Triple Vanilla Pound Cake ~ not one, not two, but three layers of intense vanilla flavor to excite even the most serious vanilla fans.
When it comes to flavor, vanilla beats chocolate any day of the week. Chocolate has its charms, but in terms of pure aromatic complexity, ‘plain’ vanilla is hands down the champ.
Vanilla contains a mind boggling array of flavor compounds, and like coffee or fine wine, vanilla will vary depending on where it comes from (it might be Tahiti, Madagascar, or Mexico.) Vanilla beans are actually the dried pods of an orchid, which makes sense since it’s such an aromatic flavor. If you’re wondering why you have to pay so much for that lonely bean in the jar, it’s because those orchids are rare, only bloom once a year, and have to be pollinated by hand. From bean to bottle it takes over a year and a half…you can read about it here if you’re interested.
But back to cake ~ I’ve infused this pound cake from the inside out with three distinct layers of vanilla. The first is vanilla sugar:
- Vanilla sugar is sugar that’s stored with a vanilla bean (or two) and becomes infused throughout with the flavor. It’s easy to do, check out the notes below the recipe. I love the whole idea of infused sugars ~ I’ve had such success with lemon sugar in my LEMON SUGAR SHORTBREAD, and LEMON SUGAR CRUMB CAKE. In that case I literally blitzed the sugar together with lemon peel and the result is pure heaven. But this vanilla sugar is even easier, and the flavor payoff is equally great.
The next layers ~
- I flavor the batter with vanilla bean paste, which is a thick vanilla product that also contains ground beans, so you get an intense flavor AND those wonderful specks without having to deal with expensive whole beans. It can sometimes be hard to find in regular supermarkets, but you can always buy it online, here. The brand I like is Nielsen-Massey.
- And finally, a thick vanilla bean glaze.
One bite and all your vanilla sense memories come flooding back…
The cake has lots of vanilla presence all by itself, but for me the best part is the vanilla bean glaze on top. I try to get as much on there as possible because I want to get some in every bite.
TIP: There’s an art to getting a glaze to stick onto a cake. First, don’t rush it, you need to let the cake cool. I like to err on the thick side with my glazes. It should be JUST pourable, but still have substance. I lay a thick layer across the top of the cake and then nudge it gently with a spreader. I want it to lazily fall off the edges, not flow like a waterfall!
This cake has the perfect crumb!
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour (see instructions for making your own in the notes, below)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar (directions in the notes below)
- 1 Tbsp vanilla paste (substitute 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
- milk, half and half, or cream to thin
- Set oven to 325F
- Lightly spray a standard 9x5 loaf pan and line it with a sheet of parchment paper or foil so you can easily lift the cake out for glazing.
- Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Blend in the buttermilk. Then slowly add the flour. Make sure everything is well mixed. Do the last bit by hand.
- Turn the batter into the loaf pan and spread out evenly. Bake on the middle rack for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it. Cool on a rack.
- Make the glaze by whisking the sugar and vanilla together with enough milk or cream to create a thick spreadable glaze. Beat it until there are no lumps. You can add more liquid to thin it down, or more sifted sugar to thicken it up.
- When the cake is almost completely cool, spread a thick layer of glaze over the top and let it drip down the sides. The idea is to have the glaze thick enough that it doesn't completely slide off the cake. If that happens, gather it up and re-glaze the cake.
- Vanilla sugar is sugar that has been infused with vanilla. To make it, simply put some sugar in a container that has a lid, I use a large wide mouthed mason jar, and add a vanilla bean that has been split down the middle. (You an also re-use vanilla beans from past recipes) Give the container a good shake and store in the cupboard. Give the jar another shake before measuring out your sugar. You can keep a container of vanilla sugar going indefinitely, every time you use the sugar, add more to the jar, and add used vanilla beans from time to time.
- Make your own cake flour ~ for every 1 cup of flour, remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and replace with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift to mix the two really well. Cake flour results in a lighter texture and more tender crumb.
- I recommend using a sturdy metal loaf pan instead of glass or ceramic. I like the way my USA pan bakes evenly and releases easily. There’s nothing worse than an over-cooked pound cake, unless it’s one that won’t come out of the pan.