Everyone ought to have a good pound cake on hand. There's really no sweet more versatile. Although most people would probably prefer to have something a little more exciting, no one will turn down a slice of pound cake and a cup of tea as a quick pick-me-up. Dress up the pound cake, if you like, with good, fruity jam. For an emergency dessert, warm up some bottled chocolate sauce, or prepare a raspberry coulis (see below). Just be sure to finish off the cake within a week. Although it will keep longer, it will become very dry and crumbly. If you have smaller loaf tins, bake two loaves, and send one to the office. Or cut a larger cake in half.
The following recipe is adapted from "Flo Braker's Pound Cake," in the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking.
Bring 5 large eggs, 2 sticks (½ pound) of butter to room temperature, along with a teaspoon each of the zest of a lemon and an orange.
Measure: 2 cups (7 ounces) of cake flour; 1½ cups of sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt (combine the sugar and the salt). Combine with the zest: 1 teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon almond extract.
Grease and flour a suitable baking pan. An eight-cup loaf pan is the standard.
Preheat the oven to 325º.
Mixing and Baking
In a batter (spouted) bowl, whisk together the eggs, the zest mixture, and, if desired, ½ teaspoon ground mace.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter for about 30 seconds, or until it is creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the sugar and salt mixture. Continue beating at high speed for up to 5 minutes, or until the butter is very light in color and texture. Gradually add the egg and zest mixture, about a teaspoon at a time, beating for a further 3 to 4 minutes.
Beat in the flour in three parts, at low speed, until the batter is smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. With a spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the pound cake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about ten minutes before sliding it onto a cooling rack.
Combine a bag of frozen raspberries with sugar to taste (about a tablespoon to the pound), and, if desired, a drop or two of kirsch or Grand Marnier liqueur. Purée the mixture, and strain it through a fine sieve. Serve chilled or at room temperature. (November 2007)
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