Almond-Honey Cake Muffins

Beijing Spring. It’s kind of glorious. We had a whole slew of beautiful days, that luckily coincided with the weekend, with sun, breeze, and extremely low pollution. I felt like I was back in civilization (whenever the pollution gets bad here I envision myself living in a poisonous, post apocalyptic world along the lines of Nausicaa). To celebrate Easter, Passover, and a good friend’s birthday, several of us made our way to Taverna for brunch. It’s one of the restaurants in 1949: Hidden Village.

Because the girls who organized it thought things might devolve into a picnic later on, I threw together some muffins for snacking. I had initially meant to make individual cakes in the muffin pan, but I guess I put too much baking powder in or something, as the batter rose up into muffins. Based on the success of the almond-honey cake with candied kumquats, I made another batch of almond meal by soaking whole almonds over night, popping them out of their skins, and then running through the blender.

I mixed about 2 cups of flour with baking powder, 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. I separated 4 eggs, and mixed the yolks with milk, vegetable oil, 1/4 cup honey and the almond meal. In a separate bowl I beat the egg whites until frothy and airy. Mixed the wet and dry, adding the egg whites last.

I carefully ladled the batter into silicone muffin liners and squeezed a blob of black cherry preserves onto the top. I had a crazy idea that I might draw squiggles or write “Happy Birthday” or something, but what was I thinking? Hello, Robot, you can make tasty things but you fail at making pretty things. The preserves were chunkier than I realized, and made squeezing out smooth lines impossible. Also, once in the oven, the batter rose up and the cherry preserves sank into the muffins. So, at least I didn’t waste any effort?

I baked them at 200C for 25 minutes, they turned a beautiful golden color. I sampled one–light, tasted a little bit like a corn muffin but a much more cake-like texture.

Brunch was lovely. It was bright and blue out in Beijing, and in the short time we sat outside in the sun, I managed to get a sunburn. Taverna had an brunch special for RMB78, plus 30 for wine. Not exactly terrible, all things considered. I had a very nice started of parma ham wrapped melon, and then a braised lamb shank, and we all had muffins for dessert.

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