Friday, April 27, 2012

Gourmet’s 50 Most Influential Women in Food # 45 Diana Kennedy--Torta de Cielo (Almond Sponge Cake)

Torta de Cielo translates to "Cake of Heaven”

Here we are at number 45 on Gourmets list of the 50 Most Influential Women in Food The Grande Dame of Mexican food, Diana Kennedy. Diana is to Mexican cuisine what Julia Child was to French. 

She was born in Loughton, Essex, UK in 1923. During WW2 she joined the Timber Corps. It was an organization created to replace the men in the forestry department, who were serving during the war.  After the war she emigrated to Canada. In 1957 she left for Mexico to marry her husband, Paul Kennedy, a correspondent for the New York Times.  She then started traveling the country in search of recipes, cooking techniques and the history of Mexican cuisine. After she published her first book, The Cuisines of Mexico in 1972, she became a leading expert on authentic Mexican cooking. Since then she has published a number of books including (at age 87)  Oaxaca al Gusto An Infinite Gastronomy, 2010. When reviews of this book came out she complained “I’m 87 years old; be serious, I’m not going to live forever”.  Feisty to say the least!   An  interviewer from the Washington Post called her fiery! I would say she's earned the right to be a bit tempestuous. 

She was awarded the Order Of The Aztec Eagle, by the Government of the Republic of Mexico for her contributions to documentation of regional Mexican cuisine. The Aztec Eagle is the Mexican equivalent of Knighthood for the British.
Ms. Kennedy resides in Michoacan, Mexico. Now 89 still fit and, according to an NPR interview, still on the hunt for the perfect tamale. 
I decided to make Diana Kennedy’s Torta de Cielo which is an Almond Sponge Cake. I did take a short cut with this recipe. I decided to use a bag of almond meal purchased for another recipe, instead of using whole almonds. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo…this cake was absolutely awesome!  "A  keeper” according to my husband! 

Egg yolks whipped into the whites
Batter after nut mixture was mixed in...
It does look heavenly…
and tastes delectable! Perfect for Cinco de Mayo!
Almond Sponge Cake

Torta de Cielo, translated “Cake of Heaven”
Slightly adapted from a recipe by Diana Kennedy

Almond Sponge Cake

8 oz raw whole almonds (I used 1¾ cups almond meal)
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs, separated
2-4 Tbsp.  cognac

1 tsp almond extract

1Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

First, cover the almonds with boiling water and let soak for 4 hours undisturbed. After the almonds are done soaking, remove the skins by gently pinching. Dry almonds thoroughly and grind in food processor until they are very fine, but not powder.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Prepare 9” cake pan or a similar size  baking dish by buttering the bottom and sides of the dish, then lining with parchment paper, then buttering the top of the parchment paper. Set aside. 

Separate the five eggs. With a handheld or stand mixer, beat the egg whites until fluffy. Add the salt and continue beating until they are stiff. Add the yolks one by one and continue beating until incorporated.

Mix the dry ingredients together including the almonds and beating at low speed, gradually add them to the egg mixture.

Add the cognac and almond extract, mix well and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 60-75 minutes in the middle of the oven. Let cool on a wire rack before removing from pan.

You can top the cake with powdered sugar or some fresh whip cream.  

Here’s what we've been up to with our 45th Game Changer.....

Mary of One Perfect Bite 
Susan of The Spice Garden  
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed   
Heather of Girlichef   
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney  
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living   
Linda of There and Back Again  
Barbara of Moveable Feasts  
Nancy of Picadillo 
Mireya of My Healthy Eating Habits  
Veronica of My Catholic Kitchen  
Claudia of Journey of an Italian Cook  
Alyce of More Time at The Table  
Amrita of Beetle's Kitchen Escapades
Martha at Simple Nourished Living  
Jill at Saucy Cooks  
Sarah at Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Annie at Most Lovely Things  
Sue at The View from Great Island 


  1. Oh this is a beauty - I love all things almond and this is no exception. I found Kennedy to be fascinating! And I am looking at this for Cinco de Mayo.

  2. Oh MY goodness - this cake looks fantastic! I am a sucker for any almondy desserts...I think I'm going to have to make it this weekend.

  3. I love how beautifully this cake turned out, easily made gluten-free too. Diana Kennedy sounds like quite an interesting character - feisty!

  4. What a treat. I can already imagine how delicious this is because they make a torte similar to it in Spain, called Torta de Santiago. Happy eating!

  5. I am glad that you made this recipe - I was thinking of baking the same cake :) How would you say that the taste compares to traditional sponge cakes? It does look heavenly, indeed!

    1. I used almond meal so it was darker and I think a bit heavier…but so delicious! My husband loved it!

  6. What an absolutely beautiful looking torte! One of my daughters was born on the 5th of May and now I know which torte/ cake I will be preparing for the "adult" guests at her party . I will let you know how it turns out - I love cakes/tortes that contain ground nuts and this one looks like the guests as well as my family will enjoy it. Very informative post - I learned a lot! The idea with the 50 Most Influential Women in Food list from Gourmet is very good and also interesting!

  7. Kathy, this cake looks wonderful! Nice to know I can use almond meal instead of grinding up my own almonds. I wonder what my husband would think of an almond cake...?

  8. Your sponge cake looks particularly delicious. The almond meal must give it an interesting texture and wonderful flavor. I really have to try it. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  9. What a lovely post, and tribute to Diana Kennedy! 87 years "young?"...she looks amazing:DDD
    How did I miss this beautiful Torta...and to think it's a sponge cake, made with almonds! Wow! Kathy, I'm really impressed and excited about this fantastic recipe, and special lady! Beautiful and delicious Torta!

  10. Gorgeous cake! Enjoyed your Dorie post, too!
    Happy Friday!

  11. The name of the recipe is enough to make me want to make this cake. It looks luscious and sound delicious:) Thanks for the great post and I am looking forward to making the cake.

  12. That looks absolutely delicious! Can't wait to try it.

  13. Your cake is just gorgeous, Kathy! I have quite a few of Diana Kennedy's cookbooks, but I have not tried this recipe. Will have to remedy that real soon.

  14. Cognac and almonds...Yes please! With those ingredients, I'm sure this is a cake of heaven! It looks and sounds delicious. Perfect to snack on through the day ;)

  15. Ooh, how easy! And, I just bought a bag of almond meal.

  16. Your cake is stunning! Don't you love it when your spouse tells you that you've made a keeper!

  17. Beautiful cake Kathy, perfect for Cinco de Mayo! I love almonds in sweets!