Ever since my childhood days with Sara Lee, pound cakes have held a special place in my heart. They’re rich, velvety, and so wonderful dipped in chocolate.
The problem is, they’re called pound cakes for a reason. As in, the pound of butter that gets thrown in per loaf. Dessert blogger or not, I just can’t get behind that unless it’s a very special occasion. But for a pound cake lover, what to do?
This is my second half-pound cake posting. The first had browned butter in it, and I loved it. This one is bursting with almond flavor. The best part is, you can literally cut the butter in half and not miss it. This I swear to you.
We often think we’ll miss things that we wind up not noticing at all. To be honest, I don’t miss Coke. I really thought I would when I gave it up a few years back, but nope. And I don’t miss Sunday morning hangovers, which were an occasional product of my single years. Nope. Not a fun feeling. And for sure I do not miss the days when women weren’t given more choices and rights. Not that I fully remember those days, not having been born yet and all.
When I got married, I chose to (as it’s called) “keep” my name. Luckily, my mother’s generation paved the way for this practice to become a possibility, but I still field way too many questions and raised eyebrows for my taste. When women get married and choose to take their husbands’ names, I don’t question it. It’s a nice practice, and I’m not knocking it at all. It’s just not the path I wanted to take.
My husband’s name happens to be even more difficult to spell and/or understand than mine, which was a practical motivation for my not changing the unusual Russian surname I was born with. That aside, I grew up with an identity strongly tied into my name, and I also established my professional credibility with that name. By the time I got married, I’d been teaching in my county for several years. I knew who I was, and for some reason, my last name was a huge part of that.
And it still is. I also decline to be addressed by the title “Mrs.” and instead go for the “Ms.” of 1970s-era women’s rights invention. If someone calls me by the other title I don’t say anything or get offended, but I’ve always preferred “Ms.” because it’s the exact equivalent as “Mr.” for men. In other words, it doesn’t indicate marital status. I’m happy to be married, but I don’t want my title to say anything about my personal life if my husband’s doesn’t, either.
But all of these are choices, which is great. We used to live in a time when there were fewer options and when people got put into categorical boxes. People should be able to choose how they want to be perceived, what they want to be called, and what constitutes their identity. Unless, of course, that identity is grounded in violating somebody else’s peace or safety.
At the risk of over-preaching, I’ll sit back and take a break from that and get back to what I don’t miss. I don’t miss my last name because I never got rid of it. And I don’t miss the extra half-pound of butter in this cake because it doesn’t need it.
This recipe gets a lot of extra richness from sour cream. I used the reduced-fat kind, but I also wonder how Greek yogurt would work out. My guess is that it would be great. In addition to everything else, almond meal gets mixed into the batter. While you can make almond meal for cheap by grinding your own almonds, I like to buy mine at Trader Joe’s. It saves a lot of food processor time.
When this cake is all done, it’s pretty elegant. You can serve it by itself, top it with vanilla ice cream, or dip chunks into chocolate. And the whole cake is full of little almond flecks. It looks so tasty. The almonds on top get nicely toasted, too. It’s an almond lover’s dream!
If almonds were to disappear tomorrow, I would totally miss them. Much more than Coke, or VHS, or those baby t-shirts that I wore in high school and thought were the best articles of clothing ever invented. Ultimately, we all decide who we want to be, and we reserve the right to make the choices that are best for us. Otherwise, we might miss out on what we really like, who we are, and who we want to become.
1/2 cup almond meal (from a bag or ground via food processor)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 and 1/2 cups flour
pinch of baking soda (about 1/8 teaspoon)
pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
- Preheat the oven to 350. Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour half of the dry mixture into the batter and mix. Add the sour cream and beat again. Add the remaining flour and mix until smooth.
- Pour in the almond meal and mix until just incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake for 45-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool and release from the pan. Cut into slices.