Monday, September 17, 2007

Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Caramel Glaze

Some of my earliest memories are of my grandmother’s dense pound cake perfumed with nutmeg. Even these days when I occasionally reprise her recipe, the scent from the oven brings back sensory memories of a happy childhood and hours of measuring and mixing in my Grammy’s kitchen. Even though Southern California was in the grips of unfriendly baking weather (and no air conditioner in sight) - from the minute I saw the photo of the Brown Sugar Pound Cake in the L.A. Times Food Section, I started counting eggs and butter cubes to see if I had everything on hand.

A dinner party for our friends visiting from England was the perfect occasion to try the recipe and give them a taste of America. The recipe proved to be easy to follow – with the possible exception of the excruciating wait while the cake cooled and before the glaze could be applied.

The richness, color, taste and texture of this cake has no equal and our guests gobbled it up sliver by sliver until only a small hunk remained. I was able to hide that small piece away for a couple of days until we arrived for a visit with my family in northern California. After dinner the first night I brought out my little wedge of cake and divided it up into small bites for everyone to try. Within five minutes every crumb was eaten and it was unanimously requested that I bake another one the next day.

My only modification the second time around was to continue whisking the glaze for an extra 15 minutes so that it was thicker and cooler than the consistency achieved with the recipe’s recommendation of 1-2 minutes. The result was luscious fingers of delicious caramel decadence.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Caramel Glaze
Los Angeles Times Food Section- August 22, 2007
Adapted from "Southern Cakes" by Nancy McDermott


3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened, plus additional for greasing the pan
1 (1-pound) box dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
5 eggs

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and stir with a fork; set aside. Into a small bowl, pour the milk and add the vanilla; set aside.

3. With a mixer, beat the butter at high speed until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar in three batches, then add all of the white sugar, beating after each addition. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.

4. Reduce the speed to low and add half of the flour mixture and then half the milk, beating until the flour or milk has disappeared into the batter. Add the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk in the same way. Quickly scrape the batter into the tube pan and bake until the cake is nicely browned at the edges, springs back when lightly touched at the center and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

5. Remove the pan from the oven and leave it on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. Loosen the cake from the pan with a table knife and turn it out onto a wire rack or plate, then leave it to cool completely. When cool, glaze with caramel glaze.

Caramel glaze:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a large saucepan, place the butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Stir until the butter melts and blends with the brown sugar to a smooth sauce, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add the milk and let the icing come to a gentle boil. Stir well, remove from the heat and add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat well with a mixer, whisk or spoon until the glaze thickens and loses a little of its shine, 1 or 2 minutes. (I recommend 15+ minutes)

3. Use at once. If the glaze hardens, stir in 1 or 2 spoonfuls of evaporated milk to soften it.

Each of 12 servings: 840 calories; 8 grams protein; 129 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 34 grams fat; 21 grams saturated fat; 174 mg. cholesterol; 144 mg. sodium.

Total time: 45 minutes, plus baking and cooling time for the cake
Servings: 10 to 12