When I was at the Spice Islands tasting in Chicago and plucked a bay leaf out of the jar, I was really surprised at not just how green it was, but also how fragrant it smelled. The leaves were from California, and are much more powerful than their imported counterparts. So I had a hunch they would meld nicely with buttery pound cake and a hint of orange.
And sure enough, when I tasted my first slice, I loved the deeply scented cake with the elusive flavor of bay leaves. In France, pound cake is called “Gâteau Weekend” because it’s mean to be kept around for a few days. And interestingly, this cake is definitely better the second day, when the buttery-rich batter has time to absorb the full aroma of the bay leaves.
I pair it with berries in the summer; blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or a jumble of varieties are lovely. Add peaches and plums to the mix, and perhaps a dollop of whipped cream. During winter months, sections of fresh oranges would go alongside nicely. Or simply enjoy it sliced with a cup of tea – if you’re the kind of person who drinks tea. If not, just enjoy it on its own!
Bay Leaf-Infused Pound Cake
One 9-inch cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Additional softened butter for affixing the bay leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan. Dust with flour and tap out any excess, then line the bottom with parchment paper.
3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the orange peel. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
4. Dab one side of each bay leaf with a little bit of softened butter, and place the leaves evenly spaced on the bottom of the prepared loaf pan, buttered side down.
5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and baking powder.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, vanilla and salt.
7. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the egg mixture just until combined.
8. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted butter mixture, one tablespoon at a time, until smooth. Do not overmix.
9. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, being careful not to disturb the bay leaves.
10. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake, then tip the cake out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely. Before serving, remove the bay leaves.
Store the cake wrapped in plastic wrap; it will keep up to five days at room temperature.