Simplicity of a pound cake only adds to its appeal

Pound cakes are the pleasing plain-Janes of desserts: figurative no-nonsense confections that provide a welcome pick-me-up without wandering into sugary oblivion.

SHARE Simplicity of a pound cake only adds to its appeal
Blood orange pound cake is a great way to enjoy the citrus fruit when it’s in season.

Blood orange pound cake is a great way to enjoy the citrus fruit when it’s in season.

Lynda Balslev/TasteFood

It’s time for a little comfort, and here is a sweet fix. Pound cakes are the pleasing plain-Janes of desserts: figurative no-nonsense confections that provide a welcome pick-me-up without wandering into sugary oblivion. In a world of bling and excess, these cakes are not to be underestimated. Their simplicity is their appeal, humbly playing it straight and ordinary, with no need to primp and accessorize.

A pound cake was traditionally constructed of a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour (hence its name), which yielded an exceptionally large cake. Over time, the ingredients ratio has shifted and reduced according to preference, conveniently producing a single loaf or Bundt cake. Subtle tweaks and discreet flourishes are sometimes added, such as a dash of spice, a sprinkle of citrus zest, a shower of confectioners’ sugar or a drizzle of syrup.

Adjustments and additions aside, in the end, the pound cake remains an unfailingly predictable and pleasing treat.

This recipe celebrates the end of the blood orange season. Any citrus is delicious in a pound cake, which is a natural canvas for the spark of citrus. Blood oranges are murkier and less bright than their navel brethren and add a deeper, fruity flavor to the cake. To match this depth, I swapped out some of the granulated sugar with light brown sugar and combined almond meal (flour) with all-purpose flour, yielding a denser, nuttier cake.

Blood Orange Pound Cake

Yield: Makes one loaf

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Zest of 2 blood oranges
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Syrup:

  • 1/4 cup blood orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment.

2. Combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir to blend.

3. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at time, mixing well after each addition. Add the sour cream, orange zest and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture, and using a wooden spoon, mix to blend without overmixing.

4. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake in the oven until a wooden skewer comes clean, about 1 hour.

5. While the cake is baking, heat the syrup ingredients over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

6. When the cake is ready, remove from the oven and transfer to a rack. Prick the top of the cake with a wooden skewer and brush with some of the syrup. Cool 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan. Brush the cake on all sides with the syrup. Cool completely.

7. Serve dusted with confectioners’ sugar or whipped cream.

Lynda Balslev is an award-winning food and wine writer, cookbook author and recipe developer. She also authors the blog TasteFood, a compilation of more than 600 original recipes, photos and stories.

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