I know that I am so late in saying this, but,
MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY HOLIDAYS! WARMEST WISHES!
I hope that you all had as lovely a holiday as Brian and I did, filled with family, friends, good food, wine, multiple desserts and maybe even a little bit of snow.
Charlottesville actually had a lot of snow last weekend, just a few days before Christmas. We did go out and frolic around in the drifts - laughed as the dogs frog-leaped through fluff as high as their shoulders, got in a workout shoveling multiple routes to the car and street, attempted the creation of a snow angel and a snowman - but mostly we watched the accumulation from behind our windows, warm and toasty in fuzzy socks with hot coffee in hand. It was so peaceful, the snow falling silently on the other side of the glass, the city slipping into a lazy slumber as it was blanketed in white.
I managed to tear myself away from the windows and snow-watching for a short time in order to bake, feeling the need for the tiniest bit of productivity and worrying that we would lose power and the opportunity. I had cake on the brain, particularly a store-bought, rum-soaked pound cake that my family consumed by the dozens when I was young. We'd hand the mini cakes out as holiday gifts to all of our friends, and keep a stash of them in our pantry for months after Christmas. It had been years since I'd had one of those cakes and I wanted one. Immediately, if not sooner.
While this isn't exactly the cake of my youth, it has all of the most important attributes. To me it screams "Winter! Holidays! Friends!". It is rich and dense, heavy with vanilla flavor and soaked with rum, and will warm you from inside out. It is the perfect cake to whip up as snow falls outside your window, and lovely to share the next day with friends who walk a mile through two feet of fluff to visit with you.
Vanilla Bean Pound Cake with Rum Caramel Sauce
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan, room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 2-1/2 cups sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean
- Preheat oven to 350*. Butter and flour a tube cake pan, knocking excess flour from pan.
- With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and shortening. Add the sugar a little at a time, and blend well. Add eggs one at a time, blending after each addition.
- Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add to the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk, starting with the flour and ending with flour. Mix in the vanilla and the scraped-out insides of the vanilla bean.
- Pour into your buttered and floured baking pan and smooth the top of the batter. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until the top is starting to turn golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on rack completely before removing from pan.
Rum Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp spiced or dark rum
- In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt your butter. Stir in sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add cream and rum and bring to a simmer, cooking until sauce thickens and is reduced to about 1-1/2 cups, about 5 minutes.
- Drizzle rum sauce over individual slices of cake.
Sauce can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Refrigerate, and reheat on stovetop when ready to serve.