 11 to 12 yolks

3 ounces sugar, divided

4 ounces or 1/2 cup egg whites

3 ounces cake flour, sifted

4 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup hot water

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

French buttercream (recipe below)

2 cups toasted slivered almonds


Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Line bottom of two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper.

Whip egg yolks with half the sugar on high in a standing mixer for about 10 minutes or until a ribbon of batter holds on the surface for three seconds. Place in a large bowl.

Clean mixer bowl and add egg whites. Whip on low speed for 20 seconds, then increase speed to medium until the whites are foamy and all white and show no traces of yellow. Then gradually add remaining sugar. Turn up to high and whip until it's the consistency of shaving cream.

Add egg whites and flour to the egg yolks in 3 increments. First, beat one-third of the flour and one-third of whites into the yolks with a metal whisk.

With the next 2 additions, use the whisk to scrape around the side of the bowl, take the whisk through the middle and bang the whisk on the edge of the bowl.

Do this 3 to 5 more times to make sure all flour is combined and there are no areas of egg whites larger than a dime. You want to do this using as few strokes as possible.

Divide batter between 2 cake pans.

Bake cakes for 13 to 15 minutes and then check by pressing gently with fingers on top of cake; you don't want to see your fingerprints. If not done, put back in for 1 to 2 minutes and check again.

Let cakes cool and then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze. After waiting 2 to 3 hours, you can remove the cakes from the freezer, let them thaw for about 10 minutes and then cut them into as many layers as you can.

Combine 4 tablespoons sugar, hot water and almond extract in a small bowl. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Before frosting each layer, brush each layer with this sugar syrup. Then frost each layer, stacking as many as you could cut. Finally, frost top and sides of cake.

Set frosted cake in refrigerator for about an hour. Dot sides of cake with almonds sticking straight out like porcupine quills. Refrigerate again for a couple hours. To serve, cut into thin slices.

French buttercream

You will need a kitchen scale and a candy thermometer.


4 ounces whole eggs, about 2 eggs

4 ounces egg yolks, about 6 yolks

1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso

1 tablespoon hot water

9 ounces sugar

1/4 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, sifted

3 sticks butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature


Whip whole eggs and egg yolks on high for 6 to 8 minutes. Stop when it looks like a cross between ribbons and taffy.

Dissolve instant coffee in hot water. Set aside.

Place sugar, water and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Stir together. Make sure to clean any stray sugar particles off sides of saucepan above the water line or it will burn.

Cook sugar water over high heat. Once it starts to boil, use candy thermometer to track temperature. Remove quickly once it reaches soft-ball stage or about 240 degrees. Immediately turn on mixer and pour sugar down the side of the mixing bowl into the whipped eggs. The sugar should go in a steady stream without splattering.

Microwave dissolved instant coffee for about 15 seconds and pour down the side of mixing bowl, like you did the sugar.

Continue whipping until the mixing bowl bottom is cool to the touch before adding the room-temperature butter. Fling several tablespoons of butter at a time into the mixing bowl, and finish adding all the butter within 60 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. It may look curdled at this point. Mix some more until smooth, fluffy and mousselike. Watch carefully; this frosting can go from mousse to soup if left to whip too long.

Place in refrigerator until ready to frost cake.

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