This luscious, buttery-flavored pound cake incorporates an easy cutting technique and a unique way to fill this delicious and attractive dessert.—Flo Braker
For the cake
2 cups sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest (1 lemon)
1 teaspoon orange zest (1 orange)
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
For the dried apricot filling, optional
1/3 cup dried apricots
1/3 cup water
Make the cake
1. Position rack in lower third of the oven; preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Using a paper towel, lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9-x-5-x3-inch loaf pan with solid shortening. Dust generously with all-purpose flour, shake to distribute, and tap out the excess.
2. Pour the flour and salt into a triple sifter. Sift onto a sheet of waxed paper to distribute the salt evenly and to remove any lumps in the flour.
3. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk together just enough to combine yolks and whites. Add the vanilla and almond extract and stir to combine.
4. Grate only the colored portion from the lemon and orange rind for their zests: set aside. Place the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.
5. With the flat beater (paddle), cream the butter on medium speed (#5) until it is lighter in color, clings to the sides of the mixing bowl, and has a satiny appearance (this should take 30 to 45 seconds). Maintaining the same speed, add the sugar in a steady stream. When all the sugar is added, stop the machine and scrape the mixture clinging to the sides into the center of the bowl. Continue to cream at the same speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until the mixture is very light in color and fluffy in appearance.
6. With the mixer still on medium speed, pour in eggs, cautiously at first, tablespoon by tablespoon, as if you were adding oil when making mayonnaise. If at any time the mixture appears watery or shiny, stop the flow of eggs, and increase the speed until a smooth, silken appearance returns. Then decrease the speed to medium, and resume adding eggs. Continue to cream, stopping the mixer and scraping the sides of the bowl at least once. When the mixture appears almost white and fluffy and has increased in volume (about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes), detach the beater and bowl. Tap the beater against the edge of the bowl to free the excess. Stir in the lemon and orange zests with a rubber spatula.
7. Stir in about one-third of the flour at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl often and mix until smooth after each addition.
8. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. With a rubber spatula, spread the batter, working from the center outward and creating a slightly raised ridge around the outside rim of the pan. (Even though the batter is manipulated so it is higher around the edges and lower in the center, this cake will still peak and crack in the center as it bakes as a result of aeration. This is characteristic of a heavy batter.)
9. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of cake. The cake, with its crust golden, should begin to contract from the pan sides.
10. Place the cake on a rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. With mitts, tilt and rotate pan, and gently tap it on the counter to see if the cake is releasing from the metal sides. If not, or if in doubt, run a small metal spatula or the thin blade of a table knife between the outer cake edge and the metal rim, freeing the sides and allowing air to get under the cake as it is rotated.
11. Cover the cake with a cooling rack, invert it onto the rack, and carefully lift pan to remove it. Cover with another rack, invert the cake, right side up, and remove the original rack. Cool completely.
Make the filling
1. No more than 30 minutes before filling the cake, begin the apricot filling, if desired. Place the apricots in a 1-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Pour the water over them and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Then, over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until almost all the water is evaporated (about 5 to 7 minutes).
2. While the mixture is warm, spoon it into a food processor fitted with the metal blade, and process until it has a sticky paste consistency.
Fill the cake
1. Once the cake has completely cooled, place it on the counter. With a 12-inch serrated knife, trim the top of the cake to make it level. Then turn it upside down, making the top of the cake the base.
2. With the tip of a small paring knife, lightly trace a V on one short end of the cake, beginning at the corners of the seam (that is, where the sides meet the top) and ending just below the middle of the cake. Each side or leg of the V should be about 2 1/2 inches long (depending on the size of your cake, of course). Turn the cake around, and do the same to the other end of the loaf.
3. Insert the paring knife into the lines you have traced to the depth of about 1/2 inch. Do this to every corner of the cake. These notches will serve as a guide for cutting a deep V-shaped piece that will be lifted out of the pound cake. Position the cake directly in front of you, with one of its short ends parallel to the edge of the counter. Taking the right side first, insert a 12-inch serrated knife into both notches, and slowly saw diagonally down that side of the V. Check often to ensure that the knife is staying in the notch and following the correct angle. Turn the cake around, and repeat the procedure on the other side. Carefully lift the triangular portion from the body of the cake, and set aside.
4. Using a metal spatula, spread a thin, even film of the dried apricot filling into the valley you have created in the cake. Then replace the triangular piece, pressing down gently to fit it into place. The filling should not be too apparent, and the cake should look almost as it did before being cut.
Note: If you plan to serve the cake within 24 hours, wrap it in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. To freeze, cover the plastic-wrapped package in foil. Label, indicating the contents and date. Freeze for no longer than 2 weeks.
Recipe © 2003 Flo Braker. All rights reserved.