Everything starts with a pound cake. Each new Birthday year began with a pound cake in fancy disguise and each Christmas was celebrated with a gussied up pound cake holding nuts and other shiny edibles (alongside a “Japanese” Christmas cake but we’ll get to that another time).
So we begin with an orange blossom and bergamot (earl grey tea) pound cake. Such delicate flavours need to be handled softly. Seems churlish to set them in such a dense cake, but the self wants what it wants and this morning it woke up wanting pound cake.
I purposefully kept the orange blossom water and earl grey flavours minimal so there is just a hint. Pound cake is rich and buttery and I didn’t want to outshine that, just lift it a little. Something still special for this festive period but away from the heavy spices which are all around at Christmas.
My only suggestion for equipment is to have a heavy duty bundt pan (or loaf tin). Cake protection! No one likes a hard, dark bitter crust, do they?
You can of course separate the eggs and whip the whites to lend as much air as possible to your pound cake – today I wanted the soft substantial cake I remembered – just treat it gently and add the whites last so as to keep as much air in there as you can before you whisk it into the oven.
Set the oven to 160 degrees and prepare your cake pan (coat with butter and then with flour, removing the excess)
2 Earl Grey teabags
50ml Boiling water
1 1/3 C Soft butter
2 1/2 C Caster sugar
3 C Cake flour*
1/2 C Buttermilk
1 tbsp. and 2 tsp. Orange blossom water
10 tbsp. Icing sugar
Place the earl grey teabags into a mug and pour about 50ml of boiling water over the top. Swirl them about a bit and leave them to sit.
In a standing mixer cream together the sugar and butter. You’re aiming to dissolve the sugar in the fat, whip it until it’s pale and fluffy.
If you’re separating your eggs do so now and add the yolks one at a time with a little of the flour. If you’re not separating – hoy in the whole egg!
When the eggs/yolks are in add in the rest of the flour and the buttermilk.
Remove the teabags and add the earl grey liquid along with 1 tsbp. orange blossom water.
Add the grated zest of the three clementines – keep them close by.
If you separated the eggs now is the time to gently fold in the whites with a metal spoon.
Pour the batter into your tin and bake for 1 hr. After 30 minutes I put a piece of foil on the top to stop it darkening too much. I checked it after another 30 minutes and then removed the foil and left it in the oven for another 10.
Check the cake by piercing it with a knife or skewer to see if it comes out clean.
Let the cake rest for 10 minutes then turn it out onto a cooling rack.
When the cake is cool add the juice of 2 1/2 or 3 clementines and the 2 tsp. orange blossom water to the icing sugar and pour over the cake. I don’t like a lot of icing on this cake because I find it very sweet, if you like a heavier covering you could easily double the icing recipe. Add less clementine juice if you don’t want the icing to slide down the sides so much.
*Here in the UK plain cake flour is not as light as Cake Flour in the US so I make up 10% of the final weight/volume in cornflour.