It’s finally happened. I’ve let myself get talked into sharing this amazing recipe I only had in my head.
I had the rudiments of it on paper, but it was inadequate. You know. Lots of things I did differently than the person who shared her own version of it. Lots of changes I made, if I remembered. Lots of special things I made sure of, that no one could have known by reading the recipe.
Rosemary and me…
Cozy up with something warm to drink and let me tell you all about it!
Is rosemary the world’s most favored herb? I don’t know; maybe not. However, it is one of my faves, and in my cooking adventures it shines like a star. I love it so much, I grow my own so never to be without.
If you were to visit my herb gardens, you’d notice two robust rosmarinus bushes (alba and sativa) both in easy reach. I like to think they are hefty branches to guard the doors to my kitchen, but really they mostly supervise the frolics of the latest kittens.
They say the size of a rosemary bush carries great significance. Supposedly it indicates the strength of the woman in her home.
I’m not sure about that, either.
I have landscaped around my house with the useful, herbal plants, for over 20 years. My gardens have varied from move to move. There was the glorious stand of dill in a raised bed. For my birthday, once, a son helped me set in a semi-circular hedge of 70 lavender plants. And when we spent a short time in Mississippi, I created an entire enclosed convent garden featuring a beautiful nighttime white-garden section. (That one did let a few non-herbals in for the sake of the flutter-byes.)
But the four-inch diameter twisted trunk of the rosemary right by my back door remains my favorite expression of my love for herbs: Always at hand. Shelter to cats. Exuberant. Generous. What more could an herb lover desire in a true friend?
Rosemary in the kitchen…
We eat lots of Italian food; that is an understatement, really. However, even when we cook something as simple as a pot roast, or baked chicken, a lot of rosemary goes in. It’s the natural additive, here, to the point that when my son’s friends thought the lavender cookies I had sent him smelled like pizza, he just chuckled, knowingly.
How few guess the redolent education that is inherent to owning rosemary!
Now. It’s not as though a cookie with rosemary could not be astonishing in its goodness, but today, we are going to make a cake, a simple pound cake, and we’re going to make it astonishing. So read on . . .
Rosemary in a cake?
I’ve mumbled and fumbled my way through many a delicious pound-cake recipe, including this one, and the variations I offer here I have acquired on the journey. I lost the original recipe, even, and have had to concoct this current iteration from memory and by refashioning a few I had lying around.
Funny, it turns out to be the best. I think you’ll like the results.
In my opinion, there is nothing in the kitchen that compares to creating this cake. The satisfaction is complete.
Noticing recipes for cakes with a sugar crust built in to the pan coating, I dared myself to try it. Using butter instead of shortening or oil would surely add perfection to the immaculate flavor of a fresh pound cake. Doting on its plainness, I realized it would play well with a hint of rosemary and the playwright in me took flight.
This cake is not hard, at all and it will leave you speechless.
My first attempt was not impressive. The recipe I used to build this project had faults. I do not appreciate that when it happens.
- First, there was nothing in the recipe about the absolute importance of having all ingredients at room temperature. I’m telling you now; it’s absolutely important if you want the ingredients to mix well, and if you want a high cake with delicate crumb.
- Next, the oven time was simply wrong. I kept checking and checking until I thought surely it was burned up, but no. I’ve corrected the time, now, realizing any cake this full of goodness would need at least 75 minutes to reach perfection. Also, I devised a method for you to know if your cake is done (toothpicks and such just do not work) and I’ll explain that soon.
- Finally, the directions were not explicit enough and I actually made it wrong on the first try. It did make a cake, but I had a time keeping it all on the counter, at one point. (Sort of a Julia Child moment, that.) I’ve fixed it so you cannot make the mistake I made and you can thank me later.
So the first one fell just a smidgen—it came out of the oven too soon, I am sure, and there was that episode all over the counter…. It was scrumptious and everyone loved it—especially the slightly-fallen-cake-lovers—but I was not proud.
I might be a bit too proud, now.
However, this cake is a hit everywhere it goes, its lovers stealing extra pieces to take home for seconds the next day, then later confessing and offering huge compliments to get back into my good graces. So I’ll make one again, soon?
I just laugh—it’s a life!
And now is the time to make this darling, since rosemary is blooming right now and that’s the best time to harvest, so here goes!
(Oh, and you’ll need a stand mixer and a Bundt pan or other tube pan.)
That Scrumptious Pound Cake.
For the Crust. (Have ALL at room temperature):
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup) (Should be almost soft enough to shed oils.)
1 cup sugar (approximately)
the leaves from two 5” sprigs of fresh rosemary, rinsed well, and DRIED
For the cake. Have ALL at room temperature. I’m not kidding:
A mixture of 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar, poured into 1-cup liquid measure with milk added to fill the cup. This mixture will be divided, later.
1 ½ cup butter, not margarine (3 sticks)
5 large eggs
3 cups sugar
¼ teaspoon soda
3 ¼ cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the glaze (optional). Have ALL at room temperature:
1 small can frozen orange juice concentrate
½ cup powered sugar
First: Prepare pan.
Slather butter thickly over all interior pan surfaces. The goal is to create a surface to which the rosemary leaves and sugar can stick. Do not ignore the hollow core part of the pan.
Sprinkle the rosemary leaves randomly over the butter. They will stick pretty well if the butter is very slicky-soft.
Over that pour about 2 Tablespoons at a time of sugar into the pan and twirl it around gently, to spread sugar all over, trying to keep leaves in place. If one or two rosemary leaves dislodge, it is okay.
Continue adding small amounts of sugar and spreading until absolutely no more sugar will stick. May take even more than a cup; that is fine. Set aside in a cool place such as an unheated room, or near a window, but not the fridge.
Second: Prepare the batter. (Pre-heat oven, now, to 350 degrees.)
Milk and vinegar should be well-combined, and set aside.
In a large mixer bowl, beat butter until pale and fluffy. Add sugar, gradually, until all is incorporated, beating until fluffy after each addition.
Add eggs to butter, one at a time, beating until fluffy after each addition, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
Stir and divide milk/vinegar mixture, putting half into a 2-cup bowl. (The 2-cup bowl is mandatory.)
In a small dish, combine baking soda with one tablespoon of water, stirring well, then add to the ½ cup milk in bowl. Stir well. This will gradually foam up to about one-cup size or more, so watch it, being ready to place a plate under the bowl, if needed.
Add vanilla and mix well.
Beginning with the flour (!) add flour to egg/sugar mixture, ½ cup at a time, alternating with the soda/milk mixture, 1/3 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until soda/milk is gone, continuing with the rest of the milk/vinegar mixture until all is mixed in (beginning and ending with flour!) Beat very well, until completely incorporated, after each addition.
Ease batter into prepared Bundt pan or tube pan, using a large spoon to place batter directly into bottom of pan, and not disturb sugar/rosemary coating. Place pan in middle of oven in all directions. Bake at 350 degrees for 75 minutes (one hour and 15 minutes.)
The test for doneness is to notice that the top of the batter will crack part-way through the baking. When the raw dough that is revealed in these cracks, begins to brown, the cake is done, especially if the cake is pulling from the sides of the pan. See photo:
Cool cake for ten minutes, in pan. Turn onto plate to finish cooling.
Mix orange juice concentrate with powdered sugar to desired consistency and serve as topping for cake, if desired.
You can thank me now! 🙂