The first signs of Spring are starting to make an appearance. The mornings are heavy with fog from the day’s warm air connecting with the mountainous snow banks. The sun shines almost every day, and the air smells like melting snow. It’s not a smell you can describe, but it’s a smell that everyone living in a Northern climate can recognize.
Puddles line the streets, and the toys and garden tools that were abandoned in the Fall are making their reappearance on the lawn. If you’re at my house, the occasional Pop Tart wrapper also peeps out from beneath the sand covered banks. For the life of me, I can’t remember eating a Pop Tart in the past ten years, but in my frenzy to prepare for winter, I could have blocked out the memory. Or the tasty pastries, (Is that what we’re calling them? “Pastries?”) plunged me into a sugar coma that left me without my short-term memory.
I also have a theory that the neighbors venture onto my lawn in the dead of night and use our ladders and move my rakes. They are, of course, eating Pop Tarts during their shenanigans, and discarding the wrappers in my freshly raked leaves, only to be discovered when the sun decides to make its grand re-appearance in the North.
It’s just a theory.
Putting aside the frustration of the Pop Tart wrappers, it’s a bittersweet time of year. We are finally able to shed the layers, stop hauling wood in from the wood pile, and throw open the windows, welcoming in the fresh air, making our homes feel a little less claustrophobic. The snow boots are set aside for galoshes. The mittens are left behind while the sunglasses are once again invited to join us on our outdoor journeys. We come out of hibernation and remember just how good it feels to have the sun shine warm on your skin.
As thrilled as I am to welcome the Spring with its heat and growth, part of me is sad to see the coziness of winter fade away. I will miss being snowed in, watching the world stop to make way for a force far greater than us. The heat from the wood stove embracing us, after shoveling enough snow to build an igloo village. The first time I lay on the beach, I am sure winter will be long forgotten, but for now, I would like to hold onto it for just a minute longer.
This pound cake combines the best of Winter and Spring. A dense, hearty cake reminiscent of winter, layered with fresh flavors that sing of Spring. When you make the pound cake, make sure you are using high quality butter. If you don’t have superfine sugar on hand, throw some granulated sugar in your food processor and pulse 3-4 times.
The vanilla beans are essential to making the flavors pop. In my local grocery store, a single vanilla bean is $12, which is why I have avoided cooking with them for so long, but I recently found that Whole Foods sells them in bulk. I got 6 vanilla beans for $6. So if you can find somewhere that sells them in bulk, buy them that way.
No one expects you to bake a $36 pound cake.
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 3 vanilla beans
- 1¼ cups superfine sugar
- 1½ tablespoons lemon zest
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1¾ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1½ teaspoons culinary lavender
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Start by getting things prepped. Crack your eggs into a small bowl and set aside on the counter while you prep everything else.
- In a large bowl, cube the butter and set aside. Cut your vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape the beans out of the top, placing the beans in the bowl with the butter.
- In a medium sized bowl, place the sugar and lemon zest. Using your fingertips, work the lemon zest into the sugar and set aside. In another medium bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt. In a final small bowl, mix together the sour cream, heavy cream and lemon juice and set aside. Now everything is prepped and will be ready to go when you mix the batter.
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.
- To mix the batter, start by beating the butter and vanilla beans on medium until smooth. Add sugar and lemon zest mix and beat for 3-4 minutes until pale in color and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each egg until fully incorporated.
- Finish the batter by alternating between adding the flour mix and the sour cream mix. Beat until fully mixed without lumps. Pour batter into your prepared loaf pan. Bake for 70-80 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the cooking process. When a knife comes out clean when inserted in the center, the cake is done.
- Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
- While the cake cools prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, heat the lemon juice in the microwave for 45-60 seconds. Remove from the microwave and add the lemon zest and lavender. Allow the mixture to steep for at least 10 minutes. Strain the lavender and zest from the juice, saving the juice. Add the powdered sugar to the juice, whisking until smooth with no lumps. If the glaze is too thick, squeeze a tiny bit of extra lemon juice into the mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour glaze over cake and serve immediately.