Thu Aug 3, 2017
I'm not a big fan of eating out on common eat-out holidays—the crowds, far advance reservations, and all-too-often prix fixe only menus all add up to make the experience not one entirely fitting with the low key type of celebrations I prefer. So when it came to Mother's Day this year—the first one since high school where my Mom and I have lived in the same city—I decided rather than deal with brunch madness, I'd host and cook a lunch comprised of my Mom's favs, which included eggplant parmesan and asparagus. Then to cap the meal in a fittingly special fashion, I made this grilled lemon pound cake with balsamic berries and whipped cream.
I really love a good pound cake, and out of all the recipes I've tried over the years, there's only one from Cook's Illustrated that I go back to again-and-again after deeming it the best of the lot. So many pound cake recipes have such similar ingredients and amounts that there seems to be little difference between them, but what I think makes this particular recipe work better than normal is how the ingredients are put together, which seems to produce consistently ideal fine textured and moist pound cakes.
It starts by utilizing the food processor to combine the sugar and lemon zest, followed by the eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice (the lemons are technically optional, but I'm partial to lemon pound cakes). Then, with the motor running, butter is slowly poured through the feed tube until fully and uniformly incorporated into the egg mixture.
Next, a combination of cake flour, baking powder, and salt are sifted onto the egg and butter mixture in three batches, with whisking between each addition to bring it all together.
After baking, I like to take the additional step of applying a lemon glaze to the outside. The extra boost of sweetness and bright lemon flavor I think makes a big difference in the end result, stepping this pound recipe up another notch.
That pound cake alone was good enough to serve for dessert without any accompaniments, but with this being a special occasion type of recipe, I went the extra mile and made some balsamic berries as a first topping. If you haven't tried adding balsamic vinegar to your berries, I highly recommend it. You only need a little bit, and rather than make the fruit taste tart like you may expect, the tiny amount of acidity actually brings out the sweetness of the fruit even more, in my opinion.
Then as a second topper, I whisked up a batch of whipped cream. Well, I didn't actually do the whisking, the KitchenAid did that in just under a minute for me. Fresh whipped cream impressed my Momma, but as long as I've owned an electric mixer, I've never bought canned or frozen because it's so quick and easy to make from scratch.
And as if all this wasn't enough, I also decided to grill the pound cake before serving. I've seen grilled pound cake a lot on recipe sites and blogs in the past, but kind of wrote it off as gimmicky and unnecessary. However, in this scenario, I thought serving the cake warm would be a nice touch with the berries and cream, and if I'm going to cook it, might as well use the grill, right?
I wasn't grilling much else that day, so didn't fire up a batch of coals to do the job, but instead used one of my small propane grills to give the cake a quick toast. It only took a minute or so per side for the cake to warm and develop grill marks.
I have to say, the grill did up the attractiveness level in the end to me. The warm cake was definitely appropriate, but the grill marks increased how appetizing it looked, and maybe that influenced my all out love for this dessert. It also helped that it was made up of some of my favorite things—the perfectly moist and fine textured lemon pound cake, balsamic enhanced sweet and fresh berries, and smooth and airy whipped cream. Since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I made a correct assumption than my Mom would love it too, and it was an excellent end to a lunch that was prepared especially for her and enjoyed without stress or outside interruption, which is how I feel a holiday occasion meal should be.
Grilled Lemon Pound Cake with Balsamic Berries and Whipped Cream
Pound cake recipe by Cook's Illustrated
- Prep Time:
- 30 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 1 Hour
- Cook Time:
- 55 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 2 Hours 25 Minutes
- 8 servings
- For the Pound Cake
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon, softened for greasing pan
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) cake flour, plus 1 tablespoon for dusting pan
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups (8 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons juice from 2 medium lemons
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the Glaze
- 1/2 (3 1/2 ounces) cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice, from 1 or 2 medium lemons
- For the Berries
- 8oz fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced
- 6oz fresh blackberries
- 6oz fresh blueberries
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoons granulated sugar
- For the Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4-5 roughly torn mint leaves, for garnish
- To make the pound cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon softened butter and lightly dust with cake flour. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
- Place sugar and lemon zest in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse until combined, about 5 1-second pulses. Add lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla; process until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly pour melted butter through feed tube in a steady stream. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Sift 1/3 of flour mixture over egg mixture and whisk until combined. Repeat 2 more times with remaining flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F and continue to bake until deep golden brown and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire rack.
- To make the glaze: Place sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Pierce top and sides of cake with a toothpick or skewer, then brush glaze on top and sides. Let cake cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
- To make the berries: Place strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries in a medium bowl. Add in balsamic vinegar and sugar and toss to combine. Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.
- To make the whipped cream: Place bowl and whisk of an electric mixture in freezer for 20 minutes. Remove whisk and bowl from freezer and add in cream, sugar, and vanilla. Beat mixture on high speed until doubled in volume and stiff peaks form, about 30 seconds. If not using immediately, transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 8 hours.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals evenly across charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Cut pound cake into 1-inch slices and place on grill. Cook until cake is lightly toasted and grill marks develop, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer cake slices to plates, top with berries, whipped cream, and a mint leaf for garnish. Serve immediately.