When I entertain, it's usually on weekends and most often in the evening. Every so often, however, I break this pattern, and last week was one of those times.
I invited friends to come to an early-morning coffee at my home to meet a young woman who had recently moved from Atlanta to our New England town. Although everyone worked, miraculously we were each able to carve out an hour on a Monday morning for the gathering.
This was definitely entertaining at its simplest, and yet I can't remember having a better time. Along with cups of steaming brew, I served a single sweet treat - a toasted almond poundcake. As we sipped and nibbled, the conversation flowed.
The poundcake turned out to be an ideal confection to serve that morning. Buttery and moist, it was prepared traditionally with butter, sugar, flour and eggs, along with an unexpected addition of some ground toasted almonds. A hint of lemon provided another interesting flavor note.
The cake was dressed up with a double glaze; warm apricot preserves were brushed over its top, then an icing of confectioners' sugar and lemon juice was added.
Although this cake, which can be baked and iced a day ahead, was a perfect choice to serve for my morning get-together, it could star in other roles. Serve slices topped with vanilla ice cream and some of the season's first strawberries to end a nighttime meal, or pack it up and take it on an early spring picnic.
Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.
TOASTED ALMOND POUNDCAKE
Serves 8 to 10
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking pan at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup almond slivers toasted and finely ground (see note)
3 tablespoons apricot preserves, heated until liquid
5 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons toasted almond slivers for garnish, coarsely chopped (see note)
Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour an 8 1/2 -by-4 1/2 -inch loaf pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper so that the paper extends 5 inches over each of the long sides of the pan. Butter and flour paper.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, and on medium speed, beat (with the paddle attachment if you have one) until butter is creamy. Then, add sugar gradually in a thin stream. Continue to beat until the sugar is well incorporated, about 6 minutes. Stop machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping machine to scrape down sides of bowl if necessary. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in almond extract, lemon zest and ground almonds.
Spoon batter into prepared pan, and bake until cake is golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Remove and let stand in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan, loosening the edges with a knife. Cool on a rack to room temperature and remove paper.
For glaze, brush top of cake with the warm apricot jam. In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar and lemon juice, and brush the top of the cake with this mixture. Arrange chopped toasted almonds in a lengthwise line down the center of the cake. Let stand at room temperature until glaze is set. (Cake can be made 1 day ahead; wrap tightly in foil and leave at room temperature.)
Note: To toast almonds, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until golden and fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and cool.
Per serving: 323 calories, 4 grams protein, 17 grams fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 40 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 100 milligrams cholesterol, 82 milligrams sodium. Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.