In the greatest cake-baking cookbook I have ever had the fortune to own (All Cakes Considered) there is a cake that rivals all others. Simple, sweet, decadent, bright, irresistible. Melissa Gray, a member of NPR's brilliant show All Things Considered, aptly named this cake the Mancatcher. She says that the cake is so good it will undoubtedly catch you a man but there's no guarantee that he'll stick around. So what is this cake that I've built up to quasi-mythic proportions? It's a sour-cream citrus pound cake. Don't wrinkle your nose at the sour cream. It makes the cake incredibly dense and soft and yet light at the same time. The citrus flavor isn't overpowering but the addition of a light lemon glaze is certainly encouraged. I made this cake for a friend of mine our senior year of high school and he still mentions it occasionally. That good. On top of that, it's beyond easy. You could probably make this cake if you just had your wisdom teeth out. The only thing I'll say is be careful not to overbeat the batter when you're incorporating the ingredients. If you'll remember: beating batter like a rented mule = tough, revolting cake. Apart from that, the Mancatcher offers no tricks or surprises, just simple ingredients that go together and a whole lot of sugar. Sign me up.
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c. sugar
5 large eggs
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. orange extract
2. Thoroughly grease a 10-inch tube pan or a bunt pan
3. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly to incorporate after each addition
4. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl
5. With the mixer on low, alternately add the sour cream and the flour mixture then beat in the extracts until flavorings are incorporated and mixture looks smooth and even.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake blind 90 minutes (THIS MEANS NO PEEKING, USE YOUR OVEN LIGHT)
To unmold: Place a baking rack on a table or counter and cover with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the pan to unstick any cake. Grab that baking rack and invert it onto the top of the pan then flip the whole mess over so the rack is holding the weight of the cake. You should hear a telltale thud and this is a good thing. Slowly lift the pan away from the cake. You might need to give it a little shake to fully unmold. Take the plate you intend to serve the cake on and repeat the steps with the baking rack--one hand squarely on the cake, one hand firmly on the plate--and flip again so that the cake is the right way up. Let cool before you put on the lemon glaze (below).
Mix 3/4 c. confectioner's sugar with 1 1/2 tbs. milk and 1 tsp. of lemon extract (or 2 if you like it tart). Beat until smooth and then drizzle over the top of the cooled cake.
To buy All Cakes Considered: http://www.amazon.com/All-Cakes-Considered-Melissa-Gray/dp/0811867811