If I am given my choice for dessert, I usually choose something creamy like ice cream or pudding with a short cookie or crust. A refrigerated cream pie is divine! Crème Brulee with shortbread pure heaven! I like cake, of course, but it’s never my first choice; my grandma favored pies and cobblers with incredibly short flaky crusts, so perhaps that is where my preferences began. But put a slice of real pound-of-butter pound cake in front of me…particularly lemon pound cake that has been chilled in the fridge…well, if I must.
Which brings me to the pound cake at hand—very different from my Strawberry Lemonade pound cake in 2019. This “old fashioned” version is made in loaf pans, the way my grandma would have made it. She liked to slice it, top it with fresh fruit and maybe whipped cream, or, better yet, have it next day toasted for breakfast. Yum!
Other from-the-past factors in this recipe are the use of one full pound of butter, from which the cake originally derived its name. It must be whipped super light, and the eggs must be separated, the whites beaten to stiff peaks. (And you will find it very handy to have your portable electric mixer and a clean deep glass bowl at the ready to beat the egg whites. Stopping to wash beaters and bowls is a nuisance to avoid, if possible.) What you won’t find here is leavening—no baking powder or soda. You are going to create the texture of this cake with double-sifted cake flour, those billowy eggs whites and the fluffy satiny butter. Be brave!
And about the herbs…totally my addition. Grandma assumed lavender was for talcum powder and rosemary was for chicken.
- Eight eggs, separated (Cracking and separating while the eggs are cold is easier. Once separated, bring to room temperature.)
- Four cups sifted cake flour (Measure then sift each cup into a bowl; then, measure four cups into the bowl you are going to use for your dry ingredients. I know, double work but double worth it. Usually I find that it takes a bit less flour than originally measured, and accuracy counts here.)
- One pound unsalted butter (four sticks)
- Two cups sugar (I used evaporated cane juice, the finer the better.)
- One teaspoon vanilla
- Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Zest from one large lemon
- Two tablespoons each fresh lavender and rosemary leaves, minced
- One-half teaspoon cream of tartar
- One-half teaspoon salt
- One cup sifted powdered sugar (No need to measure twice.)
- Three to four tablespoons full-fat coconut milk, well-combined and smooth
- One-half cup pecans, toasted
- One-half cup large coconut flakes, toasted
- Several lavender blossoms
- One violet leaf
- Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two standard loaf pans—I used butter because, at this point, what would a little more matter.
- Sift and measure the cake flour. Whisk in the lemon zest, lavender and rosemary. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the four sticks of soft butter until they are pale yellow and have a satin sheen, about two minutes on medium high speed. Gradually add the sugar, tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy, about six minutes total.
- Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and the lemon juice, mixing until combined.
- With the mixer on the lowest possible speed, gradually add the flour mixture, tablespoons at a time, just until combined.
- Using clean beaters and bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until stiff peaks form. If you lift the egg whites with the beaters, peaks should stand straight up. That said, be extra careful not to over beat the whites, which will make them dry and less able to create volume. Checking the peaks with the beaters a few times is advised.
- Very gently, fold half the whipped egg whites into the cake batter, lifting and folding in big strokes to create air. Turn the bowl with each lift. Add the rest of the eggs whites with the same folding fashion. You want to maintain as much air as possible, but you also want everything combined and smooth. Patience.
- Scrape the batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans and tap on the counter to eliminate bubbles in the batter and help even out the top. Put the loaf pans on a large baking sheet for ease getting in and out of the oven. Place the pans in the oven and bake for about one hour.
- Once done—a toothpick should come out clean from the center—cool 10 minutes in the pans; then, remove from pans and allow the cakes to cool completely right-side up on cooling racks.
- While the cakes cool and the oven is still on, toast the pecans and coconut for about five minutes, just until lightly browned and fragrant. Once cool, give them a rough chop. Set aside.
- When the cakes have cooled completely, whisk the coconut milk into the powdered sugar to create a thick but spreadable glaze and spread half across each of the cakes. Sprinkle with nuts and coconut. Decorate with fresh herbs if desired.
The time for prep and bake does not include getting ingredients to room temperature. I find that takes about three hours. So plan ahead.
This dense cake keeps for at least a week carefully protected in your refrigerator. It actually gets better as it mellows. Cold pound cake is a real summertime treat, in my opinion. And another plus, it freezes like a dream. You do get two cakes, after all, so well worth the effort involved.
While pound cake might seem like a heavy dessert for warm weather, this old-time version is my idea of summer yum. The best part I think is that you can serve this many ways. If you choose not to glaze one of the cakes, I strongly urge you to try a slice toasted for breakfast with fruit and yogurt. The cake is dense and sturdy enough to work in the toaster. If the weather is super warm, refrigerate it and serve it cold with sherbet or ice cream…and maybe a drizzle of chocolate sauce or market strawberry jam. Gosh I’m hungry. How about you?