This deliciously rich pound cake was a specialty of Mrs. Elizabeth Goodfellow, the remarkable pastry chef who not only had her own sweet shop and catering business, but also ran America's first cooking school, in early 1800s Philadelphia. The version featured below was adapted by cookbook author Greg Patent. Made with rice flour, it lacks gluten and produces an extremely delicate cake. Because rice flour is finer and lighter in texture than the coarse wheat flour available during the nineteenth century, it was used in many baked goods. It is flavored with orange blossom water (sometimes referred to as orange flower water), a common flavoring at the time. (You can find it today online at Amazon or at many specialty or natural foods grocery stores such as Whole Foods - my local store carries Al Wadi brand). The brandy and Madeira add additional flavor and depth, helping provide a tender crumb and act as a natural preservative. The end result is a moist, delicately textured cake that needs no enhancement (other than a dusting of confectioners sugar for decoration). Eight eggs and two sticks of butter also go into this cake!
(Source: Baking in America by Greg Patent)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 8 large eggs
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1/4 cup dry Madeira or sherry
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- 2 3/4 cups rice flour (spooned into a cup and leveled)
- Confectioners' sugar for dusting
1 Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan or coat with cooking spray and dust the inside with fine bread crumbs; knock out the excess and set aside.
2 Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 min. Add the salt and 1/4 cup of the sugar and beat for 20-30 seconds. Beat in the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup at a time, beating for 20-30 seconds after each addition. Beat on medium-high speed for 5 min. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 min after each addition.
3 Combine the brandy, Madeira or sherry and orange blossom water in a measuring cup. On low speed, add the rice flour to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the liquid, beginning and ending with the rice flour and beating only until each addition is incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
4 Bake for 50-55 min, until the cake is golden brown and springs back when gently pressed and a toothpick inserted into the thickest part comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 20 min. Cover with a wire rack and invert. Remove the pan and cool the cake completely.
5 Transfer the cake to a cake plate. Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into thin slices with a serrated knife. Wrapped airtight, the cake keeps well at room temperature for several days; it can be frozen up to one month.