Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

There may be no better dessert than a well crafted pound cake. It is perfect in its simplicity and purity of flavor. This cake gets its name from the recipe’s old-fashion formula; 1 pound butter, 1 pound flour, 1 pound eggs and 1 pound sugar. Very few modern recipes follow these exact proportions anymore, but the name stuck. Despite the richness of all that creamy butter and eggs the cake is actually quite delicate. I cream the life out of the butter to incorporate lots of air into it, whip the eggs until they are light and fluffy and add just a touch of baking powder to guarantee the texture I love. This is an excellent place to try out a European-style butter, which is made with less water and whey than American butters. It creates a melt in your mouth cake that is like eating vanilla flavored velvet. I use 1 1/2 vanilla beans to make sure the flavor is as intense as possible, but even made with a single bean this cake will knock your socks off. You can shake some confectioner’s sugar over the top or create this vanilla bean icing that accentuates the flavor and seals in the moisture of the cake. (more…)

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Plum Cupcakes with Sweet-Corn Ice Cream!

My husband brought home corn last weekend from the market that was so sweet it just begged to be made into a dessert. But, that was not quite what he had in mind for this batch so we grilled it, peeled it, a small squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of salt. The lime brings out the sweetness even more. The following day I was back at the market and got more of the sweet corn and some early season plums that I suspected would be a bit tart. I figured the tart plums and the milky, honey like corn would be great companions.

Right away I knew that the corn would be turned to ice cream, with just a touch of vanilla and nothing more to distract from the delicate flavor. I baked the plums in a pound cake recipe that includes a touch of cornmeal. Not too much or it would be dense, but enough to give a hint of corn flavor and a nice texture. I left the skins on the plums because they were too gorgeous to remove and once they baked the skins were perfectly soft. We are weeks, if not months away from having these grow locally, but our neighbors to the south are kind enough to ship us their crops until then!


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