I’m not sure how or why there is a National Pound Cake Day, but here it is the 4th day of March, in the holiday lull between St. Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day and I guess somebody needed an excuse to bake. Pound cake is as good an excuse as any, I suppose.
The classic pound cake requires a pound of each ingredient – butter to sugar to flour to eggs. Without leavening, this makes for a large, dense cake. Modern cakes tend to fudge on the ratio. My go-to recipe has a ratio of approximately 1.25 pounds fat (combined cream cheese and butter) : .75 pound sugar : .75 pound flour : .6 pound eggs.
Looking for a new flavor, I dug out a cookbook that has hugged my pantry shelf for at least 15 years – “The Pound Cake Cookbook” by Bibb Jordan (Longstreet Press, 1994). It’s a darling little book, cover price $8.95, with nearly 40 recipes from Chocolate Cherry Pound Cake to Savory Cheese Pound Cake. My eyes locked on “Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake” – I’m a sucker for anything with lemon – lemon cookies, lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, lemon bars.
This recipe is surprising, first with the self-rising flour. Pound cakes are traditionally leavened only with eggs, which can make for a leaden leaven. I personally like a dense texture, but this lighter cake is a winner, too. Because of the leavening, it bakes faster, in under an hour, and has a lighter, spongier texture. It’s perfect for a spring dessert. With Easter and Mother’s Day falling within two weeks of each other, this would make an excellent cake for the holiday table. The cake is pretty with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but I like the puckery tart sweetness of the lemon glaze.
Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze
Adapted from The Pound Cake Cookbook by Bibb Jordan (Longstreet Press, 1994)
3 medium lemons, zested and juiced
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces 1/3-less-fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1. Preheat oven to 325. Prepare a tube or Bundt pan with baking spray or butter and flour.
2. In large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Gradually add sugar. Add eggs two at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add flour, lemon zest, lemon extract and two tablespoons of lemon juice (reserve remainder of juice for lemon glaze), beating until flour is incorporated and batter is smooth and free of lumps.
4. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes at 325. Cake is done when tester comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack. While cake is cooling, prepare the Lemon Glaze.
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1. In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar. Whisk until combined and lump-free. If the glaze is lumpy, whisk vigorously, then let sit for 10 minutes or so, the lumps will be absorbed.
2. Glaze lemon pound cake while still warm.
My little kitchen helper wanted to decorate the cake, and she just happened to have a box of Valentine hearts….
Happy National Pound Cake Day! Don’t forget to leave cake for the elves!
Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.