Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Orange Pound Cake

Just about the time I made, and was greatly enjoying, this orange pound cake, I was also perusing some really great baking books. You know the kind I mean: the ones written by meticulous genius bakers who seem to have figured out some sort of Platonic ideal of cake-making. And then took it up one more level. The ones picturing beautiful confections with perfect crumb and impossibly creamy and daringly photogenic frostings, fillings, glazes and ganaches. The ones we humbler bakers are almost afraid to even leaf through lest we smudge the glossy pages with our greasy, floury fingers.

My orange pound cake threatened to develop an inferiority complex in the shadow of these confectionary giants. I, very briefly, wondered if it would look silly to post such delicious simplicity. I take it as a sign of my own personal growth, however, that I got over that right quick. Delicious wins every time. As does anything I can actually get done in the time I have.

The beauty of most desserts that call themselves “pound cake” is that they really aren’t fussy. They go together quickly, feature basic ingredients, and hold up well. Often, like this one, they are baked in a loaf pan, which allows you to slice them like bread into slabs or slivers as you choose.

The orange-ness in this particular cake does demand a little bit of extra work in the form of zesting and juicing oranges. In fact all of the liquid in this cake is freshly-squeezed orange juice. The zest, however, is what really gives a satisfying kick of orange flavor to the cake. You need lots of it to accomplish this, and I recommend using a microplane grater to remove the zest from the oranges in fine, fine shreds, leaving the white pith behind. I think you could make this cake with other citrus fruits, too, and hope to test it (some day) with lemons and limes.

This cake is really, really delicious, a true celebration of citrus season. It is glazed while still warm with more orange juice and powdered sugar, a concoction that soaks into the cake a bit, but also forms kind of a protective barrier around it, keeping it moist if well-wrapped for several days.

I may not be quite ready for big, fancy creations or multi-step processes leading to confectionary perfection. I’m pretty much always ready for cake, however, and I’m really happy this one is in my winter baking repertoire. Be it ever so humble, there’s no cake like (relatively quick and easy) pound cake!

Glazed Orange Pound Cake
Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

I highly recommend removing the zest from the oranges before juicing them. It’s sooooo much easier!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon, plus a pinch fine salt, divided
6 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 3-4 medium-size oranges), divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 3-4 medium-size oranges)
1 ¼ cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Trace the bottom of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan onto parchment  paper. Cut out the shape and set aside. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease it with butter. Place the parchment cut-out on the bottom of the pan and spray or grease that as well.

2. Set aside ¼ cup of the orange juice. Combine the flour, baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt. Whisk together to combine. Set aside.

3. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Or in another large bowl if using a hand-held mixer.) Add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

5. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat at medium speed until well combined. Add ½ of the ¾ cup orange juice and beat until well-combined. Repeat this procedure, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the remaining 1/3 flour mixture. Beat in the vanilla extract and orange zest.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 F for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out free of wet batter.

7. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and place upright on the cooling rack. Place the cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet or on a sheet of parchment paper (something to catch the glaze that might drip off the cake.)

8. To make the glaze, place the powdered sugar and pinch of salt in a small bowl. Whisk the remaining ¼ cup orange juice into the powdered sugar mixture until completely smooth. Poke the top of the warm cake all over with a toothpick. Brush the glaze over the top and sides of the cake, giving it a little time to soak in if it seems to be pooling too much on top of the cake. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

Makes 8-10 servings. The cake keeps for a few days at room temperature if well-wrapped.

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