“I’ve been saving this for you all year long…” explained my friend Sean, of the fabulous blog Hedonia, as he handed me a package during my hectic, crowded holiday party. I opened it up and pulled out glistening bottle of amber liquid. “It’s Extrait de Noyaux. You know what that is right?” I squinted my eyes at him, trying to figure out the appropriate answer to the question. I remember reading a few blog posts, both on his site and a few others about an esoteric extract created from the pits of summer stone fruit like cherries but I wasn’t sure. Turns out I was correct. “It’s an extract I made from the inside nut of apricot pits. I’ve been saving every single apricot pit I’ve had and they’ve been steeping in the alcohol since this summer. This is all I’ve made and it’s all yours.” I was both floored and utterly touched that Sean was giving it to me. I grasped the bottle of liquid gold tighter, fearful that the crowd at my party would jostle me into dropping it on the floor and I promised to put it to good use. After sitting in my cupboard for a month or two, too precious to be used for any old project (cue creepy Gollum voice whenever I lovingly caressed the bottle), I finally got around to using it for a baked good that I deemed worth of it’s use, a Seville Orange & Noyaux Semolina Pound Cake.
I’m not sure what possessed me to make a pound cake with said precious extract. I had actually been toying with different ideas for awhile, ruminating on what I should use it, when the idea of a pound cake popped up in my head. I’m not normally a pound cake sort of guy, memories of frozen Sara Lee bricks from my childhood appearing in my head whenever someone mentions pound cake, something that my mom would occasionally bring out as a “treat” for us. Western desserts were always rather sweet, sticky and slightly heavy to my palate growing up, where we ate fruit at the end of dinner for a sweet treat. The Sara Lee pound cake was no exception, with its tight dense crumb and overly sweet, vaguely buttery yet strangely flavorless taste. I was not a fan.
So I went looking for a different sort of pound cake recipe out there, scanning my cookbooks, looking on the web. My final recipe, an amalgam of three or four different sources, bucked the traditional pound cake recipe and actually used a little bit of leavener in my batter, baking soda and baking powder. Most pound cakes leave those out or just use baking powder at the very most. The original pound cake recipe gets it’s name from the ingredients it starts with, a pound of butter, flour, sugar and eggs with nothing else, using the creaming method to aerate the batter. Clearly the resulting cake was going to be dense and heavy. But because I added the Semolina flour to the cake, I knew that I needed a little extra lift to the cake. What I wasn’t expecting was for the Semonlina flour to give the cake extra moist richness without a cloying heaviness. That moistness continued for days after the cake was baked and left out on the counter under a cake dome. I loved it, and so did my partner AJ.
In the end though, this cake wasn’t just about me in the kitchen by myself. It was about my friend Sean gifting me with his extrait de noyaux. It’s about the different writers and recipe developers out there that wrote about pound cake and passed those recipes down for generations, until I found them in cookbooks and on websites and blogs. It’s about my friend Stephanie who’s gorgeous photographs inspire me to photograph the pound cake the way that I did (she has a way of using draped fabric in her photos that I love). It’s about all the readers who came my blog last week and left a comment about how my post on jealousy resonated with them (I read every and savored every single comment, even if I didn’t have time to respond to them all). It’s even about my mom, who was a wonderful cook but not much of a baker, who would serve up half thawed frozen Sara Lee pound cake for dessert. As much as baking in the kitchen for me is a solitary act, it’s a communal act as well. I bake along side all my friends and family, and for that I take a bite of this cake and say thank you to you all.
For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, please join my friend Melanie Duve and me as we co-host out quarterly DIY Desserts this coming Saturday March 23, 2013 from 2pm to 4pm at 18 Reasons. The theme is cake, and we encourage everyone to either bring a homemade cake or just stop by to sample cakes that others have brought. I hope to see you all there, so I can share a slice of cake with you in person.
Seville Orange & Noyaux Semolina Pound Cake
By Irvin Lin
This moist and rich but not too dense pound cake uses a number of unique ingredients to create a wonderful cake that can be served with tea, breakfast or pretty much anytime you want a slice of something not too sweet. Seville oranges, extract de noyaux and semolina flour aren’t the easiest ingredients to source however. Traditionally Seville oranges are the fruit used to make orange marmalade. They are sour, bitter and aromatic. If you can’t find them, a combination of lemons and regular navel oranges will work. Extract de noyaux is even harder to source. You can certainly make your own (try Brave Tart’s recipe or Vanilla Garlic’s recipe) but if you don’t feel all DIY or don’t have the patience to wait a month or two for the alcohol to extract the flavor, try substituting an equal amount of almond extract. Finally I used superfine semolina flour in this recipe, which I realize isn’t in most people’s pantrt. I like my alternative flours (you should see under my kitchen table!). If you can find superfine semolina, definitely use it because it’s gives the cake a wonderful dense moistness without being heavy and lends a nicely brown crust to the cake. But if you can’t find it, don’t despair. All purpose flour makes a fine substitute for it.
2 cups (180 g) all purpose flour
1 cup (150 g) superfine semolina flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups (340 g or 3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups (600 g) white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon extract de noyaux (see note above)
2 teaspoon Seville orange zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup Seville orange juice
1 cup (130 g) confectioner’s or powdered sugar
2 tablespoon Seville orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F and generously grease then flour a tube cake pan (the sort you would use to make an angel cake with). Place both flours, baking powder and baking soda in a medium sized mixing bowl and vigorously stir with a balloon whisk until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
2. Place the butter, sugar, extract de noyaux, orange zest and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream together until light in color and fluffy, about three to four minutes on medium high speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until the egg has incorporated before adding the next one. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions.
3. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the cake batter and beat until it has been incorporated. Add 1/2 the buttermilk to the batter and beat until is has been incorporated. Add 1/3 more of the dry ingredients and beat until incorporated. Add the remaining buttermilk and Seville orange juice to the batter and beat until incorporated. Finally add the remaining dry ingredients to the batter and beat until just incorporated.
4. Spoon and scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake in the oven from 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake come out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack and unmold the cake. Turn right side up and let cool to room temperature.
5. Once the cake has cooled completely, move it to the serving platter and make the glaze by mixing all the glaze ingredients together. If the glaze is too thick, thin it down with a teaspoon of milk or more orange juice. If it is too thin, mix in more powdered sugar, at tablespoon at a time until it is the appropriate consistency. You want the glaze thick enough that when you spoon it on the cake, it clings to the surface but also drizzles slowly down the sides. Spoon the glaze all over the cake, letting it fall over the sides artfully. Let cool completely for the glaze to set and serve with tea or coffee or all by itself.
Makes 1 pound cake, serves 12 -16 people
This sounds delicious, and I wish I were in the Bay Area. I vote for a southern extension of the DIY Desserts party in LA so I can come!
Well, now I may have to establish a stash of apricot pits this summer. This cake sounds amazing–although I will admit I have some oddly fond memories of frozen pound cake too. Especially with apricot jam–which actually ties in pretty well here too. 🙂
Angie @ Big Bear's Wife says
What a wonderful present. A gift from the heart, those are the best gifts. Normally I am not a cake person at all (unless it’s a chocolate cake and then I’m all for it) but I must say that this looks wonderful! Now I’m wondering if I can make my own Extrait de Noyaux!
[email protected] says
Hmmm… I can get the semolina, I’ve got the Seville orange juice, now all I need is the extrait de Noyaux! Love the addition of the semolina and the leaveners – pound cake is generally too heavy for me so I know I would love this version as I love ALL things citrus!
Your story made me think of the first pound cake I made – it was for my final in Baking – I’d missed class the day we made pound cakes so I’d never made a pound cake before – nice. Had no real idea if I was doing it right until our pastry chef held up my cut pound cake and told the class that it was “perfect” -LOL – definitely “beginner’s luck”!!!
Ruthy @ omeletta says
Super intrigued by the Extrait de Noyaux! It’s already added in my nerdy little recipe file to keep an eye out for apricots this summer, to make some of my own.
Loved your words about never being alone in the kitchen- I love cooking solo, but I never truly feel “alone” in the kitchen, either.
I feel so honored for the shout-out. 😀 Every time I use draped fabric in a photoshoot, I keep thinking of old Project Runway episodes where they keep saying, "This designer is great at draping, but can he do anything else?" 🙂
Miss Kim says
Hi Irvine. I came across your blog as I was researching info on How to Start a Food Blog. Your words of wisdom on the subject matter were very inspiring and informative. Thank you for that. It has been about a week since I started blogging. I am learning as I go and enjoying the process as I share my culinary experiences with others.
Your pound cake looks simply foodgasmic! I, personally, am not a fan of the Sara Lee pound cakes either (not anymore anyways). But it holds fond memories from my childhood. I cannot remember a time when our freezer wasn’t stocked with a Sara Lee pound cake. I never thought of it as tasty, but it was also a “treat” for my brothers and me. Growing up, my mother was strict about our junk food intake. Junk food was forbidden except on special occasions. But we were allowed to have a slice of the Sara Lee pound cake once a week. Being forbidden is what made it so tempting. I think that was about the only “junk food” in our kitchen. Everything else was good-for-your-health food. My brothers and I would fight over who got the bigger piece. There were times I snuck into the freezer with a butter knife and cut out pieces, tiny enough so that I wouldn’t get caught. But now, I don’t think I would go near that stuff.
I never realized the history behind the name of the pound cake. I think I will have multiple foodgasms biting into your pound cake!
Miss Kim says
Sorry, misspelled your name, Irvin..
Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) says
This is a serious pound cake. It looks nice, moist and dense and that icing is perfection. I know the citrus flavor just takes it over the top. Delish!
Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen says
I’m always so honored to get a handmade gift because I know somebody put a lot of thought and work into it. What a fantastic gift (and perfect way to use it)!
stacie tamaki says
Love this post. It reminds me of how Hank Shaw says he uses everything but the quack of a duck. Using the pit of stone fruit isn’t something I’d ever heard of before. That Brave Tart’s recipe shows how to use the pit from the outside in really appeals to my sense of hating to waste. I guess the analogy would be using everything but the stem. Though you probably have a recipe for a beautifully baked, Apricot Stem something or other 🙂 Thanks for the post. I love pound cake and anything orange flavored so I definitely want to try baking this recipe.
Nancy @ gottagetbaked says
Irvin, not only do you have mad skills in the kitchen, amply demonstrated by this gorgeous cake, but I love how your posts are always simultaneously humorous, thoughtful and eloquent. The gollum voice line cracked me up (I’d sound just as gluttonous and obsessed if I had a precious bottle of extract d noyaux too) and your thoughts on baking are just lovely.
Whenever I give a food gift (though none as unusual as that one) I always wonder what the recipient will do with it. This year it’s salted caramel pear/apple butter.
I think you did Sean’s gift proud, if I can anthropomorphize an extract.
Thanks for giving me the link to include in my upcoming Band Fruit Fundraiser Recipe Round Up! It will be published on 12/4/2013!