We were in Antwerp (Belgium) this past weekend, and spent a rather pleasant time there thanks to having planned visits to the market and a number of different bakeries and coffee shops. I am always intrigued by the wide variety of baked goods and specialties that Belgian bakeries offer. All those treats seem to be displayed in a very, let’s call it 'French kind of way' – the way the tarts, most of them loaded with fresh fruits and berries of the season, savory quiches, flaky croissants, artisan breads, fresh rolls, buttery madeleines and blissful chocolates are displayed, always reminds me of French pastry shops.
I have taken a particular liking to the selection of Belgian pound (loaf) cakes as well as the way they are presented. Apart from the classic butter pound cake, you will likely see lemon, almond, vanilla, and chocolate pound cakes as well. Some plain, some adorned with almonds or a simple powdered sugar icing. Their shape is longer than the ones we are used to in Germany, a bit sleaker, more elegant, they always seem to be more delicate, yet their crumb and texture is pleasantly rich and delicious.
Ah, you’re just back from Antwerp. So this must be a Belgian recipe, you say. Well, yes, and no. On our recent visit, I noticed a vanilla butter type of pound cake in a pastry shop, bought a slice, tasted it, and since my extensive thumbing through my collection of Belgian cookbooks did not turn up any satisfactory results, and since the internet didn’t provide any similar recipes either, I tried to re-create it with Belgian ingredients.
Apart, of course, from the baking pan that I bought a long time ago, I used Belgian salted butter, eggs and fine sea salt. And I am more than happy with the result. Given that there are a number of Belgian items involved here, and given the fact that it truly resembles the lovely cake that I tasted in Belgium, I believe this fine teacake definitely merits the addition of 'Belgian' to its 'Salted Butter Pound Cake' name.
Belgian Salted Butter Pound Cake
- 125g butter with sea salt (I used Belgian butter), at room tempertaure, plus some to grease the baking pan
- ½ tsp fine sea salt (I used Belgian sea salt)
- 250g powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
- 24 g pure vanilla sugar, (around here that equals 3 packets of 'Bourbon Vanille Zucker'), either qood quality store-bought OR homemade
- finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
- 2 eggs (M), free-range or organic (I used Belgian eggs; the weight for both eggs weighed together was 56g with shells)
- 250g all purpose (plain) flour, plus some to flour the baking pan (my flour hails from a Belgian mill)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 175ml full fat cream (I used cream with a 30% fat content)
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- seasonal berries or fruits, to serve
- Preheat your oven to 180° C (356°F).
- Lightly grease a regular loaf pan: 24cm x 10.5cm (9.5in x 4in) or 26.5cm x 9.5cm (10.5in x 3.7in). For this recipe I used the 26.5cm x 9.5cm loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter until very light. Beat in the salt, both sugars and the lemon zest gradually and then the eggs, one by one. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy.
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder,
- Alternately add the wet ingredients (cream and lemon juice) and the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour.
- Stir to combine after each addition.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
- Bake the cake for 60 to 65 minutes, until it springs back when pressed lightly on top, and a long toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. NOTE: if the cake appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with foil for the final 20 minutes or more of baking.
- Remove the cake from the oven, and loosen its edges. Wait 5 minutes, then carefully turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Cool completely before serving, as it will crumble and fall apart if you cut into the cake while it is still warm.
- To dress the cake up a bit, simply sift some powdered sugar over the top (just before serving) and serve fresh seasonal fruits or berries alongside.
You can keep this pound cake for a few days – it gets even better a day or two after you made it – you will notice that the fine sea salt taste is a bit more pronounced on the second day. But it will keep moist and delicious for up to a week. And while a traditional pound cake has no leavening other than air and eggs, my recipe includes some baking powder as well, to lighten it up a little.
You might have noticed that my recipe calls for salted butter as well as fine sea salt - this will add the most delightful bit of sea salt taste to the final cake - you might want to experiment with the kind of salted butter you want to use for this recipe. I used good-quality, regular salted butter. If in doubt, give the butter a taste before you get started on the recipe, if the butter is very salty, omit the additional quantity of salt.
This special pound cake is incredibly rich, and, fortunately, one slice goes a long way. Better yet, no need to serve whipped cream alongside, but, by all means, if you happen to have some seasonal berries on hand, like these very tangy red currants, serve them alongside. You will end up with a perfectly balanced dessert here – buttery cake with tangy berries is my kind of August dessert bliss.
Make this easy pound cake for breakfast, afternoon tea or for a summer picnic.