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Fiona’s Almond Sponge from DIA

Fiona’s Almond Sponge from DIA

Dragonfly in Amber

A half-hour later, the tea table lay in shambles, the decanter stood empty, and the three of them sat in a shared stupor of content.  Brianna shifted once or twice, glanced at Roger, and finally asked if she might use his “rest room.”

“Oh, the W.C.?  Of course.”  He heaved himself to his feet, ponderous with Dundee cake and almond sponge.  If he didn’t get away from Fiona soon, he’d weigh three hundred pounds before he got back to Oxford.

“It’s on of the old-fashioned kind,” he explained, pointing down the hall in the direction of the bathroom.  “With a tank on the ceiling and a pull-chain.”

“I saw some of those in the British Museum,” Brianna said, nodding.  “Only they weren’t in with the exhibits, they were in the ladies’ room.”  She hesitated, then asked, “You haven’t got the same sort of toilet paper they have in the British Museum, do you?  Because if you do, I’ve got some Kleenex in my purse.”

Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber (Chapter 2 – The Plot Thickens)

I have a confession about my most recent boo boo.

I accidentally deleted 75% of the photos for this post from my camera.  They never even made it onto my computer.  A wee brain fart and an over-enthusiastic index finger on my mouse button while I was reviewing them is all it took.

The result is a shorter post than usual, with fewer in-process photos.

But don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm for this simple and delicious almond sponge cake.  Fiona would want you to try it!


Unless you have arms of steel and experience fierce joy at the thought of whisking by hand, an electric mixer is required for this recipe, known in culinary circles as a genoise.  The cake is leavened with eggs, no baking powder or soda needed.  The eggs and sugar are whipped at a high speed for a long time to incorporate air, which results in a light, moist sponge.

You know the eggs are done when they’ve about tripled in size and they’re at the ribbon stage, which looks exactly like the photo above.  The batter will leave a trail as you drizzle it over the bowl.  (Photo courtesy of


Fiona’s Almond Sponge

: A tender, moist, almond-flavoured cake guaranteed to win your way into Roger’s stomach.

Yield:  8” cake (serves 10-12)

  • Unsalted Butter – 2 Tble (30 ml)
  • Ground Almonds (powder) – ½ Cup (125 ml)
  • Granulated Sugar – ½ Cup
  • Almond Extract- ½ tsp (5 ml)
  • Vanilla Extract – ½ tsp (5 ml)
  • Eggs – 4 Large (AT ROOM TEMPERATURE)
  • Cake Flour, sifted – 1 Cup (250 ml)
  • Sliced Almonds – for sprinkling
  • Powdered (Icing) Sugar – for garnish

Read the recipe through at least once before you begin.  

Move the rack to the centre position and preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C).

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  Grease an 8” round cake pan and dust with flour.

Combine the ground almonds, granulated sugar, almond extract and vanilla extract in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Mix on medium-low speed until well combined with no lumps.  Alternatively, combine in a large bowl and use a hand mixer fitted with the beaters on low speed.

Replace the paddle/beaters with the whisk attachment, add the eggs and whip on medium-high speed until the eggs are at the ribbon stage (see photo) and the mixture is tripled in volume, about 20 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the machine and carefully fold in the flour, ensuring it’s well combined.  Fold in the cooled melted butter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle sparingly with sliced almonds.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.  Dust with the powdered sugar, then slice and serve.  Wonderful with berries and cream.

Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)


  • The eggs must be at room temperature in order to gain enough volume.  Remove them from the fridge at least 2 hours before you begin.
  • I ground blanched, sliced almonds in a coffee grinder I reserve for nuts and spices to get the almond powder.  To clean a coffee grinder, grind 2 tablespoons of uncooked rice to a powder.  Wipe it out and, voilà!

almond sponge DIA


  1. Aaron Brown
    March 19, 2013 at 5:43 am


  2. Jeanne
    March 19, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Hi Theresa,

    This recipe is a great reason to gather some friends for tea. Have you ever thought of doing the recipes for an entire tea service? I know there are rules of etiquette and, not being British, I haven’t the faintest idea what they are. Perhaps your Mannie could help?

