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a slice of sunshine

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.

batter in

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
[print recipe]
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

citrus glaze
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.

28 nibbles at “a slice of sunshine”

  1. Ginny says:

    Well, it still looks amazing! Impatience is my flaw with baking too…I was making a cake today and had a few small (although fixable) mistakes because of my impatience…although, I do go by the rule…cover it in more icing and no one will notice! :)

  2. manggy says:

    I dunno if it has anything to do with my background in research but I love Braker’s overly detailed instructions. (I first heard of her on Baker’s Dozen the cooking show– her book’s my first big cookbook purchase.) There’s something hypnotic about them; if you do the cakes her way often enough it won’t seem like a chore and it feels fluid. She hasn’t let me down, but I live at sea level O_o When I rewrite recipes on my notebook to take into the kitchen (I like my books clean, go figger), her instructions are very condensed– just a bunch of ingredients scribbled with brackets saying “mix 45 secs, falls in ribbons, fold, add, etc. I’ve been traumatized by awful cakes before, so it’s nice to be able to troubleshoot when you compare other recipes to hers. Okay, now I sound totally anal and nuts.

    Sorry it didn’t work out though :( At least it was still delicious (and it looks good from the top, yeah!). I haven’t tried that recipe in particular because almond paste isn’t sold here– you have to make it yourself. Did it really have a tunnel? Maybe you could’ve piped in buttercream or chocolate pudding– it’d be a twinkie Bundt cake! Imagine that!

    I was shopping the other day and I saw a Bundt pan for about $15 (Wilton) and I was debating on whether I should buy a tie or that! The tie won :P That is a good price, right?

  3. Susan at StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    I know what you mean about changing tastes. I find that I enjoy fruity and almondy desserts so much more than the chocolate ones I craved years ago. Does that mean I’m becoming more refined? ;) Probably not. Just older!

    I think your cake looks pretty great from where I sit. Orange AND lemon with a glaze sounds divine!

  4. Tartelette says:

    I want some now!!! Ok, so it’s really late and everybody is tucked it in bed and after a delicious dinner of your ribs and your potato salad….now you give me dessert….Arghhhhh! There is always tomorrow!! Sorry I am so absent lately but I barely turn on the computer screen that the family screams “me, me, me…” …all that love to be spread around :)
    Thank you for a rocking cake for a rocking SHF! I want some now!!

  5. peabody says:

    I am so happy that I get to bake at sea level and not worry about what flour I am using.
    As long as it tastes good, right?

  6. Jake says:

    Just curious if it matters if you use shortening or butter to grease the baking pan. Maybe I’m wrong but I would think the shortening would leave some residue on the cake (which might be exactly what you’d want).

  7. Bridget says:

    Ah, the citrus flavor always tastes so light, it tricks me into eating excessive amounts of butter along with it. Lemon bars, lemon tarts, lemon pies…I have to double my usual requirement of self-control.

  8. Christine says:

    Jen – Your cake has all the right things going for it – moist batter, ground almond and citrus! I finally bought a bundt cake pan and I think this recipe or your sour cream cake will be the first thing I try making with it. A slice of sunshine is exactly the way I imagine it too :)

  9. Courtney says:

    Crytallised glaze or not , it looks perfect for this hoilday weekend.

  10. sheila says:

    i love pound cake and this looks delish! i will try it out on the family. thanks for sharing.

  11. Tarah says:

    That look amazing! I love the glaze! Yum!

  12. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    Well it looks gorgeous, even if it was a pain to make! I’m guessing almond paste is just marzipan? If so, what a cool idea pairing it with citrus. Looks like the kind of batter that tastes reeeally good… Take care :)

  13. Holly says:

    Oh, I remember the days of high altitude baking and praying that things were going to work out in the end! So, glad Utah (at least where I am) is low enough to not have to mess around with that. Sorry the cake didn’t work the way it was supposed to, but I’m so glad it was still yummy!

  14. Kevin says:

    That looks so good! I really like the citrus glaze.

