The other day, Cyrus and me had a beautiful asparagus dinner and when we were done, both felt that a dessert was required to round off the meal. We also both agreed that it was cake we were after!
Since I did not want to produce more than dessert portions for the two of us, I started whipping up these miniature cakes and they came out beautifully. The recipe is that of a French-style pound cake, called „quatre-quarts“ (meaning „four quarters“) in French, which differs from other versions of pound cake by the use of Cointreau (sometimes rum) and vanilla for flavoring.
I made two portions this time, whereas the recipe below makes up for six servings. If you have fewer guests, just reduce the ingredients proportionally.
Ingredients (serves six):
- 125 grams of butter
- 125 of finely granulated (caster) sugar
- 2 cl of Cointreau
- Some drops of vanilla extract or the seeds of 1 vanilla pod
- 3 medium eggs
- 125 grams of white (all-purpose) flour
- 3 grams of baking powder
- Optional: 1 apple (choose an aromatic apple, e.g. Jazz), alternatively another type of fruit like cherries or blueberries
- For decoration: a few mint leaves, a few raspberries, confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of grated high-quality dark chocolate
How to make a beurre pommade:
There are apparently various notions on the „correct“ consistency of beurre pommade and even top French pâtissiers seem to disagree. Which seems a relieving thought to me as an amateur pâtissière given that the way I do it is less likely to be entirely wrong.
Whereas I have read some definitions of beurre pommade being a soft butter which has been allowed to adopt room-temperature to spread more easily, more sophisticated definitions seem to at least agree that a bit more work than this is required. In fact, agreement goes as far as to enable me to state with a good degree of assertiveness that beurre pommade is a butter that (having indeed acquired room temperature) is worked with a whisk until it acquires a soft, smooth and waxy consistency. Here is how it goes:
Prepare a hot water bath and a cold water bath on the side. Beat your soft butter with a whisk until creamy, then shortly continue beating over the hot water bath until it just about starts melting, then quickly remove and continue beating. You are not necessarily required to dip your mixing bowl in the cold water bath to allow it to cool off more quickly, but it is the appropriate rescue should you have happened to leave your butter over the hot water bath for too long (note that there is, however (and sadly), no rescue anymore should you have happened to let your butter become altogether liquid). Repeat the procedure several times until you have a smooth and soft, waxy looking butter (indeed resembling hair pomade). – Voilà!
- Beat the soft butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Then use a hand-whisk to produce beurre pommade (for further explanation, see the text box above). Note that your cake will certainly taste fine if you continue working with the soft, beaten butter, but the texture will become noticeably creamier and softer if you go the extra mile and make a beurre pommade. It is also not that difficult.
- Work the sugar into the beurre pommade and mix well until you have a very light, creamy mix.
- Add the Cointreau and the vanilla extract or the vanilla seeds.
- One after the other, work in the eggs. If you are using three eggs, I recommend to use only two whole eggs and one egg yolk (it again adds to the creaminess of your dough); if you are making a smaller portion, whole eggs are fine.
- Pass the flour and the baking powder through a fine sieve and carefully fold into the dough.
- The cake is delicious on its own and I believe adding fruit even overshadows its sumptuous taste a little bit, but if you want a bit of a bite in your dessert, it is still a nice option to add some. If you use apple as suggested above, chop the apple very finely, then mix half of the dough with the apple, and set the rest of the dough aside.
- Butter six small preserving jars (approx. 200 ml capacity) and fill them approximately up to half with the dough containing the fruit, then put the plain dough on top. Do not fill up your glasses to the brim, but leave some space (at least 1/4 of the glass) as the cake will rise.
- Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (fan oven). Bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes. If the cake is still too pale towards the end of the baking time, increase the temperature to approximately 170 degrees Celsius for the last 5 to 10 minutes.
- Let the cake cool down a bit (until lukewarm). Place the glass on a plate and decorate with mint leaves, raspberries, icing sugar and chocolate flakes.