m'hanncha (moroccan almond and orange blossom phyllo pastry)

moroccan almond and orange blossom pastry on

We’re all moved into our new home. The whirlwind of the holidays and closing on the house and packing is behind us. I continue to explore the neighborhood: I know which butcher and grocery store I like. The best route for walking to the park. Where the post office is. 

moroccan almond and orange blossom pastry on

I expected moving to a new neighborhood would bring a lot of change. The piece I hadn’t foreseen was how adrift I would feel without all the small rituals that anchored my days. My afternoons at the coffee shop where I was greeted with a smile and where I knew all the baristas' names. The public library just a stone’s throw from my house. The running trail I knew like the back of my hand. Chats with my neighbor out the kitchen window. 

And though we’re still in Seattle, we’re no longer just a ten minute drive away from most of our friends. Less able to meet up for a spontaneous cocktail or after-work walk.

moroccan almond and orange blossom pastry on
moroccan almond and orange blossom pastry on

The good news is I’m finding new rituals and making new friends. That’s where this cake comes in. 

It's made of layers of phyllo dough wrapped around an almond filling infused with orange water and honey. It’s flaky and nutty and just the right amount sweet. This is my kind of dessert. Once I had baked it though, I realized it was definitely too much for Beau and I to finish on our own. So I took it to my photography class. 

moroccan almond and orange blossom pastry on

There’s something about sharing food that makes people open up just a little bit more than they otherwise would. As we sat around the table before class eating sticky slices of cake, people talked about their work and their partners and their interests for the first time. We laughed and shared photography tips and commiserated over our darkroom blunders. 

I’m not going to chalk it all up to the m’hanncha. But I am going to say it helped. And I’m officially counting Thursday Night Photography Class among my new rituals. There will very likely be more cake.

moroccan almond and orange blossom pastry on

M'hanncha (Moroccan Almond and Orange Blossom Phyllo Pastry)

  • 4 oz. (8 tablespoons) butter, melted, plus additional for brushing phyllo
  • 4 oz. (1 c.) blanched slivered almonds
  • 4 oz. (2/3 c.) granulated sugar
  • 11 oz. (2 3/4 c.) almond meal
  • 2 oz. (1/2 c.) powdered sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons orange flower water, divided
  • 6-8 sheets phyllo dough
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • ¼ cup mild-flavored honey

*Notes: If you can’t find almond meal, make your own. Place whole, sliced or slivered blanched almonds in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until they form a fine meal. You will be able to get a finer meal in the blender. Adding a tablespoon or two of sugar will help keep the almonds from turning to almond butter. If you add the sugar while making almond meal, be sure to subtract it from the amount in the recipe.

- This pastry is also delicious with pistachios. When I make it with pistachios I reduce the amount of cinnamon and add a pinch of ground cardamom.

moroccan almond and orange blossom pastry on

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the melted butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the blanched almonds and cook until light golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

When cool, place the browned almonds in a food processor with the granulated sugar and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. 

Add the almond meal, powdered, sugar, the rest of the butter, the whole egg, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of the orange flower water to the food processor with the almond and sugar mixture. Process until the mixture is homogenous, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Unroll the phyllo dough and place it on a large work surface. Cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and then a barely damp towel to keep it from drying out. Remove one sheet of the phyllo and place it on your work surface, with a long side closest to you. Brush the phyllo with melted butter. You want it lightly and evenly buttered (not dripping with butter).

Take a golf ball sized piece of dough and roll it into a log about ½ -inch in diameter. Place the roll of filling on the buttered phyllo, about 1/2 inch from the edge in front of you. Continue to form rolls of the almond paste and place them end to end, gently pressing them together, until you have a log of filling that extends across the long side of the phyllo sheet.

Gently roll the phyllo sheet around the log of filling. Brush the top and sides lightly with melted butter to keep the phyllo roll flexible. Coil the first roll around itself in the center of a parchment-lined sheet pan.

Continue rolling logs of filling in the buttered phyllo and placing them end to end to form a tight coil until you have used up all of the paste. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg yolk and water mixture. Bake until crisp and golden brown (about 30 minutes).

In a small saucepan heat the honey to loosen it slightly. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon orange flower water and stir to combine. Pour the honey mixture over the warm pastry.

Cool slightly and dust with powdered sugar. Slice into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8-10 servings.

moroccan almond and orange blossom pastry on

almond crepe cake with raspberry-rose cream

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on
almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

Today, I give you cake! An Almond Crepe Cake with Raspberry-Rose Cream to be precise.

I know this isn’t the most Christmas-y of recipes. But today is my birthday. And I decided I needed to bake myself a beautiful non-holiday-flavored cake!

Before I get down to the details of how to whip up this raspberry and rose scented cloud of a birthday cake, I want to take a moment to thank all of you.

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

A Christmas birthday, falling as it does just before the start of a new year, is an opportune moment for reflection. There’s something about these darkest days of winter and the turning of another page that calls for a gathering close of loved ones and a look back over all the seasons of the year.

This year, again, I have so much to be grateful for. My friends, My family. Travel to some of the most beautiful cities in the world. Buying a home. And you. 

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

I have to admit that the whirlwind of the holidays and closing on a house has left me a little emotional (massive understatement!). But when I take a moment to think about all the people who visit my blog every week and share with me in the comments and via email and instagram, I am incredibly touched. Feeling connected, in whatever small way, to people all over the world strikes me as a very special thing. 

So to everyone who follows along here or on social media or who came to a cooking class or adventured with me to Paris and Portugal--thank you! You helped make 2015 a year I won’t soon forget. If I could invite you all over for a slice of birthday cake, I certainly would!

