This recipe is adapted very slightly from the pound cake in "The Perfect Cake", published by America's Test Kitchen. When I reviewed the book for *The Wall Street Journal*, I was impressed by the simplicity of this can't-possibly-fail poundcake that's made with hot melted butter in a food processor. Genius, I say. It's perfectly good plain, or with the citrus variations from the original recipe, but you can party on by steeping spices in the hot butter, swapping some brown sugar for white sugar, browning the butter, swapping 25% of the cake flour for a flavorful whole grain (or pseudo-grain) flour, or even mixing and matching these variations. Why not play with your pound cake? —Alice Medrich
1 1/4 cups
(250 grams) sugar
salt (I use fine sea salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons
pure vanilla extract
large eggs, at room temperature
(225 grams) unsalted butter, melted and hot
1 1/2 cups
(170 grams) cake flour (bleached or unbleached—I used the latter)
Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350° F (adjust for convection according to the instructions with your oven). Grease and flour a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan, or line the bottom and all four sides with parchment. (You can use a 9 by 5 pan, but check for doneness 5 minutes early)
Put the sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor and process for about 10 seconds until totally blended. With the processor running, add hot melted butter in a steady stream until incorporated. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl.
Sift flour into the bowl in three additions, whisking just until most of the flour is blended after each addition. After the last addition whisk until just until there are no visible lumps or veins of flour (do not over whisk).
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean—with few crumbs clinging to it, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife bade around the sides to detach the cake (or lift the parchment liner) and remove the cake to the rack to cool completely, about 2 hours, before serving. Cake may be wrapped and stored at room temperature for 3 days, or frozen for 1 month. Thaw at room temperature without unwrapping.
Lemon or Orange: Grate the zest of two medium lemons or a large orange directly into the food processor and add 2 teaspoons lemon or orange juice, before adding the sugar etc.
Toasted coriander with cardamom and cinnamon:
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons ground toasted coriander seeds*, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds that have been finely crushed in a mortar (or not-to-finely-ground in a spice grinder) to the hot butter, cover and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Reheat butter if necessary before adding it (with the spices) to the batter as directed. *Toast whole coriander seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat, shaking the pan, until then are golden brown and fragrant. Pour onto a dish to cool. Grind in spice grinder or crush finely in a mortar.
Brown Butter: Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of water and an extra pinch of salt to the food processor with the sugar. Use hot browned butter in place of the hot melted butter.
Brown Sugar (with or without nutmeg): Replace half of the sugar with dark brown sugar and add an extra pinch of salt. If desired add 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the hot butter, cover and let steep 10-15 minutes. Reheat the butter as necessary before using as directed.
Buckwheat: Swap one quarter of the cake flour (6 tablespoons/42 grams) for an equal weight (42 grams/5 1/3 tablespoons) of buckwheat flour. Proceed as directed, adding the cake flour in two additions and the buckwheat flour last
Vanilla saffron: Split a vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the hot butter. Drop the pods into the butter as well. Add a scant 1/8 teaspoon crushed saffron threads. Cover and let steep 10-15 minutes. Remove the vanilla pods. Reheat the butter if necessary before using as directed.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).