Saturday, February 19, 2011

Golden Vanilla Pound Cake

This pound cake is a rich, brown outside, with an ultra-fine, golden crumb. If you like a dense, firm, loaf-shaped classic pound cake, then this one's for you. One non-traditional touch: the vanilla-sugar glaze brushed atop the cake towards the end of the baking time, which gives it a crackly-crunchy top crust. Bake the cake in a loaf pan or a bundt pan.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon if you use salted butter)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon Watkins Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Watkins Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Watkins Almond Extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons milk
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Watkins Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon water

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 5" x 2 3/4" loaf pan, or a 12" x 4" x 4" tea loaf pan. To avoid overflow, be SURE to use the correct size pan!

2) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, salt, sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract, and almond extract until well combined.

3) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; the mixture may look slightly curdled/grainy. After you've added the final egg, beat at high speed for 3 minutes. The batter will still look a little curdled, but will have gained a bit of volume. Once all the eggs are added, stir in the milk.

4) Sprinkle in the flour gradually, with the mixer going at low speed. Mix just until combined. The batter will be smooth and thick (not pourable). Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

5) To make the topping, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water. Stir until the mixture is syrupy. At first it'll seem very stiff, but will become "drizzlable" as you stir. Set the topping aside.

6) Set the cake on a baking sheet, for easiest handling and as a precaution against potential overflow (which shouldn't happen if you use the correct size pan). Bake it for 55 minutes (for either size pan).

7) Remove the cake from the oven, and brush with the sugar mixture. It'll be kind of stiff, and may clump up; again, that's OK. Return the cake to the oven for an additional 15 minutes or so. It's a bit challenging trying to figure out when it's done; the center will test done, while the very top, right under the crust, will still be kind of soggy. The center should register about 200°F on an instant-read thermometer.

8) Remove the cake from the oven, and after 5 minutes loosen the edges. After an additional 5 minutes, turn the cake out of the pan to cool completely on a rack.

Tips from our bakers

Use Watkins Clear Vanilla Extract for a whiter sugary crunch topping.

If desired, substitute 1 tablespoon lemon zest + 1 teaspoon Watkins Lemon Extract for the vanilla and almond extracts.

If desired, bake the cake in a 9-cup tube or Bundt pan. You'll need to bake it a shorter amount of time than in the loaf pan, so start checking at 55 minutes.

Since this cake is so dense, the baking time can be tricky. You want it thoroughly baked, but not dried out. When the cake is done, a cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean, and the internal temperature at the center will be at least 200°F. The top 1/4" or so of the top crust may still be moist and sticky; but it shouldn't be batter-like. The finished cake may have some moist streaks near the top crust; that's ok.

You'll find bringing the butter and cream cheese to room temperature makes them easier to beat without lumps forming. And room-temperature eggs help keep the batter lump-free, too.

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