As the editor of Dessert Professional magazine, I spend much of my time focusing on high-end plated desserts, wedding cakes, elaborate pulled sugar garnishes from competitions, and other fanciful creations. It’s so much like the fashion world, this strange little
niche of sugar-fueled creativity – to succeed in both industries, one needs a strong foundation of technique and knowledge, a creative flair, and a bunch of talent. I do love this quirky little oeuvre, but being immersed in it also makes me appreciate the simpler side of
desserts. Pound cake, for example. Rich, moist and delicious, pound cake is refreshingly uncomplicated. It doesn’t require frosting, and icing is optional. If you want to gussy it up, just serve it with ice cream or whipped cream and fresh berries or a berry coulis. It’s an ideal pick-me-up for mid-afternoon, along with a cup of tea or coffee, or toasted as a mid-morning treat (after a bad meeting, for example). Here’s one of my favorite pound cakes, a toasted almond loaf made with almond paste and ground almonds. The recipe is from The Cake Book.
Toasted Almond Pound Cake
Makes one 9 x 5-inch loaf cake, serving 10
Storage: in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
1 3/4 cups (6.2 oz/175 g) sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2.1 oz/60 g) blanched slivered almonds, toasted (see page 000 for directions)
1 cup (7oz/200 g) granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/227 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (5 oz/142 g) canned almond paste (it has more flavor than the one in the foil roll)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream or whole milk
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Dust the pan with flour. Stack two baking sheets on top of one another and set aside. (This will be used to insulate the cake while it is baking – you can use an insulated baking sheet instead.)
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.
3. Combine the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the almonds are just finely ground (don’t overprocess, or the nuts will become oily). Stir the ground almonds into the flour mixture and set aside.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and almond paste at medium speed until very creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and beat the mixture at high speed until very light, about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract. Add the flour mixture at low speed in three additions, alternating it with the heavy cream in two additions. Mix just until the flour is incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
5. Place the cake in the oven on top of the stacked baking sheets. Bake for 70 to 85 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Place the cake pan on a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes.
6. Unmold the cake and cool completely, right side up. Dust the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar before serving.