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Taste of the Past: Buttered Almond Cake a Knotty Pine staple

Many Cambridge residents have a favourite menu item from The Knotty Pine, including former executive chef Wayne Conrad Serbu who will be sharing some of his favourite recipes and memories from local restaurants in a new monthly column

The Knotty Pine was a family run restaurant upstairs with a notable steakhouse eatery downstairs.

The corner of Fountain and King streets in Preston had several renowned hotel-restaurants back in the 1940s, but the original Knotty Pine KOF-E-BAR, with owner Preston (Pres) Graham at the helm, carried a lot of history. 

In the '70s, it was taken over by the Jacques Family. Mother June Jacques, father John (Jack) Jacques, their sons and their partners carried on the Knotty Pine tradition, making it a well-known destination.

For decades the food was all handmade in-house using the original bakers' and cooks' recipes, consistently serving great food for over five decades.

I took over as the executive chef in 1983 and continue to this day using the landmark restaurant's original recipes.

The familiar neon sign and beautifully-manicured, landscaped grounds provided a photographic setting for family reunions and wedding pictures. The Black Angus bull statue was a great backdrop, and many kids had their picture taken riding on top.

The upstairs KOF-E BAR was hugely popular and the famous steakhouse once hung and aged its own Angus beef.

The menu items included pot pies, corned beef, steak on a crusty twice-baked potato, haddock fish and chips and, of course, many pies, cakes and desserts.

The Knotty Bakers, as they were known, sure kept their customers loyal. They would come in regularly to enjoy the cakes, pies, scones, butter tarts and pastries.

There was something for everyone’s tastes and lots of favourites for many area families.

The Knotty Pine quickly became known as a great Sunday after-church place to share some of the mouth-watering, freshly-baked goods that June Jacques was always serving up with a smile, including one of her most popular treats, a slice of Buttered Almond Cake.

Here is the Knotty Pine Restaurant's Buttered Almond Cake recipe, reworked to a smaller batch size from the original commercial size recipe. 



  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup of shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups of granulated sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 3 1/3 cups cake and pastry flour
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole milk

Cream Filling

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of whole milk
  • 1/3 cup of cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon of almond flavoring

Buttered Almond Icing

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon of margarine
  • 4 cups of icing sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of 35 per cent cream
  • 1 cup of sliced almonds, toasted

Cake instructions

  1. Cream butter and shortening together.
  2. Add sugar and beat until mixture is smooth and light.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time and beat until well blended.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
  5. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately to the creamed mixture. Mix gently until well combined.
  6. Pour batter into two 10 inch or three 9-inch-round cake pans that have been lightly buttered and lined with wax paper.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Let cool on racks for about 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool completely.

Cream filling instructions

  1. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in the top of a double boiler, being careful not to scald.
  2. Make a paste of remaining milk, cornstarch, sugar and salt.
  3. Add egg yolks and stir until well mixed.
  4. Add a little hot milk to the egg yolk mixture to warm it, then stir into milk in a double boiler. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until filling is thickened and smooth and there is no raw starch taste - about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in flavoring if desired.

To prevent a skin from forming on top, cover with plastic wrap and stir occasionally during cooling.

Buttered almond icing instructions

  1. Heat butter and margarine in a small skillet or heavy saucepan until foam on top turns a golden brown. Stir occasionally. Do not over-brown or the flavor will be burnt rather than roasted.
  2. Cool slightly.
  3. Place icing sugar in a mixing bowl and mix in cream, then gradually stir in browned butter, scraping pan well. Beat until icing is smooth and creamy.

To assemble cake:

  1. Slice each 10 inch layer in half horizontally (if using 9 inch pans, do not split layers).
  2. Top one cake layer with filling and repeat, topping with the final cake layer.
  3. Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of icing.
  4. Immediately add almonds to the top or sides of the cake and refrigerate.

Chef Wayne Conrad Serbu writes monthly for CambridgeToday. The former executive chef also shares recipes and memories from his more than five decades in the hospitality industry on his blog, the kitchenman.