    On a side note, my Cherry Bounce (destined for Fergus in August) is coming along nicely. Many Thanks!!


    • Theresa
      March 19, 2013 at 11:46 am

      I may get to an entire tea service one day, Jeanne…but in the meantime, there`s a Downton Abbey food blog, also written by a professional chef, that`s done a pretty great job with a full-on guide to hosting a tea already! Here`s a link to get you started:

  3. Bree
    March 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I made this tonight (haven’t tasted it yet) and it only rose about half as high as yours. I beat the eggs for 20 minutes (they only rose to double not triple) and they achieved the ribbon state. Should I have gone past the 2o minutes and just kept beating them until they achieved triple volume? I was worried that if I did that too much beating would ruin it.
    Advice? Thanks 🙂

    • Theresa
      March 31, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Hi, Bree! If they were at ribbon stage, I would have stopped too. But I`m wondering if beating for another 5-10 minutes wouldn`t have done the trick. I`m sorry it didn`t work out perfectly…but I bet it still tastes good!

      I think I`ll change the instructions to beat for 20-30 minutes, until you achieve triple volume, and I hope you`ll try again!

      Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

    • Bree
      March 31, 2013 at 10:49 am

      I had a piece of the cake with some Carmelita tea last night and it did taste good albeit a tad dense. I think I’m going to slightly soak the bottom of the rest of the cake with the Carmelita tea and top it with some whipped cream and make it an impromptu tiramisu (i don’t drink coffee).
      I will definitely be trying this again. I’ve seen some recipes call for the use of a bain marie to help achieve the volume… I’d like to avoid the complication of that but I am not accustomed to being beaten by a recipe so I will try just about anything to achieve success. 🙂
      (i’ve always had better success with savory cooking vs. desserts)
      Thanks for your help and your lovely recipes!

  4. Joan Sanford
    September 3, 2014 at 11:52 am

    I was wondering if there were any high altitude alterations that need to be made to this recipe to make it come out right. I live at 4000 ft in a fairly dry environment and have a little difficulty getting any cake to rise (and cook) properly.

    • Theresa
      September 3, 2014 at 11:57 am

      I’m afraid I don’t know anything about baking at altitude. I’ve lived at sea level my whole life.

  5. Joan Sanford
    September 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks anyway. I’m going to try the original recipe and just see how I do. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Theresa
      September 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      Please do!

  6. Jennifer Garner
    December 10, 2014 at 8:35 am

    I recently made this cake for my Outlander club. I thought this was going to be hard, but it turned out to be really good. I was unsure about getting the eggs to ribbon stage, because I didn’t have a whisk attachment and I didn’t want to do it by hand. Finally after ten minutes of whisking by hand I decided to use my hand mixer. The mix did triple in size. It all turned out great and delicious. I will be making this again in the future. Thank you.

  7. Carol Mackey
    September 29, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    What a yummy-looking tea cake! Are those the ubiquitous Pender Island Blackberries garnishing the top? Next time I’m taking a dessert to a family dinner, this will be it! I also use a coffee grinder (per your suggestion) for spices and nuts, but was wondering if using a bit of the flour in it, say a teaspoon, would help the almonds from becoming butter–or does the blanching take care of the fat? I did this for a pie crust made with ground raw almonds and flour (I didn’t care about the skins), because when I grind other nuts–namely peanuts–sometimes I get a bit of butter. Even flax seeds seem to begin to get gummy (goes in the morning oatmeal). Really looking forward to your cookbook!! =D

    • Theresa
      September 30, 2015 at 9:37 am

      great idea, Carol!

    • Helen
      February 10, 2016 at 7:50 am

      It takes a LONG time in a high powered food processor to turn almonds into almond butter, so I don’t think you have to worry if you are using a coffee grinder. You’ll get it to a granular stage quick enough. You can also buy almond meal in the bulk food section at most grocery stores, if you’d rather not grind your own.

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