Serve this rich, buttery cake for summer celebrations; it’s perfect for the Fourth of July! If you can resist snacking on it, it’s even better baked a day ahead. Enjoy it plain with a cup of hot coffee or tea, and when company comes, serve slices with seasonal berries or sliced peaches and homemade ice cream. This pound cake variation includes heavy cream, a luxurious ingredient dating back to the late 19th century or earlier. Originally made with one pound each of sugar, butter, flour, and eggs, pound cake batter required long periods of creaming butter with sugar and beating eggs for leavening when made in 18th century England — all done by hand. Modern recipes often assist with a little baking powder or baking soda. Those early bakers perfumed their cakes with rosewater, mace, and brandy. Quality rosewater or almond extract can be substituted for ½ teaspoon of the vanilla listed below. Before baking, read the recipe through; organize all ingredients. A lot of chemistry takes place when making a pound cake!
Vanilla-Orange Cream Cake
1½ cups Swans Down cake flour (see measuring note below)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, nearly room temperature, in 1-inch pieces
1½ cups sugar (preferably fine-granulation sugar such as Domino)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 to 4 teaspoons orange zest (rinse navel orange; dry before zesting) or 1 teaspoon ground mace
½ cup whipping cream, room temperature
Preheat oven to 325 F. Coat the inside of a 9-by-5-by-2½-inch loaf pan with baking spray. Line the bottom with baking parchment; spray again. Stir cake flour to aerate. Spoon into dry 1-cup and ½-cup measuring cups; don’t shake or pat down flour. Level the tops with a straight-edge knife for about 5.25 ounces. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together for 30 seconds; set aside. All-purpose White Lily flour can be substituted with close results.
The butter should be a bit pliable; not overly soft and never oily. In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on low for 1 minute. On medium-high, add sugar gradually, beating a total of 4 to 5 minutes until mixture is pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating about 30 seconds after each addition. Stop mixer as needed; scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in vanilla and orange zest.
Spoon in ⅓ of the flour and ½ of the cream; blend on low a few seconds until incorporated. Add ½ of the remaining flour and all the remaining cream; mix just to combine. Add the final amount of the flour, mixing 15 to 20 seconds. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth out or tap pan gently on the counter a few times. Bake on the middle rack 50 to 55 minutes or until cake is golden brown and tests done when a wooden toothpick or cake tester is inserted. No batter should come out but a few crumbs are fine. The sides will shrink slightly. Cool on a rack 15 minutes then remove from the pan; place topside up. Cool completely; top with Glaze, if desired (see below).
Tip: The cake’s flavor and texture are enhanced upon standing. Store unglazed, wrapped cake on the counter 4 to 5 days; refrigerate if glazed. The cake in the photo is topped with fresh berries. Cake can be doubled and baked in two loaf pans or in a greased, floured cast-aluminum bundt pan about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Glaze: Whisk until smooth 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon soft butter, 1 to 2 tablespoons cream or orange juice, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Thin with additional cream if necessary. Spoon glaze over cake; allow it to drip over the sides.