Years back, when I was still in the learning stages of baking, not to mention more broke than a Timex watch that was stepped on by an Elephant (I don’t care what the commercials said back in the day. if an elephant steps on your watch, it’s broken.), I used to use imitation vanilla. It was inexpensive, it smelled vanilla-y enough to me and I didn’t realize (nor would I have cared back then when I was young and stupid) that it is made from wood pulp. Yum. Vanilla wood cake. Wood ice cream anyone? Then, as I learned more and my budget expanded a little, I would get the real vanilla. If you’re one of those who thinks they are both ok, do me a favor just one time. Buy a bottle of real vanilla, then cover your eyes and have someone wave them, one at a time, under your nose. You will know IMMEDIATELY (unless you can’t smell, or are drunk, or have a cold, or forgot to take the clothespin off your nose when you were ten and trying to get a laugh and your mom was right; your face froze that way, in which case I’m sorry) which one is real and which is fake.
Now however, while I still use real vanilla extract in most things, I also have a stash of vanilla beans I keep around. I use those sparingly because they are as expensive as all hell, but oh so worth it for aroma alone. You can buy some on Amazon. Do NOT buy the ones in the glass bottle from McCormick at the grocery store. I normally love their products but not the vanilla beans. You may as well cook with a twig as hard and flavorless as those are.
This cake came about because of my love for both vanilla and browned butter. The two flavors make practically anything taste better. Except liver. Liver is hopeless. I used a basic whipping cream pound cake recipe and subbed in browned butter for the regular and vanilla bean (as well as extract) for just extract. I also added TOUCH, just a touch, of lemon. I wanted a complementary flavor to bring out the vanilla, but not overpower it. It is NOT a lemon pound cake so if you see lemon in there and think it will be, you’ll be disappointed. The lemon is there, but it’s subtle which is what I wanted. If you want more lemon, double the amount of lemon in the batter and use lemon juice in the glaze instead of cream. This isn’t a spur of the moment cake to make for dinner three hours before serving time. You need to chill the butter after browning plus the cake itself will taste better and cut better if you leave it alone overnight, same as with any pound cake.
You know the drill…
Browned Butter Vanilla Bean Pound Cake
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
- 3 vanilla beans
- 2 1/3 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 2 3/4 cups flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Place the butter in a medium saucepot. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until it is a golden brown color. Take off of the heat immediately as it can go from golden to black in a second.
- Pour the butter into a glass bowl and set to the side.
- Split the vanilla beans in half and carefully scrape out all of the seeds. Scrape all of the seeds into the bowl of butter and stir well to mix. Refrigerate the butter for about 45 to 70 minutes, just long enough where when stirred, it is the consistency of softened butter.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a a ten inch bundt pan or use Bakers Joy and spray the pan well. Scrape the butter into a large bowl, making sure to get all the little bits from the bottom of the bowl. Add in the sugar and beat well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the extracts, lemon zest and lemon juice; beat well.
- Add the flour alternately with the cream, about a third at a time of each, beating well after each addition.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, with just a few moist crumbs on it, about 90 minutes.
- Cool for 30 minutes in the pan on a rack, then use a butter knife to loosen the cake from the edges of the pan and invert onto the rack to finish cooling.
- For the glaze, pour the vanilla into the cream. Whisk this into the powdered sugar in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. If it’s too thick, just add more cream, a tablespoon at a time, to get the desired consistency. Slowly pour over the cake.
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