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

In lieu of being able to serve you a slice of this cake myself, here’s the recipe. Some of you might have noticed I’m trying to keep things a touch healthier around here. And this cake is just the sort of healthy dessert I can get behind. It’s subtly-sweet (it can even be made without any sugar) and gluten-free, relying on almond flour for structure. The raspberry cream in between the layers has just a hint of rose and lime to transport you to sunnier climes in these grey winter days.

Whether you decide to transform these almond crepes into a full-on layer cake extravaganza or simply top them with berries and syrup for brunch, I wish you a sweet start to the New Year!



Almond Crepe Cake with Raspberry-rose Cream

Almond Crepe Cake with Raspberry-Rose Cream

  • 3 cups cold heavy cream
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar or ¾ teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (optional)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
  • 1 recipe Raspberry-Rose Compote (see below)
  • 1 recipe Almond-Flour Crepes (see below)

*Notes: I love that this crepe cake can be made with or without sugar. How much you use is totally up to you. If you don't eat sugar, you can leave it out completely and rely on the natural sweetness of the almonds, berries and cream, or you can use stevia. Some brands of stevia have a horrible aftertaste that will ruin a dish. I find that SweetLeaf powdered stevia, used in moderation lends just a hint of sweetness without the wacky aftertaste. If you eat sugar, you can vary the amount to fit your tastes since it isn't playing a structural roll in this recipe. Just sweeten to taste and enjoy!

- To keep from getting frosting all over your serving dish, you can lay down strips of parchment like this before you place the first crepe and then carefully pull them out once the cake is frosted.

- An offset spatula helps to spread the layers and frost the cake. 

- For beautiful slices, make sure the cake has chilled for at least an hour! (More if it's warm out.) If not, the layers can slide off. Heat a chef’s knife under hot tap water until warm then wipe it dry. Slice straight down (no sawing back and forth as you cut) and wipe your knife after each cut. Periodically run your knife under hot water and wipe as you slice. Also, long wooden skewers inserted into the cake before you frost it, will help anchor it as you slice. You'll just need to be sure to remove them after you've sliced.

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream and sugar or stevia (if using) to soft peaks. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside. Place the cream cheese in the bowl used to whip the cream and beat until it has softened and has a similar texture to the whipped cream. The time will vary depending on how warm it is when the cream cheese goes into the bowl, but it should take somewhere between 2-5 minutes. Don’t rush this step; you want your cream cheese quite loose or else it won’t fold into the cream.

Transfer the reserved whipped cream to the bowl with the softened cream cheese and whip at medium-low speed (or by hand) until the mixture is homogenous and has the texture of frosting. Take care not to overbeat it.

Transfer ½ the frosting to the large mixing bowl and set aside. Fold the chilled Raspberry-Rose Compote into the remaining frosting until the color is uniform. This is what you will use between the crepes.

To assemble the cake: Place a crepe on a flat serving dish. Spoon about ½ cup of the Raspberry-Rose Cream on top of the crepe and spread it to ⅓-inch from the edge (the weight from the rest of the crepes and the cream will push the filling to the edge). Continue layering crepes and cream, ending with a crepe on top.  Gently press down on the crepe cake to flatten the top and push the cream in the top layers to the edge if necessary. Frost the cake with the reserved whipped cream mixture and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Makes 1 6-inch cake, which will serve 6-8.

Almond Flour Crepes

  • 6 large eggs

  • 6 oz. cream cheese (not softened)

  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

  • ¾ cup almond meal

  • 2 tablespoons sugar or ½ teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (optional)

  • Neutral tasting high-heat oil, for the pan


*Notes: If you aren’t great at swirling the batter, no worries; just back fill any holes with batter.

- If you can’t find almond meal, make your own. Place almonds in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until they form a fine meal. You will be able to get a finer meal in the blender. Adding a tablespoon or two of sugar will help keep the almonds from turning to almond butter.

- Feel free to experiment with other nuts here. Hazelnut and pistachio are both great substitutions.

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

Place all the ingredients except the oil in a blender. Blend at high speed until the batter is smooth and homogenous, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute. 

Heat a 6-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add about 1/2 teaspoon oil. When the oil has melted, pour ¼ cup batter into the center of the pan. Gently swirl to coat the bottom of pan, if necessary. Cook until the crepe is set, 60-90 seconds. Loosen the edge with a flexible heatproof spatula then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown, about 30 seconds longer. Transfer the crepes to a wire rack to cool. Once a crepe has cooled slightly, it can be stacked. 

Crepes can be made 1 day in advance. Stack crepes and wrap tightly with plastic wrap until you are ready to assemble your cake.

Makes about 10 6-inch crepes or 6 8-inch crepes.

Raspberry-Rose Compote

  • 1 12-oz. bag (about 3 cups) raspberries (frozen are fine, no need to thaw)

  • Small pinch salt

  • 2-4 tablespoons sugar or ½-1 teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (amount will vary depending on how tart your raspberries are)

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

  • ½ teaspoon lime zest

  • ¼ teaspoon rosewater, or to taste


*Note: I used Nielsen-Massey rose water, which is quite strong. If you are using a more delicate brand, you might need to use a little more. Always add rose water in very small amounts (drops are good) because once you add too much, your whole dish will taste like soap. And we don’t want that.

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

Place the raspberries in a medium saucepan along with the salt and a couple tablespoons of water. If you are using sugar, add it now. Cook over medium-high heat until the raspberries are bubbling and the sauce has reduced slightly, about 7-8 minutes for frozen berries and 5 minutes for fresh.

Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and add a tablespoon of water. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch then add the mixture to the raspberries. Cook for 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime zest and rosewater. If you are using stevia, stir it in now. Cool the compote at room temperature for about 20 minutes then transfer it to the fridge and chill until cold. The compote can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.