I volunteered to bake two cakes: the now-famous Chocolate Stout Cake and my grandmother's Almond Pound Cake. To help me get the cakes to church safely, yesterday ECG cut two pieces of plywood and sanded them down to make "cake transporters" that I lined with tinfoil. Driving to church today meant taking every turn and gear change at the pace of a slug on ludes.
They made it!
And people walked, hoping to win one of the many lovely cakes. Whose lucky number will get called?
A huge moth, the size of a hummingbird, flew through the crowd, providing a fascinating distraction from the sugar for just a moment.
Folks couldn't stay focused on the moth for too long; as people began to win, joyful applause erupted from the group. My cakes were chosen quickly and I have to admit that I felt a twinge seeing them go. It's the Third Law of Home-Economics: When one knows how good a baked-good tastes, it is very hard for one to let go of that good-tasting-baked-good. Happily for me, the winner of the Chocolate Stout Cake decided to share her loot with everyone.
Everyone except for him.
My Grandmother's Almond Pound Cake
I've already posted the recipe for the amazing Chocolate Stout Cake (do make it, and do double the frosting recipe--you will not regret it), but I also wanted to include the recipe for my grandmother's pound cake. This was her most-requested recipe, and if you make it, you'll see why. With the help of a good mixer, this is a cake walk to make, and it is everything a good pound cake should be: moist, rich, fine-crumbed, and incredibly fragrant. In addition, it is lovely with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and can be dressed up with a dark chocolate sauce or piled high with perfectly ripe fruit. Moreover, if one just can't bring oneself to eat it all in a week or so, it can be cut in half, wrapped well, and frozen to brighten up another, otherwise pound-cake-free day. I don't know if my grandmother ever made it for any cake walks, but if she did, I'm sure this cake was picked up mighty quickly. It's a winner.
You will need:
1 pound of unsalted butter, at room temperature*
1 pound of powdered sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature*
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
*It is imperative that these ingredients be at room temperature for the batter to come together smoothly enough to beat in the air necessary to keep the cake light and beautiful. If the ingredients are too cold, it is much harder to emulsify the fat, and therefore the cake might end up being a brick. If you're short on time, warm up the eggs and butter by setting them in warm water for a few minutes before preparing the recipe.
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour your favorite bundt pan.
Place the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of your mixer and begin stirring on a low speed so the powdered sugar doesn't fly all over the place. (Believe me, if you start too strong, you'll have powdered sugar everywhere. I know from experience--you should have seen the snowy state of my kitchen counters yesterday.) Once the sugar and butter have begin to come together, turn the speed up to high and beat the mixture until very pale and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary to make sure the butter and sugar have mixed evenly.
Add eggs one at a time, beating after each until the mixture is fluffy again. Once again, use your spatula to scrape down the sides as needed so that each egg is evenly beaten into the mixture. After each egg has be incorporated, add the salt and almond extract and beat well. (In my grandmother's handwritten recipe, the phrase "beat well" shows up four times, each time anything is added to the batter. I think she was very serious about beating this batter well.) The batter should still be fluffy.
All at one time, add the flour and beat just until the ingredients are completely combined with each other. Use the spatula to scoop and push the batter into the bundt pan. Smooth the top of the batter with your spatula then place the pan in the preheated oven. Bake for at least an hour and fifteen minutes (and up to an hour and thirty minutes), or until the top is a crisp, golden brown and the edges are just beginning to pull from the sides of the pan.
Let the cake cool in the pan for at least twenty minutes before you try to remove it from the pan. Use mitts or silicon gloves to help you if you still find the pan hot. To remove the cake, place the serving plate or platter upside down on top of the cake pan, place one hand on top of the platter and another under the cake and invert the whole kit and kaboodle. The cake should release itself on to the serving platter.
After an hour, the cake should be completely cooled and ready to serve, sliced however thickly or thinly you prefer. Enjoy!