I have a confession. I have a terrible bias against the name Crystal. What’s that? Your mother’s name is Crystal? I’m sorry, I really am. It’s not that I don’t think your mom is lovely, I just think her name is kinda terrible. I have no real reason to think so. I’ve never met a horrible Crystal. In fact, the only Crystal I ever knew was a very peppy red-haired girl in 1st or 2nd grade who sang too loudly in chorus. But I don’t have any other complaints about her.
I’m just an asshole, basically, is what I’m saying. A random name hating asshole.
So I was hesitant to make this cake, and the only reason why is because the word “crystal” was in the title. Hesitant, even, after my friend Marge sent me the recipe proclaiming it was best cake she ever “made or tasted.” I was dubious. Just as I would be if someone claimed that they dated a Crystal and she was the best girlfriend ever. Really, dude? Reeeeally?
But this cake shut me the hell up real quick. Because it’s delicious. First of all, it’s incredibly moist because of the almond paste (kinda reminiscent of rainbow cookies). Second of all, the lemon sugar glaze is pretty much perfect. You let it sit until it hardens up and becomes all crackly, and that coupled with the moist almondyness of the actual cake is a wonderful combination. If someone dated this cake and said it was the best girlfriend ever, I would say, ok, yeah, that’s a good one.
And then I remembered The Dark Crystal. Which is something that has “crystal” in the title that is awesome. Also, I am a fan of the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR. So my irrational bias is going all to shit, which I guess is a good thing. Because why hate something randomly and with no real cause?
Oh, and make the cake. You’ll thank me later. Well, you should really thank Marge. Thanks, Marge! Also, Marge, you’re getting a ton of play time on my blog. Aren’t you kinda psyched? Yeah! You should be! You’re practically famous.
Crystal Almond Pound Cake
from my friend Marge, adapted from Flo Braker’s “The Art of Simple Baking”
(makes one 9×5-inch loaf or a small bundt cake)
3/4 cup sifted pastry or cake flour (I used regular flour and replaced 2 tbsp of it with 2 tbsp of corn starch…magic!)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 ounces (3/4 cup) almond paste, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
1 tablespoon finely grated meyer lemon zest (regular lemons are fine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice (again, regular is ok)
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven. Preheat to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan; tap out the excess flour.
To make the cake…
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt twice. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla. Whisk to just combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste on low speed until pea-size crumbs form, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Slowly add the granulated sugar in a steady stream and beat until incorporated. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes. If you add the sugar too quickly, the almond paste won’t break up as well.
On low speed, beat in the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon. This should take about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of bowl.
Increase speed to medium and cream the mixture until lighter in color and fluffy in appearance, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Still on medium speed, slowly pour in the eggs, cautiously at first, tablespoon by tablespoon. After each bit of the eggs have been absorbed, add more. If at any time the mixture appears water or shiny, stop the flow of eggs and increase the speed until a smooth appearance returns. Then decrease the speed to medium and resume adding the eggs.
Continue to cream, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once, until the mixture appears fluffy, velvety and white, and has increased in volume. Including the time to add the eggs, this should take about 2 to 3 minutes.
Fold in the meyer lemon zest. Then fold in the flour mixture.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface gently with an offset spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the top springs bake when lightly touched, about 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes.
Make the glaze while the cake is cooling in the pan…
In a bowl, stir together the sugar and meyer lemon juice until smooth.
Set the wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper or foil to catch any drips of glaze. Invert the loaf pan onto the rack and lift off the pan. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the entire warm cake with the glaze. Let the cake cool completely on the rack, at least 3 hours, or until the glaze has set. The cake is fragile when warm so don’t try to move it.
When the cake is cool, gently transfer it to a serving platter by crisscrossing 2 large icing spatulas or the base of a 2 part tart pan to lift the loaf. Serve at room temperature.