Friday, March 20, 2009

cream cheese pound cake + strawberry coulis

cream cheese pound cake, dusted

Meet my new favorite pound cake. I have had this cake bookmarked for, oh, 100 years or so and while some recipes that I unearth from their 100-year queue are the kinds of disappointments that did not improve with age, this is of the opposite variety: Why did it take me so long to make this? Here, let me kick myself a few times.

crackly top

I’d argue that it was fear. Pound cakes are of British origin, dating back nearly 300 years and their name came from the fact that original pound cakes contained one pound each of butter (four sticks), sugar (two cups), eggs (eight large) and flour (four cups), with no leaveners other than the air that was whipped into the batter. They tend to be a bit heavy and dense but it’s hard to argue that this type is not for you when anything else is not a true pound cake.

strawberriesstrawberry couliscream cheese pound cakecream cheese pound cake

When it becomes clear that a little erring from the pound cake doctrine is in order, one can go in a lot of directions. You can add leaveners. You can add baking powder or soda and orange, chocolate chunks, lemon, you name it. Or you can swap out one of those quarter-pounds of butter with cream cheese, tweak the other ingredients accordingly and end up with something that was nothing short of — if I do say so myself — impressive. And with a fresh strawberry sauce? Get thee to the kitchen right now and set to fixing one of these for yourself! You’ll thank me.

cream cheese pound cake + strawberry coulis
pound cake with coulis

One year ago: Caramel Walnut Upside Down Banana Cake
Two years ago: Lighter-Than-Air Chocolate Cake

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Adapted liberally from Staff Meals from Chanterelle

The cream cheese doesn’t so much change the flavor profile but adds a bit more depth of flavor and an amazing crackly edge.

If you’re baking this pound cake in advance, as opposed to the day you are serving it, a little basting will go a long way towards keep it (or any other pound cake) moist. You can use a simple syrup (one part sugar dissolved in an equal amount of water), up the water in it if you’re concerned it will be too sweet and/or add a teaspoon of your flavoring of choice to it.

Serves (at least) 10

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) Philadelphia brand cream cheese*, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract plus 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons vanilla but I liked this mix better)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 10-inch tube pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Alternately, you can use a 12-cup bundt pan, and simply butter and flour it.

2. Place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, increase the speed to high, and beat until light and airy, at least five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla, almond, then the flour and salt all at once. Beat just until incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and shake lightly to even out the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 hours.

4. Place the pan on a cake rack and cool for 20 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

* Philadelphia cream cheese is often recommended for baking for consistency purposes, as in, bakers know this brand works, and because it contains less water than other brands.

Variations: I think this cake would be fantastic with a cup of chopped white chocolate stirred into the batter (an idea I got from this lovely lady) and/or some orange zest. Or grapefruit zest. Or whole raspberries, if you can find good ones in season. Or have fun with it. A good pound cake is infinitely adaptable, and I would like to try them all.

Smaller cakes: A bundt-volume cake often can be used to make two 8 1/2-by-4 1/4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf cakes, however (caveat!) I have not tested this recipe in loaf pans. I just wanted to throw that out there for those of you feeling adventurous, or interested in a reduced volume of cake.

Strawberry Coulis

Where has this been my whole life? I have spent — nay wasted — too much time making cooked fruit compotes for dessert when some fruits, like berries, will always taste better raw. I suspect you could swap any berry for the strawberry in this coulis, but you might have to bump up the sugar accordingly. And then share with me.

2 cups quartered hulled strawberries (about 12 ounces)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine strawberries, water, sugar and lemon juice in blender. Purée until very smooth, then press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Coulis can be prepared one day ahead.


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