Pound cake is a deeply uncool member of the dessert family. It’s the homely cousin of the elegant multi-tiered genoise featured on the covers of wedding magazines. Even the name sounds clumsy and pedestrian, like it’s supposed to be exclusively served at your great aunt Edna’s birthday party, not at stylish and hip restaurants.
Even at its very best, pound cake has a simple, rustic soul, and one that isn’t well-suited to following the latest in-vogue flavors and styles on high-end dessert menus. Would you eat a chocolate pomegranate pound cake with chipotle-brown sugar glaze? What about a spiced carrot pound cake with rum and persimmon icing? Or a brown butter chestnut pound cake with shaved truffle streusel?
Those daring flavors are all wrong for pound cake.
Instead, pound cake is fabulously uncluttered. The best thing about it is its simplicity. But in a world of dessert menus run amuck, where a plate cannot be complete without a cake and a shooter and a sorbet and a foam, the pound cake is an antidote to fine-dining dessert overkill.
I suspect that now that everyone is paring back in the recession, and frugality and responsibility are trendy once more, pound cake is due for a major comeback. This unfashionable, homely dessert deserves our attention. Because at its best, pound cake is everything that a dessert should be. It’s simple, sweet, flavorful, and holds up equally well to a glass of dessert wine or a cup of coffee. And it embodies the new aesthetic of simplicity and humility, where we value the comforts of home.
So my February baking project will be devoted to the humble pound cake. As I did in January with the Popover Project, I’ll be trying out new recipes from different authors, and letting you know what works, what didn’t, and what I learned from each.
Who knows, maybe pound cake will be the “It Dessert” of 2009.