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Cocoa-Marzipan Pound Cake For the Ages

I’m not ready for Christmas nor for the end of 2009.

But I’m ready for cake.

Is it me or has this year just raced by at hyperspeed?

It feels like it should be May or July at the very latest, not December, for gosh sakes.

I remember how when I was little, summer dragged on forever — but in a good way, of course. Now, hours and days zoom by, and before I know it, I’m planted squarely on a new calendar page, wondering how I got there and how the dates have already filled up so fast when I’ve barely taken a breath.

It may be a cliche that “Time flies when you get older.” But I’m feeling the years when I think 2009 is almost over — day by day disappearing, just like that, with nothing I can do about it.

That’s why I need cake.

To be sure, cake is always welcome. At least in my world.

With one forkful, it recalls the past with candles, frosting, party hats and chirpy, sing-song wishes. And it beckons the future with its sweet promises of good tidings to come.

Cake makes time stand still, at least for a moment, as we sink our teeth into something airy, festive and special that makes everything else around us disappear.

I can’t stop 2009 from coming to a close all too soon.

But I can give you cake that will make time slow to a welcome crawl long enough for you enjoy a nice, thick slice.

”Cocoa-Marzipan Pound Cake” is such a cake. It’s by esteemed pastry chef and blogger, David Lebovitz, and it’s from his book, “The Great Book of Chocolate” (Ten Speed Press).

It contains one of my all-time favorite baking ingredients: almond paste, which gives it a lightness and delicacy not found in most denser pound cakes.

It also contains one of my new favorite ingredients: E. Guittard Cocoa Rouge. You can use any unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder in this cake. But when I spied this so-called rare red cocoa powder at Sur La Table, I just had to fork over $8 for the 8-ounce can to take it home to play around with.

The color is an almost burgundy-brown. And it does lend a deep fudge-like flavor to baked goods.

The batter is generous enough to fill two loaf pans. Each gets a generous sprinkle of sliced almonds on top before baking. Be sure not to over-bake or else you may end up with a dry crumb.

Some of the almonds will fall off when you invert the baked cakes, then turn them right-side up again on serving platters. But no worries, the pound cakes will still be quite decked out in them and emerge quite prettily.

The cake is tender, chocolate-y, infused with almond essence, and crowned with a lively crunchy top.

Don’t lament the inevitable passing of time. Just have cake instead.

Cocoa-Marzipan Pound Cake

(makes two 8 1/2-inch loaf cakes, about 16 servings)

3/4 cup (7 ounces) almond paste

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup milk

2/3 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Butter two 8 1/2 inch loaf pans and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat almond paste, sugar, and almond extract until almond paste is broken up into very fine pieces.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Add butter to almond paste mixture and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir in half of the dry ingredients, then the milk. Then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

Divide batter between loaf pans and smooth tops of the cakes.

Evenly sprinkle tops with sliced almonds. Bake cakes for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack before inverting and turning cakes right-side up onto serving platters.

Note: Once you remove cakes from loaf pans, wrap them in plastic wrap overnight to allow flavors to meld. These cakes will keep up to 3 days at room temperature, or if double-wrapped, can be frozen for up to 1 month.

From “The Great Book of Chocolate” by David Lebovitz

More: Almond paste also stars in Italian Macaroons