High Country Baking: Vanilla pound cake with rhubarb sauce
June 7, 2017
High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Forget daffodils and flip flops, I'm not convinced that warm weather has truly arrived until rhubarb appears in our markets. I love this briefly available vegetable (which is cooked like a fruit), bought some immediately, and used it to make this delicious tart-sweet sauce to serve with vanilla pound cake. It's a classic combination, but be ready for a surprise in the recipe: There's no need to endlessly cream butter and sugar for the cake; it comes together quickly in a food processor. Both cake and sauce can be made well ahead of serving, making entertaining easy on the cook.
The recipe for the sauce is one of the simplest and, in my opinion, one of the very best. If you don't want to make the cake, serve it over vanilla ice cream or mix it into plain yogurt. Look for rhubarb stalks that are thin, unblemished, and have a strong pink-red color. Cut them into pieces no larger than ½-inch so they soften easily when cooked.
Skeptical about making a pound cake in a food processor? So was I, but it's been my go-to recipe for years now and yields a tender, light, luscious cake. Just be sure not to over-process the batter. To make it gluten-free, substitute King Arthur's Measure for Measure Gluten Free Flour or Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour for the all-purpose flour in the recipe.
Vanilla Pound Cake with Rhubarb Sauce
Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 and above
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Bake in a 6-cup Bundt pan, preferably non-stick
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon bleached all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
2 tablespoons non-fat dry milk
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker's
½ cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
Rhubarb Sauce (makes about 2 ½ cups)
4 cups ½ -inch pieces of fresh rhubarb (about 1 ½ pounds)
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon or orange juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1-2 tablespoons crème de cassis or orange liqueur, optional
1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Generously grease the Bundt pan with a vegetable oil-flour spray. Set it aside.
2. Combine the flour, non-fat dry milk, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk vigorously to blend. In a large measuring cup or a bowl with a spout, whisk the corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla and the three eggs until mixed. Set both aside.
3. Put the sugar in the food processor and process for 30-45 seconds until pulverized. Cut the butter into 16 pieces, add them to the bowl, and pulse until fluffy and light in color, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the machine running, slowly add the corn syrup-juice-vanilla-egg mixture, blending until smooth. Scrape the sides of the processor bowl several times while blending.
4. Stop the machine. In four additions, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, pulsing after each addition only until the batter is smooth. Don't over-process! Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling it no more than 1 ¼ inches from the top, level and smooth the batter and rap the pan on a counter to eliminate any air bubbles.
5. Bake until the top of the cake is light golden and springs back when touched. Start checking at 45 minutes. Remove to a rack, cool for 10-15 minutes, then invert and remove the pan. Let the cake cool completely on a rack before serving or wrap airtight and store or a day or freeze for up to a month. Top with shower of confectioners' sugar just before serving.
6. Make the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and mixture starts to boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer, stirring every couple of minutes, until the rhubarb breaks down, is very tender and the mixture thickens (about 7-10 minutes). Taste, stir in more sugar if desired and continue to simmer another minute or two until the additional sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, scrape the sauce into a bowl, let cool for about 15 minutes, cover and refrigerate until cold. Can be made two days ahead of serving.
7. Serve slices of the cake topped with a generous spoonful of the sauce. A dollop of whipped cream or sweetened Greek yogurt, though optional, adds more complementary tastes and textures.
The cake recipe is an adaptation of one in The Best of Better Baking.com.
The sauce recipe is a variation of one from Bon Appetit.
Vera Dawson is a baking instructor and author of the high-altitude cookbooks Cookies in the Clouds and Baking Above It All, (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.