Saturday, April 2, 2011
Lemon Pound Cake
Sometimes just making a cake can make a party. The same way a real party dress can make you feel like a beautiful dancer, so to a party cake can make a dinner party into a party party. We had some good friend with whom we had been trying for about six months to have a dinner, and when the time at long last arrived, no spouses traveling, no kids sick with strep, two birthdays had also recently passed. It was time for a cake.
I, however, am not the most confident or experienced baker. In the realm of flour, I am easily intimidated. But love is a supreme motivator for getting over our fears, or getting over ourselves as the case may be.
There is a line in A HOLE IS TO DIG, by Ruth Krauss, pictures by Maurice Sendak, "A party is to make little children happy." Since having kids we do have more parties and I think it is for that poetic observation, it makes them happy.
Turning off the dining room lights and lighting the cake candles, the mood deepened, the kids gleeful, attentive, and beaming their excited smiles at each other. We all sang and were glad. Glad for the sweet, budding friendships among our children. Glad for the smart and compassionate company of our peers. And I was quietly very glad that when I sliced the cake, it was golden and crumbly, and baked all the way through.
We have the brilliant Edna Lewis to thank for this recipe. If you follow her directions it really does absolutely work. And if there is any left, it is delicious in the morning, with coffee or tea.
1 cup cold, unsalted butter
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
for the glaze:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
Decorated with lovely, tender Meyer lemons sliced as thin as possible.
To make the cake: Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tube pan. Put the 1 cup of butter into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium-low speed for 5 minutes, until it becomes waxy and shiny. (I do that mixing by hand and it is very laborious but possible.) With mixer running slowly add the sugar and salt, and continue mixing until sugar and butter become light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition, making sure that each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next (very important!). After incorporating the third egg, add 2 tablespoons of flour to keep batter from separating. Add remaining eggs, one at a time. On low speed, add remaining sifted flour in four parts, do not overmix, kind of like with pancake batter, you loose the wonderful texture if you overmix here. Once flour is all gently incorporated, gently blend in the vanilla and lemon juice.
And the baking is the key to this recipe: spoon batter into buttered floured tube pan and gently fop pan on kitchen counter to deflate any large air bubbles. Put cake into COLD oven and turn the temp to 225F. Cook for 20 minutes. Increase temp to 300F and bake another 20 minutes. Finally increase temp to 325F and cook 20-30 min, until your cake tester, inserted into center comes out clean. Start testing after 20 min at 325F.
Remove the cake from the over, and cool for 5 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool on cooling rack. While cake is cooling, make the glaze: Put lemon juice, sugar and butter and salt in a small nonreactive saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 1 minute. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and spoon the warm glaze over cooled cake.
Pound cake will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.