from the (okinawan) kitchen: pick me up amaretto cake with almond cream and orange infused mascarpone ice cream

Recently, my husband decided to bring home a bottle of amaretto liquor. We usually don’t keep much other than a bottle of Riesling around our kitchen, so the amaretto got me thinking of how I could plan a rainy night dessert out of it. The soggy days are really starting to add up here, and I needed a soothing dish to tuck into during a day inside. Heading into Springtime, I’m not looking for anything too heavy or rich. Just a warm, cakey serving of comfort and a side of a brighter ice cream will do nicely.

amaretto cake

For me, amaretto conjures up images of old Italy. How perfect would it be to add a little mascarpone into the mix? It just so happened that I had some sitting in my fridge just waiting for the ideal dish. With the amaretto and the mascarpone, I had a picture of a Tuscan villa going in my head. Now, it was just a matter of adding in a hint of sunshine. I always try to keep a bunch of fruit on hand, and the zest of an orange would be all I needed to place me under the Tuscan sun.

scooping up the good stuff. orange infused masarpone ice cream.

a scoop of orange infused mascarpone ice cream with a hint of orange zest on top

Piece by piece, the recipe came together beautifully. It was the perfect pick me up, and I recommend it highly for anyone in need. Just put any and all kids to bed, prepare a nice serving, and picture yourself relaxing in the sun. It’ll be your own little Italy, even if you are just lounging on the couch.
To get to that warm, cozy place, the success of the ice cream lies in the orange perfectly matching the amaretto crumb. The smoothness of the mascarpone works wonderfully to give the ice cream a more elegant texture, but the brightness you need is reliant upon the orange. If you’re interested in softening up the cake a bit more, the almond cream rounds out the flavor of the amaretto nicely. Try it without the cream, too, by just adding a dollop of the ice cream over the top along with some slices of orange. You’ll be happy whichever way you choose to enjoy it.
amaretto layer cake and orange mascarpone ice cream
For the Orange Infused Mascarpone Ice Cream:
Makes 2 pints
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (See Recipe Notes)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp orange zest
pinch of salt
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mascarpone

For the Amaretto Sponge Cake:
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup amaretto
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt (See Recipe Notes)

For the Almond Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1Tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract
Freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
In a saucepan, mix milk, heavy cream, sugar, orange zest, and salt. Cook on medium heat until bubbles form around the edge (about 5 minutes). Do not boil. Remove from heat and let stand to steep for about 10-15 minutes.
In a separate small bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla. Pour 1/2 cup of milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk well so that the eggs are fully incorporated. Return this egg mixture back to the saucepan and cook on low until a spoon coated with the mixture can hold a line drawn through it with a finger (about 4-8 minutes).
Remove saucepan from heat. Put the bowl in a larger bowl with ice water to cool down for about 5 minutes. Strain the custard mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Whisk the mascarpone into the custard. Put plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours or overnight if preferred.
Add the custard to your ice cream maker and churn for 20-25 minutes or until the consistency of thick whipped cream. Scoop into freezer safe containers and let set in the freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.
For the amaretto cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter over the stove or in the microwave. Set aside.
Prepare a 9 x 13 pan or other desired baking pans by coating the inside with butter and dusting lightly with flour. Shake out the excess flour.
In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs. Add both the sugar and brown sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy (about another 5 minutes). Add the almond extract and mix on low until just combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and orange zest. Add to the egg mixture. Mix in the melted butter and amaretto until just combined. Fold in the sour cream with a spatula.
Pour into the baking pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the edges pull away slightly from the pan. Let stand in the baking pan for 10 minutes to cool. Then, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, combine all ingredients for the almond cream and mix on medium low speed until soft peaks form. Do not over whip or it will become butter-like. Serve on top of the amaretto cake with the ice cream on the side.

Recipe Notes:
-For the ice cream, if you don’t have heavy whipping cream on hand, you can just add in an additional 1/2 cup of whole milk instead.
-Sour cream may replace the plain greek yogurt in the amaretto cake if you prefer.
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