Who doesn't love a good pound cake, one worth its weight in gold and, in this case, slightly richer and super moist with the addition of cream cheese? And to balance out the butter and cream, I stir in a generous amount of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and some zest to give the cake punch. I also like to serve the slices warm with a chilled compote made of fresh Alaska rhubarb.
Luckily, my neighbors have stalks of rhubarb all ripe and ready for the picking this time of year. And in return for sharing their jewel-toned petioles, I promise them regular deliveries of rhubarb confections in the form of pies, jams and ice cream. Although, keep in mind that rhubarb is delicious in savory dishes as well. For a quick topping that pairs well with grilled fish and steaks, dice rhubarb along with crisp celery and toss with fresh lime juice, cilantro, onion and jalapeno; add a little honey and salt.
As for the cake, this recipe is my go-to for unexpected guests (it freezes well) or as a sweet treat for the family and neighbors. Bake a pound cake and watch people become kinder and gentler as you offer it up, fragrant and warm from the oven. My husband smiles, remembering it was his favorite childhood dessert; the kids settle down for a quiet moment as they devour it warm, eaten out of hand or toasted and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Almost everyone likes the surprising tart-sweetness of the rhubarb compote, laced with vanilla; sometimes, for an adult treat, add a little rum and perhaps a swirl of creme fraiche. Any way you serve it, this dense, rich and moist cake is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser, perfect for picnics and potlucks as well.
Lemon-cream cheese pound cake
Note on the crust: The darker your pan, the darker the crust.
For the cake:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
11/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
23/4 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
4 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch tube pan and set aside.
Combine cream cheese and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl and mix using a hand mixer) and blend, using paddle attachment, until combined. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, two at a time, blending well after each addition. Add salt, lemon juice and zest and vanilla and blend until just combined, scraping down sides as needed. Add flour 1 cup at a time and blend, stopping to scrape down sides, as needed. Fill prepared pan and tap pan on counter to even out batter.
Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in center comes out mostly clean. The crust will be golden-brown but the center will appear moist and cracked. Cool on a wire rack for five minutes. Remove cake from pan onto a wire rack. Serve with rhubarb compote.
For the rhubarb compote:
4 cups fresh, diced rhubarb (about 6 stalks)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine rhubarb and next 3 ingredients together in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When sugar starts to melt and bubble, reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender and falling apart, about eight minutes. Let cool. Serve warm or chill, covered, until ready to serve.
Kim Sunée has been the food editor for Southern Living magazine and Cottage Living magazine and her writing has appeared in Food and Wine, The Oxford American and Asian American Poetry and Writing. She is currently based in Anchorage. Her latest cookbook is "A Mouthful of Stars." Learn more at kimsunee.com.
By KIM SUNÉE