My mind moves in extremely lateral zig-zags at times. I was contemplating the beautiful spectacle of the flowering cherry tree in my garden, with its white blossoms drifting onto the surface of the pond, and rather than a haiku springing forth, I immediately decided that I needed to make a cherry pound cake.
This pound cake recipe, with its buttery crumb, and delicious nuggets of kirsch-soaked cherries, comes from one of my most-used baking books, “The Cake Book” by Tish Boyle. I have hundreds of cookbooks; some for reference, some for gastroporn, with their titillating pictures of gourmet fantasies, some for that moment when I have to have Indian, or Thai or Russian food. And then there are the ones that are my kitchen workhorses. The books I turn to when I want to make something and be assured that the recipes will always work, and the results will always be worth the effort. The Cake Book is right there in the Top Ten amongst my baking books.
With pound cake, the devil is in the details. Of the times I’ve encountered pound cake here in New Zealand, it’s often been greasy, coarse-textured or overly sweet. After puzzling this over, I’ve realized that most pound cake recipes are American in origin. And American homes are warmer than the average Kiwi home. And pound cakes rely on well-creamed butter (or in this case, butter and cream cheese) for their velvety texture, which is hard to achieve with butter that is cold. So, for Kiwi cooks, cut the butter into cubes, warm the kitchen up, and let the butter lose its chill before starting this cake. (And no, don’t pop it into the microwave. That just leaves tiny pockets of melted butter inside the cubes that will never hold the air bubbles that we need to beat in.)
Cherry- Almond Pound Cake.
Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle.
115 gm (4 oz.) dried cherries, halved
2 tbsp. (30 ml) kirsch
300 gm (10.5 oz.) flour
50 gm (1.5 oz.) cornflour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
225 gm (8 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
225 gm (8oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
400 gm (14 oz.) sugar
5 large (no.7’s in N.Z.) eggs, placed in a bowl of warm tap water
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
Things to know: Room temperature butter and cream cheese means around 15- 16C. This is essential for the amount of air that needs to be beaten in. The eggs are also pre-warmed in a bowl of hot tap water to enable them to beat to their maximum volume. Dried fruit is easily cut with scissors. The dried cherries need at least 20 mins. to soak, but they will be plumper and more luscious if you can leave them a bit longer. In a pinch, you can heat the kirsch and cherries, being very careful not to ignite the alcohol, to speed up the hydrating process. Greasing the pans can be done with softened butter, then dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess, but for intricately patterned Bundt pans I recommend Bakers Joy or Wilton brand pan spray.The one ingredient that can ruin this batter is the almond extract. Some of the supermarket brands are truly vile. In New Zealand, the Neilson-Massey brand, which has a true almond flavour can be found at Farro in Auckland, or by internet from Wellington based website, truffle.
Soak the cherries in the kirsch for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 160 c. (325 F.), and place the rack in the centre position.
Spray with non-stick baking spray or grease and flour a 10 cup Bundt pan, or two 22cm. (9″) loaf pans.
Sift the dry ingredients together, and whisk thoroughly to blend.
Break the warmed eggs into a jug and whisk lightly.
Put the butter and cream cheese into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until very creamy. Continue beating whilst gradually adding the sugar. Beat until pale in colour and much lighter in consistency. This may take up to five minutes.
Continue beating at medium-high speed while you trickle the beaten eggs slowly in. Scape the sides of the bowl at intervals whilst adding the eggs. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract. The batter may look a little curdled at this stage, this is fine.
Add the dry ingredients in three batches, at low speed. Mix just until blended.
Stir in the cherries and any lingering kirsch.
Divide the mixture evenly if using loaf pans, or dollop the batter into the Bundt pan. Tap the pan/s lightly on the bench to help the batter settle into the crevices if using a Bundt pan.
Bake for 40 minutes for loaf pans, or 55 to 65 minutes for a Bundt pan, rotating the pan/s halfway through the cooking time. Test with a long bamboo skewer to ensure that the cake is cooked right to the centre, it should come out cleanly. The top of the cake should have a pronounced hump and a split along the middle.
Cool the cake on a rack for 15 minutes and then unmold. If you sense any sticking, tap the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the edges before turning out.
Cool completely, then dust with icing (confectioners) sugar.
If you can restrain yourself from cutting into the cake immediately, it improves with an overnight sit before eating. It keeps, well covered, for up to five days. It’s divine with a cup of Earl Grey tea, or a sip of Kirsch and a dab of whipped cream. If the cake becomes a little stale (doesn’t happen often in my kitchen!), slices can be toasted and served with jam and ice cream. This cake also freezes very well.
I hope you’ll try this, do let me know how it works for you. I really enjoy your comments, and am delighted to answer any questions you might have.
Cheers from the Antipodes, Karen…