Home-grown heirloom pecans and good bourbon whiskey are not things to be wasted. We thought this rich-but-light, bourbony-but-not-overly-so pound cake was an excellent way to use both.
Every year we receive a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon from our neighbor, a sign of appreciation for allowing him, his horse and his fox hunting friends free access through our land. Because Steve enjoys bourbon whiskey but is not much of a drinker, and Michelle despises the stuff, the bottles tend to accumulate (unless, as occasionally happens, friends or family members happen by and “re-gift” to themselves).
We also gained a bag of pecans courtesy of Michelle’s parents, who got them as part of an organic CSA just down the road from the family farm—a hopeful sign for Western Kentucky agriculture. These were slightly different than the ones from Michelle’s grandfather’s tree, but still much fresher and more full of pecan flavor than the ones we usually pick up at the store.
Michelle saw a recipe for “Mississippi Praline Pound Cake” in Bill Neal’s Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie and (despite being a bourbon hater) decided it sounded good. One of the more interesting things about this recipe is that it essentially creates praline flavor within the cake, without the crumbled praline candies most “praline pound cake” recipes call for. Beaten egg whites made the cake lighter and fluffier than other pound cakes when fresh from the oven, though by the next day the texture had collapsed to a more familiar one. We didn’t mind at all.
This cake has a marvelously sweet pecan flavor and a lovely layer of oaky, smoky bourbon as well. Michelle can attest that it’s good for dessert or breakfast, and Steve recommends a little whipped cream topping. You won’t find a better way to use pecans or bourbon.
BOURBON PRALINE POUND CAKE
(adapted from Bill Neal’s Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie)
FOR THE CAKE:
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 3 c. all purpose flour
- 1-1/2 c. (3 sticks) room-temperature butter
- 1 c. lightly packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 c. lightly packed dark brown sugar
- 6 room-temperature eggs, separated
- 7/8 c. buttermilk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 TB bourbon whiskey
- 1 c. chopped pecans, toasted and cooled
- 1/2 c. white sugar
FOR THE GLAZE:
- 1/4 c. light brown sugar
- 1/4 c. dark brown sugar
- 4 TB butter
- 2 TB water
- 1/4 c. bourbon whiskey
Preheat oven to 325° F.
Butter and flour a 10″ diameter tube pan. Sift salt, baking powder, soda and flour together, then set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugars together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg yolks, then alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 parts. Stir in vanilla, bourbon and pecans.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until frothy, then slowly drizzle in the white sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter, then turn the mixture into the prepared tube pan.
Bake in center of oven for about 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a rack for about 15 minutes, then remove from pan.
While cake is cooling, prepare the glaze by melting the brown sugars, butter and water together. Bring to a full boil. Remove from heat, stirring in the bourbon when the glaze has cooled slightly. While the cake is still warm, spoon the glaze over its surface.