A truly amazing number of fruit & nut varieties originated in Central Asia where Jaya's Golden Necklace takes place, including species of apricot, apple, pear, cherry, plum, pomegranate, almond, walnut, and pistachio. Here is the recipe for the Apricot/Almond Birthday Cake Jaya's mama makes for King Kanishka. David Kittlestrom, my editor at Wisdom Publications, and I enjoyed making several versions, fine-tuning the recipe each time, and enjoying the results with friends & family. Fresh, sweet apricots are best but canned and dried apricots will also make a delicious cake.
MAMA'S APRICOT/ALMOND CAKE
Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat until fluffy in a large bowl: 1 1/4 cups sugar & 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
Beat in: 4 eggs (one at a time), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, & 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Mix separately: 2 cups sifted flour, 1 cup almond meal (almonds ground in blender), 1 teaspoon baking powder, & 1/2 teaspoon salt
Alternating with flour mixture, stir into butter mixture until just moistened: 4 tablespoons milk (for canned fruit) or 1/2 cup milk (for fresh) or 3/4 cup milk (for dried)
Dice & fold in: 5 diced fresh apricots dredged in flour or 1 1/2 cups canned or dried apricots
Pour into greased & floured 9-inch cake pan, bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes until top starts to brown and the center is cooked. Let cool and turn onto plate
Topping: Pit and halve 6 large sweet apricots (or 12 canned halves), sauce with 1 tablespoon butter until they start to soften but keep their shape, and arrange on top of cake. In the remaining liquid, stir in 2 tablespoons or so of sugar or apricot jam and heat until it caramelizes into a glaze, adding fruit juice or puree as necessary to thin. Drizzle the glaze over the apricot halves. Serve and enjoy!