Almond Crunch Pound Cake

Okay, Thanksgiving has passed, it’s December, there’s snow on the ground (and I don’t think it’s going anywhere)—it’s a fine time to think about holiday goodies. In addition to the holidays themselves, there are many gatherings at other times throughout the season when a pound cake would also be a welcome guest—maybe a morning or afternoon coffee and cake get-together, a post-skating or sliding party, or dinner with friends.

Pound cakes are one of the oldest cakes around, notes cookbook author Elinor Klivans. It’s a type of cake that’s been with us for 300 or 400 years, about as long as sugar has been a key part of kitchen life (as opposed to honey). The original ones were made of equal weights eggs, butter, sugar, and flour—a pound of each, for instance. Elinor’s recipes, which appeared in Real Food, are more refined than those early ones, but take advantage of the delicious cakes’ traditional strength: They’re easy to make, unfussy crowd pleasers that are always and invariably delicious.

This large pound cake, for instance, is ready to party. Almond paste flavors the cake, and crisp, sugared almonds drizzled with a simple almond glaze crown the top. The glaze serves the dual purpose of adding some frosting and “gluing” the nuts to the cake.

Heck, there doesn’t even need to be an occasion to make this—celebrate any day. Or, perhaps a “practice” cake now for good measure and another in a couple weeks?

Almond Crunch Pound Cake

Makes 16 servings

1 large egg white
1¼ c. (5 oz.) sliced almonds
2 tbsp. sugar

3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
24 tbsp. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
7 oz. almond paste
2¾ cups sugar
6 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 c. whole milk

1 c. powdered sugar
6 to 7 tbsp. heavy cream
½ tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Have ready an ungreased, nonstick baking sheet.

Butter bottom, sides, and center tube of a 9½- or 10-inch-diameter, fixed-bottom tube pan with at least 3¾-inch-high sides. Line bottom with parchment paper and butter paper. Set aside.

For the topping: In a medium bowl, beat egg white with a fork until foamy. Stir in almonds to coat with egg white. Sprinkle sugar over nuts and stir to mix. Spread nuts in a single layer onto baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes, stirring halfway through to loosen nuts from pan. Remove from oven and immediately stir to loosen from pan. Cool on baking sheet. The nuts will crisp as they cool. Nuts can be prepared up to 5 days ahead and stored in a sealed container at room temperature.

For the cake: Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and almond paste to blend, 1 minute. Add sugar and beat until mixture is smoothly blended and lightened slightly in color, about 3 minutes. Add eggs in three additions, beating 1 minute after each. Add vanilla and almond extracts and beat 1 minute. On low speed, in 5 alternating additions, add flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Bake until a skewer or knife inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack 15 minutes.

Using a small, sharp knife, loosen cake from sides and center tube of pan. Invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. Place a serving plate on cake bottom and turn top side up.

For the glaze: Put powdered sugar in a small bowl. Stir in cream and almond extract, adding enough milk to create a smooth, thick glaze. Spread about 2/3 of glaze over top of cake. Spoon cooled almonds over glaze. They will form a thick topping. Using a small spoon, drizzle remaining glaze over nuts. Use a serrated knife to slice cake, or cover and store at room temperature up to 3 days.

Nutrition Info Almond Crunch Pound Cake (per serving): CALORIES 577 (247 from fat); FAT 28g (sat . 13g) ; CHOL 133mg; SODIUM 143mg; CARB 74g; FIBER 2g; PROTEIN 9g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.