There may be no better dessert than a well crafted pound cake. It is perfect in its simplicity and purity of flavor. This vanilla bean pound cake gets its name from the recipe’s old-fashioned 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.
You can find an updated recipe for this vanilla bean pound cake in my cookbook Zoë Bakes Cakes.
Vanilla Bean Pound Cake
8 oz (1 cup) unsalted butter (Kerrygold, Plugra and many others. – Last time I looked Whole Foods had nearly a 8 varieties)
8 3/4 oz (1 1/4 cups) superfine sugar (blend granulated sugar in a food processor to make your own)
1 to 1 1/2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped
8 oz (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or sour cream
Vanilla Bean Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons amaretto or other liqueur
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325° degrees. Prepare an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with butter and flour.
To mix the cake:
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
Cream the butter and vanilla seeds for 1 minute using the paddle. Add 1 cup of the sugar very slowly to the butter and cream together for 4 more minutes on medium speed. Set aside.
Whip the eggs until frothy in a stand mixer for about 1 minute on medium speed. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat the eggs for about 4 minutes or until light, fluffy and lemon colored.
Place the bowl with the butter back on the mixer and slowly add 1/2 the egg mixture to the butter, in about 4 parts, mixing very well after each. Alternate adding the remaining egg mixture with the flour mixture in about 3 parts, mixing very well after each. Add the heavy cream and mix well.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth flat.
Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour 10 minutes. If the cake is browning too much after 50 minutes then drape the top loosely with foil.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes.
Turn it out of the pan and allow it to cool for another 10 minutes before dusting with sugar or glazing.
Mix the glaze: Add the confectioners’, cream, liqueur and vanilla bean together in a small bowl until creamy.
Spread the glaze over the top of the still slightly warm cake.
It will drip slightly over the top and down the sides. As the cake fully cools the glaze will harden just slightly so it is nice and shiny.
How to make your own Vanilla Extract.