Thursday, May 24, 2012

Apricot Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Baking can sometimes be a pretty daunting task to some of us. Apparently, even for some top chefs in the making!

I caught an episode of Top Chef recently and in that particular week, all the hopefuls were given a surprise task by the judges where they have to prepare something that is baked. This took them all by surprised. While some acted cool the others felt overwhelmed and couldn't hide their anxieties. There was this one guy contestant who actually broke out in cold sweat as he rambled on about the unfairness of the judges' decision as this was a culinary competition and not a pastry contest. He complained that he was totally unprepared as the baking task was unexpected. To him, baking is a totally different ball game from culinary. Unlike culinary he said, where there is more room to play and experiment - add an extra tomato or onion or a dash of this and a pinch of that without problems - baking on the other hand is like a chemistry class in school where the slightest inaccuracy of measurement can spell huge disaster. It was comical watching a top chef wannabe panic at having to bake something, but I couldn't agree more that culinary and baking are indeed two different worlds of food. But even if baking is daunting, it isn't rocket science although I have had my fair share of failed or less-than-perfect cakes. But maybe for this dude or for most of us in that situation, it was rocket science as he didn't have the luxury of a recipe in front of him as a guide. Too bad I didn't manage to see what he did in the end as I had to go out before the program ended. As home bakers, we have scores of good and easy baking recipes to follow these days and often times, a light dash of common sense and a tiny pinch of creativity can deliver an alternative option to the flavor and texture. Even if it fails, fret not because without failure, a victory in the future won't taste as sweet.

I have always like simple cakes, and if they're easy to do...all the better! I find Tish Boyle's recipes are such. Even some of her most luscious cakes in The Cake Book look gentle enough to attempt for a non professional like me. This is based on Boyle's Cherry-Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake baked in a bundt pan. I didn't have a bundt pan at the time of making this so I used a 9 inch loose-bottom round pan, which works well too. I would love to follow her recipe by using cherries but I didn't have any so I used apricots as substitute. Since I love almond and wanted the cake to a slightly coarser degree with full almond taste, I substituted 1 cup of cake flour with ground almond. I also didn't have kirsch and since I did not use cherry so it was okay. I used rum instead. Sugar was reduced by half cup. The recipe below is based on my alterations as mentioned.


1/4 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped (4 oz/114 g)
2 tbsps rum or hot water
2 cups cake flour + 1 cup ground almond (12 oz/342 g)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, softened (8 oz/227 g)
1 cup cream cheese, softened (8 oz/227 g)
1.5 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract


~ Place the apricot and rum or hot water in a bowl and let stand for 20 minutes
~ Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda together and blend well with the ground almond and salt. Set aside.
~ In an electric mixer bowl,  cream the butter and cream cheese until creamy, then gradually add the sugar and beat at medium speed until well-blended and light.
~ Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then, beat in the vanilla and almond extract.
~ Add the flour mixture at low speed, until just blended. Mix in the apricot and give the batter a good stir.
~ Pour the batter in a greased or lined pan and bake in a preheated oven of 325 F for 65 minutes OR until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes and then unmold it.

I am in love with this cake and I think I've found another 'THE' pound cake I've been searching for. It is a pound cake that is rich and buttery, sufficiently salty from the butter and cream cheese in just the way I like it, soft and moist and full of almond flavor blended so well with the cream cheese. This recipe gives a rather huge cake but I'm sure it will be finished to the last crumb. It's so nice eaten warm after half an hour out of the oven. The other 'THE' pound cake I love is also from Boyle which I tasted when my sister made it the last time and it's called Toasted Almond Pound Cake. 

Enjoy baking!

petite nyonya