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Pound Cake
A slice of pound cake is buttery, rich and delicious all by itself, but it takes well to additions, too. Vary this cake's flavor by omitting the almond extract and stirring in 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice and 1 Tbs. poppy seeds, or 2 Tbs. minced crystallized ginger. If you like almond, add the optional almond extract and sprinkle sliced almonds on top before baking. You can also top the slices with fresh fruit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1⁄4 tsp. salt
  • 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter,
      at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8 1⁄2-by-4 1⁄2-inch loaf pan, preferably glass, and dust with flour.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until blended. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and almond extract on medium to medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until just blended. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and stir until both are just incorporated. Stir in the sour cream, then sprinkle with the remaining flour mixture and stir until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap gently on the counter to even out and settle the ingredients. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 70 minutes, or longer if using a metal pan. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and lift off the pan. Place the cake on one of its sides and continue cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Dessert, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Simon & Schuster, 2002).