Even though a traditional pound cake didn’t originate in the US, it still feels like a very American kind of cake, one that can easily substitute for the “shortcake” in a strawberry shortcake, goes well with a scoop of ice cream, and lends itself well to adding other flavors to go with whatever special occasion one might have in mind.
Baker Anne Byrn writes in her American Cake book that pound cake shows up in an American cookbook for the first time in 1796, with rosewater flavor; and again in 1824, with grated lemon peel, nutmeg and brandy for flavoring. Because making this cake by hand is quite a tedious, slow process that involves a bunch of elbow grease, it’s a lot better to use today’s appliances, as long as you mix it slowly, as per instruction.
Though I confess, I still love a plain Victoria sponge better, this version of a vanilla cake is still very moist and delicious, has a very small tight crumb, slices easily to be eaten by hand and can easily be pulled out of a freezer if you want to make it ahead and store it for longer.
For this Fourth of July holiday, I made one full recipe of pound cake – starting with Alton Brown’s version that literally uses a pound of butter, sugar, flour and 9 whole eggs. Add any additional flavoring (and a pinch of salt), and you end up with quite a bit of batter, enough to fill two 9×5″ loaf pans. Or in my case, 1 regular vanilla loaf cake with the 9×5 pan, and a couple of dozen additional mini-loafs using my Silkomart mini cake form.
So for version 1, the mini-loafs..
I split the second half of batter again in two, and added a couple of tablespoons of finely ground freeze-dried peach and raspberry fruit and added one each to each quarter batter. Then filled my mini forms with half each…
…swirled them together with a toothpick…
To finish them off, I just whipped a little cream and sprinkled them with more of the dried fruit (though not as finely ground).
For version 2: While I started with one plain vanilla loaf cake, I further cut some thick slices from the loaf into squares, grilled them lightly with butter around all four sides (since they were cubes and not loaf slices), then topped them with more of the whipped cream and some store-bought caramel sauce.
I’m not sure who invented this idea in the first place, but for a long time, one of our favorite family late-night snacks has been take a piece of pound cake, grill it lightly on both sides in a frying pan, top with vanilla ice cream and plenty of caramel sauce. There is simply little I think of that makes for a more scrumptious bedtime treat!
Because this is for afternoon tea, and ice cream would potentially melt, I’ve stuck with whipped cream instead. And don’t be a miser with it, or the caramel! You might want a little extra on hand to make sure you have enough to go with the pound cake.
- 16 oz. unsalted butter, room temp
- 16 oz. granulated sugar (or caster/extra fine)
- 16 oz. cake flour
- 9 large eggs, room temp
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- Baking spray with flour (or butter/flour for preparing the pans and/or molds)
- If making the smaller cakes, and/or one or both versions, additional ingredients below:
- 2 Tbsp. freeze-dried peach and raspberry (each), finely ground
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- Caramel sauce
DirectionsPreheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Coat 2 9×5″ loaf pans, or 1 loaf pan and mini-mold pans with baking spray with flour, or butter/flour.
Cream together the 16 oz. of butter and 16 oz. of sugar in a stand mixture (or with hand mixer) on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure it’s all integrated.
With the mixer at low speed, add the eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next egg. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. The mixture may look a bit curdled at the end (but this will go away when you add the flour). Add the vanilla and salt and integrate it in quickly on medium speed.
Again on low speed, add the flour in in three installments, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Scrape bowl at the end and beat another 30 seconds until smooth.
If making two loaf pans, simply divide the batter in half and put into each loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until internal temperature of the cake reaches 210° Fahrenheit. The crust should be golden brown and spring back when pressed, while the crack around the center will appear a bit moist. If the cake is not finished baking but the crust is looking golden brown enough, cover with aluminum foil to complete baking and protect the top.
If making one loaf and mini-loaves, again, divide the batter in half and put one half of the batter into one loaf pan. Take the second half of the batter and divide it in half again, adding 2 Tbsp. peach to one half, and 2 Tbsp. raspberry to the other half (or whatever freeze-dried fruit you’ve chosen). Scoop about a tablespoon of batter from each flavor into the mini-cake molds and use a toothpick to swirl the two flavors together. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (check after 15). Make more mini-cakes according to the batter you have left (should make a couple dozen).
Once cakes have finished baking, move to a cooling rack for 10 minutes while in the pans, then remove from the pans and cool on the rack at least another 10 minutes.
To finish off the mini-loaf cakes with the freeze-dried fruit, whip one point heavy whipping cream until soft peaks, add 1/4 c. sugar and a 1/2 tsp. of vanilla and finish whipping until hard peaks. Using a piping bag, cut a reverse “v” in the tip for the mini-loaves and pipe back and forth to get the rippled effect. Sprinkle a few roughly chopped freeze-dried fruit pieces on the top to finish.
To make the grilled version, take the large vanilla loaf, slice into thicker slices (like 1 inch), and cut up into ~6 pieces. Spread a little bit of butter around the outside of the four sides and lightly grill/toast in a frying pan until golden brown. Once these cubes have cooled, top with the heavy whipping cream. Take a spoon and make a little well in the top of the whipped cream and fill with caramel sauce.
So take another look at the plain pound cake – how might you doctor it up to suit your tastes, and your afternoon tea?!