  15. Shari says:

    Your “tunnel of nothing” looks delicious! I love bundt cakes, and the citrus and almond paste sound amazing!

  16. Patricia Scarpin says:

    Wow, sunshine, indeed – what a beautiful, mouthwatering slice of cake!

  17. jenyu says:

    Ginny – thanks :) Sometimes I’m very good about patience and other times… ;)

    Mark – I have to agree that her methods are good and she describes them well, but I was bummed that it collapsed on me… but that’s not Flo’s fault – that’s my altitude. It was more like a valley than a tunnel! ha ha. I think you can make almond paste yourself. It’s not always easy to find around my neck of the woods either. $15 is a good deal, but if you want a nice bundt pan, let me know and I can get one for you here!

    Susan – thanks sweetie. Yeah, I am leaning more toward the fruity and creamy recipes, although I know Jeremy will always be my official taste tester for anything with chocolate, coffee, matcha, or booze :)

    Tartelette – you’re too kind! I think we ought to TRADE desserts because I could dig into any of those gorgeous creations on your blog, dear!

    Peabody – yup, that is probably my biggest gripe about where I live: the damn elevation in baking.

    Jake – no, the butter or shortening matters not. It really is just soaking the glaze and letting the sugar crystallize nicely. It did crystallize, but you couldn’t see the difference in the photo very much – not that I tried very hard ;)

    Bridget – me too!!

    Christine – oooh, a new bundt pan!?! I have a nice one, but for some reason I’ve been searching around for a new one. They have so many styles, but really, I shouldn’t be looking at all (right?!). :)

    Courtney – thank you!

    Sheila – I hope your family likes it. It’s delicious.

    Tarah – thanks :)

    Laura – actually almond paste is different from marzipan because I see them side-by-side at the store when I buy it. I don’t know what the difference is though because I haven’t used marzipan before! Hmmmm.

    Holly – ha ha, well – that’s the story of my baking life now. I’m still trying to adjust some of my tried and true sea-level recipes for cookies and other favorite cakes. *sigh*

    Kevin – thank you, sweetie.

    Shari – I really do recommend this one. I doubt it will tank on anyone at sea-level. It is DELISH!

    Patricia – if you like citrus, this will tickle your fancy for sure!

  18. steph (whisk/spoon) says:

    ohhh that looks good! and i have been craving bundt cake, which sounds weird, but i just love it!

  19. Amy says:

    I know what you mean about changing tastes. I recently came across some recipes I had saved from about 5 years ago, and I felt like some alter-ego had saved them: they didn’t appeal to me at ALL and I couldn’t imagine for the life of me why I had cut them out.

    Anyway – the cake sounds delicious, even if it didn’t turn out as you had imagined. :)

  20. jenyu says:

    Steph – not weird at all, I get those cravings too :)

    Amy – funny how that happens! I honestly think that my tastes have altered, expanded, in part because of the food blogs! :)

  21. Sue says:

    I’ve made this cake twice following the directions (to my best ability) and my cake was very greasy. Can anyone tell me why? The flavor was superb but no one liked the greasy texture. Thanks for your help.

  22. jenyu says:

    Sue – it i more greasy than fluffy. You can play with the recipe and increase flour or decrease butter content or perhaps add some sour cream to cut the grease.

  23. nynah says:

    jenyu, Thank you for this recipe and the special info on high altitude baking and type of flour. It explains my recent pound cake disaster, it was the cake flour! I’ll try it again with regular flour. Many thanks. nynah

  24. jenyu says:

    Nynah – good luck :)

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  26. connie says:

    I just compared the amount of flour used in this recipe with another similar one and the other one uses 3cups flour(400g.), which sounds more realistic, all other ingredients are close or the same; could be why this one is coming out greasy.

  27. sheryl says:

    is it orange juice or do I get juice from the orange? Probably a silly question but just wanted to make sure!

  28. jenyu says:

    sheryl – you can use whatever is easiest!

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