Thursday, December 21, 2023

Mini Lemon Thyme Pound Cakes


I tried these mini chocolate olive oil cakes with orange and Earl Grey. The recipe calls for mini bundt pans, but this was a mistake, because the cakes completely fell apart upon unmolding! Some parts stuck to the pan, but really, it looked like the crumb was much too loose and light to survive. (Judging from the comments online, it’s not me, it’s the recipe!) I ended up serving piles of chocolate crumbs topped with chocolate glaze and orange zest, and they were good, but not the mini bundt cakes I wanted. And I decided that if mini bundt cakes were going to fall apart all the time (because it’s happened before), maybe I should just stop doing this to myself and get rid of the pans.

This made me think back to why I got the mini bundt pan in the first place – it was a recipe from Martha Stewart for mini lemon thyme pound cakes that, as far as I could remember, had been very good. So I pulled out the recipe and tried it again – it works super well! I think it’s because pound cake has a crumb that is dense enough to hold together when unmolded.

I didn’t have lemon thyme growing in my garden this time, just regular thyme, so that’s what I used. I love the result, and the Engineer was surprised at how well thyme works in dessert form.

The original recipe called for a muscat and lemon thyme syrup, but I made an alcohol-free version with simple syrup, lemon, and thyme – my version is below.

For the pound cakes
18 Tbsp. (2 sticks plus 2 Tbsp.) lactose-free butter, softened, plus more for pan
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for pan
12 sprigs fresh lemon thyme, divided, plus more for garnish
½ tsp. saltv finely grated zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp. zest)
1 ¼ cups sugar
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs, room temperature

For the syrup
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
some lemon zest
some thyme sprigs

For the pound cakes
Preheat oven to 350 °F, with rack in lower third. Butter six (1-cup) molds of a mini angel food cake pan or mini bundt pan. Dust with flour, and tap out excess. Pick 2 teaspoons small sprigs from tops of lemon thyme sprigs, and divide evenly among molds; set aside.

Coarsely chop remaining lemon thyme leaves to make tablespoons; whisk chopped lemon thyme with the flour, salt, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Set aside.

Put butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed until pale and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 4 minutes. Add sugar. Mix until pale and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 3 minutes.

Mix in vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition; mix until smooth. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until just combined after each addition.

Spoon batter over lemon thyme in prepared molds. Smooth tops using a small rubber spatula. Firmly tap the pan on counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cakes cool slightly in pan on a wire rack, about 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of molds to loosen; unmold cakes. Place each cake on a serving plate, and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon syrup. Garnish with lemon thyme sprigs.

For the syrup
Stir water, sugar, lemon zest, and thyme in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes.

Pour syrup through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard lemon zest and thyme. Let cool slightly, about 5 minutes, before serving. Syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week; reheat over medium-low heat before serving.

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