Oh, pound cake, you buttery temptress. So satisfying, yet so versatile. You’re dessert, breakfast, a coffee break snack. You’re so easy to make, yet so often you’re served dry and crumbly. Can I do you justice?
The good news is that Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, that venerable friend of vegetarians, has a beautiful pound cake recipe. And my favorite cooking guru Alton Brown has a wonderful recipe for lemon curd that goes with it beautifully. Lemon curd, if you’re not familiar with it, is a tart, lemony custard that has many, many applications, my favorite of which is as a topping for pound cake.
1 lb butter, softened
4 cups flour
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour your pan. The recipe calls for a tube pan or a bundt pan, but I don’t own either of those, so I split the batter into two loaf pans. We had to extend the baking time slightly, but it worked out.
With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar at high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Set bowl aside.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. In a measuring cup, stir the milk and vanilla extract together. Now, by hand, mix in the dry ingredients, then the wet, in small amounts, alternating each and ending with the dry. Mix well after each addition, but don’t mix more than necessary to blend thoroughly.
Spread the batter into the pan (or pans). Katzen’s recipe has you baking this in a bundt pan for 50-60 minutes, or until you can insert a knife and have it come out clean.
We baked our loaf pans for about 65 minutes, at which point the knife was still coming out a bit wet and the edges were getting good and brown. We took the pans out and let them sit for about 20 minutes, hoping that carryover cooking would solidify the insides. And it worked! They came out beautifully. We have two large loaves, so if any of my coworkers are reading this today, you’re in for a treat tomorrow.
As for the lemon curd: I’ve linked, but I’ll quote Alton here, since no one writes a recipe more clearly than he does.
Lemon Curd (copyright Alton Brown)
5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced
1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled
Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-inch up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure citrus juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 1/3 cup. Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk smooth. Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. (Bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Remove to a clean container and cover by laying a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Be warned that this recipe requires some elbow grease. That 8 minutes of constant whisking? It gets rough after three minutes or so. I highly recommend having a friend/spouse/victim handy to share in whisking duties. It’s also good to use organic lemons for this, since you want lemon skin in your lemon zest, not wax and dye.
Once everything has cooled, get yourself a slice of pound cake (toasted, if you like) and slather some of that fresh, rich lemon curd onto it. Eat with coffee and a satisfied smile.