Christina Tosi's Fall Pound Cake Has a Few Delicious Tricks Up Its Sleeve

You'll want to make its acquaintance, ASAP.

October 19, 2018

I've always adored the innovative recipes of genius-pastry chef Christina Tosi—and I could live off of the chocolate malt cake truffles she sells at Milk Bar. But it wasn't until she casually used the phrase "bundt it up" in reference to changing a cake's shape that I entered full-on swoon mode.

Tosi, whose new book All About Cake comes out next week on Oct. 23, coined this phrase in response to my question about adapting the bake time for her Burnt Miso Pound Cake. This delightful cake is one of many insanely delicious creations in All About Cake. It caught my eye the moment I flipped through the book, and frankly, I haven't stopped thinking about it since I tried a bite. (Okay, 25 bites.)

I mean, just look at it! Photo by Julia Gartland

The cake—topped with tangy whipped cream and an apple compote—is somehow dense and delicate at the same time. It has a tight crumb that feels sturdy enough to be there for you in an important way all fall and winter. And as its name suggests, it's made with shiro miso, which Tosi encourages you to really burn in the oven. The deep, buttery background flavor this brings to the dessert has ruined me for all other pound cakes, I fear. When coupled with tangy buttermilk (and, not to mention, actual butter), it's game-over good.

In the headnote for the recipe, Tosi writes:

"In all honesty, I would never have even contemplated putting miso (a deeply flavored fermented soybean paste) into a dessert until I challenged myself to try every ingredient in the Momofuku dry storage prep kitchen in 2006. Wowza, was I surprised by the incredible flavor miso brought to sweet, butter-based sauces like butterscotch and buttery pound cakes. I quickly learned that the combination of savory miso, the bright yet homey flavor of an apple, and the rich vibe of sour cream made an unstoppable flavor trio."

Between follow-up "taste tests," I managed to wipe the crumbs off my face/hands and get it together for long enough to reach out to Tosi for more background. Here's what she had to say:

Ella Quittner: Wow! This recipe blew our socks off. Burnt miso?! In your headnote, you speak about "why miso"—but how did you come up with the idea to burn it? How does the burning affect the flavor?

Christina Tosi: There is a scale from every day to really good miso out there that typically revolves around quality of soybean and length of fermentation, which also defines the color character. (The paler, the younger, the less fermented, the least depth of flavor, though the youngest miso still has a ton of flavor). White (shiro) miso is the most basic, sweet, and mellow. It’s fermented for a much shorter time, so the depth of flavor is pretty shallow compared to a red miso (very long fermentation and darker color by comparison).

I learned on accident with honey in the kitchen that burning really cheap honey gives it a depth, a curiosity, and a flavor profile much closer to luxe honey that I couldn’t afford. I like to apply this toasting or “burning” technique with everything—cornflakes! White chocolate! And miso!

Pictured: My first date with Tosi's pound cake. Photo by Ella Quittner

EQ: Have you tried baking with other types of miso, besides shiro?

CT: I love playing around with barley miso (barley is fermented rather than the traditional soy bean). Momofuku has a few really cool miso or “hozon” they’re playing around with (my favorite is chickpea). It’s great on toast with something savory or sweet, whipped into a butter, blended into sweet or savory sauces that typically call for butter (check out Miso Butterscotch Sundaes in Milk Bar Life). You have to be ready for a kick in the pants when it comes to flavor. It’s perfect this time of year, as I find I love all miso preps on the sweet side paired with late summer/fall fruits like apples, pears, quince, etc.

EQ: Do you have a preferred brand of shiro miso?

CT: I’ve played around with a few. Any grocery store variety will do, but we recipe tested the Burnt Miso Pound Cake with Shirakiku.

EQ: Is there an easy way to adapt this from a loaf cake to a round cake pan, or should readers stick to the loaf?

CT: You can absolutely bundt it up or turn it into a dense, but delightful, 9-inch cake. Reduce baking time depending on the size of your cake pan. You know it’s done, regardless of shape/size when it knifes clean. (For a bundt, approximately 60 minutes. For a 9-inch cake, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.)

EQ: I suspect it's probably tough to pick favorites, but if you had to say, what are your top three recipes in All About Cake?

CT: Cherry Cola Cake: It makes me feel like a kid, but also celebrates my grown-up-dom—I get to use the oven when mom’s not home! And decorate cake with gummy colas!! All of the Microwave Mug Cakes—'tis the season for all-day pajama parties, this being my favorite sidekick whether I'm flying solo, or hanging out with my hubs or gals over a Goodfellas or Rocky or Fast & Furious movie marathon. And Chocolate Chip Passion Fruit Cake Truffles: They never, ever cease to amaze me—the comfort of a chocolate chip cake, the bright and energetic passion fruit. They are season-less and seasonal always.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What's your favorite fall cake with a twist? Let us know in the comments.

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.