Raise your hand if you’ve had dry pound cake? I know, me too. In fact, I thought I didn’t like pound cake. I thought to myself, good, a caloric treat that I can cross off the list. Well, not so fast. This recipe caught my eye because my love for all things almond overwhelmed my suspicion of pound cake.
The cookbook is The Craft of Baking from Karen DeMasco and I have wanted it since a sick day in November 2009. I was lying on the couch, sick and pitiful and watching Martha Stewart. The whole episode was devoted to pies and Karen made a butterscotch cream pie with a gingersnap crust composed of her homemade gingersnaps. I am not even a butterscotch fan, but I just loved how Karen presented herself and the gingersnaps looked perfect. I just knew her book would be a good baking resource and sure enough, it is.
She has little excerpts in the book that she refers to as “building your craft,” where she explains the pitfalls of particular recipes and how to avoid them. For instance, she explains why the butter in this recipe needs to be at room temperature and why it’s important to beat each egg in individually. Of course, I had seen these steps in recipes before, but I appreciated her information on what it does for the structure and crumb of the cake.
Imagine my surprise when Karen writes that pound cake is not suppose to be dense and dry, but delicate and moist. To my utter dismay and delight, this pound cake is the queen of all pound cakes. It is indeed delicate and full of almond flavor. The coarse sugar crust makes my heart sing. I can tell from my husband’s reaction when a recipe is a real winner and all of the tell-tales signs were there. I cut one piece for us to share and there was no question that half a piece was simply not enough and we shared another. He said it was the best pound cake ever as he eyed the rest of the loaf.
My pound cake did sink a bit in the middle, which Karen addresses as a structural problem. You are not suppose to check in on your cake for 40 minutes, but even with an oven thermometer, things tend to bake quickly in my ancient (but apparently efficient) oven and I may have peeked a time or two. My cake was a deep golden brown a bit early and I’ll adjust the time and strive for perfection next time. There will definitely be a next time. I love a good rustic baked good, so the crack was charming to me.
The pound cake is sweet and I recommend serving it with fresh strawberries on the side. If you have written off the pound cake and want to remain in ignorant bliss, by all means do not make this. However, if you like a good come-back story, you know what to do.
Recipe: Almond Pound Cake
Recipe from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco
Makes one 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf
1 C. cake flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/3 C. plus 1 T. almond paste
3/4 C. granulated sugar
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft and cut into small chunks (I used Kerrygold)
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 T. turbinado sugar
1. Fit your loaf pan with parchment paper. I like to do one long piece sufficient for overhang, but just fitting the longer side of the loaf pan and then tuck two smaller pieces in at the ends. Using whatever your butter was wrapped in, smear the paper/foil over the loaf pan, greasing well. Lay the parchment into the loaf pan and then butter the top of the paper as well. If there is not enough on the paper/foil, borrow a little dab from your softened butter.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
4. Using your electric mixer with paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer), combine the almond paste and granulated sugar. Beat at medium speed until well combined, about 5 minutes. Add in the butter and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high and add eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is mixed in before adding the next.
5. Now add the flour mixture gently and by hand with a wooden spoon or spatula. Mix until flour is just incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake 40 minutes without opening the oven during this time. Rotate the pan and continue baking until the cake is golden and firm to the touch, about 5 minutes more.
6. Lift the cake out of the pan with the overhang of parchment and let it cool completely on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature with berries. It is best eaten the same day it is baked, but can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days.