This week of April, when it’s still light after eight in the evening and the ice cream trucks are back on the street and you can just tell that the first leaves are going to break out of their buds any day now, is a time for great celebration. Among my friends and family alone, there are new apartments, new job prospects, new travel plans, first and second pregnancies, birthdays, baptisms, the end of coursework and the start of exams. For all of them, I’d like to bring a slice of this celebratory orange bay leaf pound cake.
Okay, make that many slices. It’s a “Seconds, please” kind of cake.
First: Bay leafs in a sweet treat? Oh yes. I still think back to a cone of bay leaf ice cream (topped with bay leaf sugar, nbd) as one of my favourite desserts of all time. The bay leaves infuse the butter and the batter, and leave a delicate print on the top of the cake for extra aesthetic appeal. Also, I have a ton of bay leaves in the pantry and this seemed like a great way to use up 10 in one go.
Second: Thanks to the bay-leaf-in-butter steeping and the wait-until-cake-is-cool glazing, this isn’t a recipe that comes together speedily. That said, neither is it finicky or labour-intensive; the time consuming pieces have nothing to do with you. Save it for a lazy morning or afternoon when you’re going to be puttering around the house anyway, and share it with your favourite friends.
Notes: Optional things in this recipe include the glaze (I speak as someone with a fondness for un-iced cakes, but skipping the glaze does make for speedier eating) and, oddly, the bay leaves. They’re a discrete savoury nuance that balances nicely with the sweet tang of the orange batter, but if you’re short on time or low on bay leaves, then don’t let them keep you from making this cake.
Orange & Bay Leaf Pound Cake
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature (plus extra for greasing)
10 bay leaves
1 2/3 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
zest of one orange, finely chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp orange liquor (optional)
1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add 3 bay leaves and stir, removing from the heat. Set aside for one hour.
2. Butter a cake pan and sprinkle it with flour until lightly coated; tip out and discard any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper. Take the remaining 7 bay leaves and butter one side of each. Arrange them butter-side-down on the parchment paper. Set aside.
3. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, use a whisk to combine the eggs, sour cream, zest and vanilla. Remove the bay leaves from the melted butter, and whisk the butter into the other wet ingredients.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Carefully, spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Place in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, or until cooked through.
5. Let cool for 10 minutes before carefully running a knife along the edge of the pan to dislodge the cake. Turn it out over a wire rack; remove and discard the bay leaves. Set aside to cool.
6. When the cake is completely cool, make the glaze. In a small bowl, stir the icing sugar with the orange juice and liquor (if using) until smooth. Drizzle over the cake and allow to harden before slicing and serving.