Pound cake lives on
Every year, during the week before Easter, I make my pound cakes. Using the best butter I can buy, lots of eggs, flour and sugar along with my favorite flavorings, I bake at least one cake in an old cast-iron lamb mold that has been handed down to me through generations of use in my dad's family.
As long as I can remember, a little frosted lamb with a coat of coconut would rest in the middle of the table during every Easter dinner. I have the original recipe that my Aunt Elinor wrote out for me in her perfect script. Just as you would expect, the ingredient list includes a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs. The cake was flavored with just a bit of salt, a little ground mace, almond extract and vanilla. Believing that it is the lamb that must live on each Easter and not the original pound cake recipe, I've come up with my own version.
Flavored with almond and apricot, White Chocolate Amaretto Pound Cake is full of delicate springtime flavors. Although it is not a typical pound cake recipe, its elegant fine-grained, moist texture cannot be described as anything else.
I always bake a second cake in a 12-cup Bundt pan. I cut generous chunks from the cake and wrap them up tightly in plastic wrap to share with friends.
Since the cake gets its rising power from eggs, it is best to use eggs that have been out of the refrigerator for a while. Warm eggs beat to greater volume, holding more air than cold eggs, resulting in a higher cake with a lighter texture. Mixing this cake takes a little patience. Use an electric mixer to thoroughly beat the butter and sugar. Be sure to give extra beating time after adding each of the half dozen eggs. Then, at a lower speed, gently blend in the flour and liquid flavorings.
I've discovered the wonderful flavor of this cake blooms with a couple of days spent in cool storage. Allow the cake to rest at room temperature before serving.
White Chocolate Amaretto Pound Cake is one you'll find yourself making for special spring celebrations and then again during summer's fresh berry season.
In my house, though, the recipe comes out only once a year. This year, once again, an Easter lamb will adorn the table that gathers my family for dinner. I'm sure my ancestors would be pleasantly surprised at the new flavor it has taken in its old age.
White Chocolate Amaretto Pound Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
6 ounces premium-quality white chocolate, chopped
2-1/4 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/4 cup amaretto
1/4 cup apricot brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease a 12-cup Bundt pan with solid shortening. Dust the pan with flour and set aside.
Melt white chocolate with 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of the butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until mixture is completely smooth. Set aside to cool. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside. Measure amaretto, apricot brandy and vanilla into a 1-cup glass measure.
In a large mixing bowl, beat remaining 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) of butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until light. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat for 8 to 10 minutes. This is not a problem with a stand mixer, but if you're using a hand-held electric mixer, try to give it a good 5 minutes. Add the cooled melted white chocolate mixture and beat until it has blended into the creamed sugar and butter. The mixture should be light in color and texture.
Scrape down the bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sifted flour mixture alternately with sour cream and liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Use a low speed to gently mix the ingredients into the batter. Once the last of the flour mixture has disappeared into the batter, the mixing is over.
Turn the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, spreading evenly. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a thin knife poked deep into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let rest for 15 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a platter. Allow to cool completely before covering tightly to store.
Tips from the cook
--If you prefer to bake without alcoholic flavorings, replace the amaretto and apricot brandy with 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract and 1/2 cup apricot nectar.
--Technically, white chocolate is not really chocolate because it doesn't contain chocolate liquor. The finest white chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids and vanilla. Less expensive white confectionary products will contain no cocoa butter and will have noticeably inferior texture and flavor.