Recipe: crystal almond pound cake
Well I am a bleeping idiot. I spent so much time fussing over the making of this cake that I didn’t read the last bit through and now I’m waiting for the glaze to crystallize the way it was supposed to. I guess you will find out by the end of the post if it worked out or not!
lemon and orange zest
While flipping through some of my old cookbooks, I was struck by the recipes that appeal to me today as opposed to the recipes that appealed to me three years ago. Funny how our tastes and preferences change as we cooks and bakers evolve… perhaps I dare use the word mature? Nah, screw that!
whisking eggs and vanilla
Lately I’ve had orange on the brain. Don’t worry, I will get around to my chocolate bundt cake experiment soon enough, but not until I’m out of the chemo forest (5 more days, technically). So this recipe for Crystal Almond Pound Cake from Flo Braker’s The Simple Art of Perfect Baking struck my fancy because it has orange and lemon in it.
almond paste and sugar
Each effort to bake the cake this week was thwarted. Fatigue, then no oranges, then no almond paste, then medical appointments up the wahzoo… When I finally got around to making it today, I read through the directions and thought they were a tad fussy. I mean, I really love cake recipes that read: mix everything together and dump it in the pan to bake. These instructions were more picky in the way that hints at disaster if you should deviate in the slightest.
stir in the zest
Flo has her reasons for the specific instructions and I followed them exactly while thoughts of dumping everything together all at once tickled the far corners of my brain. I didn’t make any adjustments to the recipe since the first rule of high-altitude baking is to leave the recipe as is just in case it works.
But it didn’t work. The damn thing cratered because the cake structure was too weak to support itself during the rise. I read on a high-altitude baking forum (after the fact) that I should use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour because the cake flour doesn’t have enough protein for structural support at this elevation. Great. You know, I’ve used cake flour successfully on just about every other recipe I’ve baked with. But that’s okay, because the cake still tasted fantastic.
glazing the cake
It wasn’t okay though, because in my impatience, I hurriedly glazed my “tunnel of nothing” cake and then sent Jeremy to the neighbors’ house with half of it. I overlooked the part of the recipe that said to wait 4 hours until the glaze crystallized. Aesthetics… aesthetics… The simple art of perfect baking really hinges on not being an impatient dipshit.
While I was catching up on some of my favorite blogs, I noticed that my dear Helen made mention of hosting Sugar High Friday… and citrus. I have never participated in SHFs, founded by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess. These days, I can barely keep up with the Daring Bakers as it is. Imagine my dumb luck to have baked a citrusy, sweet something the day before the SHF citrus deadline. So this is my SHF submission and after waiting 4 hours, I see the cake looks the same as it did (more or less) 4 hours ago. Okay, whatever… It tastes Damn Good with a moist and dense crumb that mingles almond and citrus in a deceptively light flavor. I say deceptive because it contains a half pound of butter.
slice of sunshine
Crystal Almond Pound Cake
The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker
3/4 cup (75 g) sifted cake flour (use all-purpose flour at high elevation)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 lemon, zest of
1 orange, zest of
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
7 oz. (3/4 cup) almond paste, room temperature
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tbsps lemon juice
3 tbsps orange juice
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 8.5 inch tube pan or other 7- to 8-cup decorative baking pan with solid shortening. Dust generously with all-purpose flour, tilt to coat evenly and tap out the excess.
Pour the flour, baking powder, and salt in that order into a triple sifter. Sift onto a sheet of waxed paper to distribute the ingredients evenly; set aside. Grate lemon and orange rinds for the zests; set aside. Crack eggs into a small bowl and add the vanilla. Whisk together briefly just to combine yolks and whites. Place the almond paste in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.
With the paddle attachment on low speed (#2), break up the almond past for about 30 seconds. Maintaining the same speed, slowly add the 1 cup of sugar in a steady stream and beat until incorporated (if you add the sugar too quickly, the almond paste jumps out of the mixing bowl). Continue on low speed while adding the butter one tablespoon at a time, taking about 1 minute. Stop the machine after all of the butter has been added, and scrape the sides of the bowl. Increase speed to medium and cream until the mixture is lighter in color and fluffy in appearance (about 3 to 4 minutes).
With mixer still on medium speed, pour the egg mixture in a little at a time (tablespoon by tablespoon). Don’t add more egg until the previous addition has been incorporated into the batter. If the batter gets too watery or shiny, increase the speed until it is smooth and silky, then return to medium speed and resume adding egg mixture. Continue mixing, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl at least once. When batter is fluffy, velvety, and white (mine was always beige), and has increased in volume (after about 2-3 minutes), detach the beater from the bowl.
Use a rubber spatula to stir in the zests. Stir in half of the flour mixture until incorporated. Then stir in the other half, mixing until smooth. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the sides begin to contract from the sides of the pan, the cake springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place the cake on a rack to cool for 5 to 7 minutes. Mix the glaze ingredients together in a small bowl. Turn the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack (take care that it isn’t stuck – loosen with a metal spatula if necessary) positioned over a baking sheet to catch drips. Brush the entire surface of the cake with all of the glaze. Let the cake sit for at least 4 hours or until the glaze has set like a sheet of crystals (oops, I didn’t do this) before moving it from the cooling rack to a plate. Serve at room temperature.