Part of what makes French pastries so dazzling is their use of trompe-l’oeil; that is, the principle of combining textures and techniques to create the illusion that something is molten, dense, or nutritious when they are anything but, as seen in a mirror-glazed bombe, meringue, and these “candy apples”, respectively. I’m happy to report that you can incorporate these techniques into recipes at home. We’ll start with an easy one: the sugar glaze.
What is it about the aesthetic of dripping liquid that’s so appealing? From pancake house commercials featuring endless, oozing gobs of maple syrup, to the one-of-a-kind red wax seal on your uncle’s favorite whiskey bottle, to the frenetic compositions of Jackson Pollock, there’s just something about a drip motif that we as a species can’t get enough of. Is it the suggestion of ‘runneth over’ abundance, the symmetry of a teardrop, the smooth surety of gravity’s downward tug on fondue fountain chocolate? Whatever the cause, one can’t deny the peculiar allure of a freshly glazed dessert. In honor of that principle, I present this recipe for iced lime pound cake.
Aside from being remarkably tasty, pound cake is also a versatile introductory recipe for those new to baking. Pound cake requires few ingredients and has a mild vanilla flavor that lends itself well to a variety of infusions. You’ve probably munched on at least one slice of lemon pound cake in your life, but lesser-known iterations are also worth a try, from fruit additions like banana and blueberry to more inventive variations like peppermint, spiced rum, or hazelnut. Pound cake derives its name from its historically simple recipe; back in the early 1700s, the original pound cake was developed as a handy, no-frills equation for a crowd-pleasing dessert big enough to divide between several families. Its easy-to-remember formula called for one pound each of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs, which baked up into a four-pound behemoth to be sliced up and shared.
Over time, bakers whittled the original recipe’s proportions to suit smaller loaf tins and bundt pans, and upgraded it with a confectioner’s sugar glaze. Today in the United States, pound cake is a staple of coffee shops and Southern comfort food menus, and even occasionally finds itself dressed up as a wedding centerpiece. You can spot a pound cake by its trademark icing, which is made thick and poured directly over top of the cake, so that it hardens into a pleasing drippy border down the sides. The effect is especially beautiful when accompanied by a dusting of citrus zest, sliced almonds, or poppy seeds.
Perhaps thanks to its humble beginnings, pound cake continues to be a great introductory recipe for even the most amateur home bakers. You can use it as an opportunity for new kitchen helpers (young and old) to practice measuring ingredients, sifting flour, and cracking eggs. Due to the batter’s thickness, it’s not much of a spill hazard, and the substitutions found in this recipe make it dairy-free to accommodate sensitive bellies. This recipe also uses whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour, which retains wheat’s natural, healthy fiber and mineral content, while mimicking enriched flour’s texture and crumb. On top of that, it’s just plain fun to pour on the glaze. The only difficult part about making this pound cake is waiting for it to bake and cool!
You can serve this lime pound cake with a scoop of homemade coconut sorbet, or layer some slices with fresh fruit and whipped cream.