If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “I just don’t know what to do with my mantel,” I could at least take a couple friends to cocktails with my earnings! (Wait! My friends really, really like cocktails! I could probably only invite one friend!). I digress…but yes…mantel styling can be a pesky enterprise. But sometimes a mantel’s problem is not only the mantel itself, but the entire fireplace wall.
I present to you to you a calm, cool and collected living room and fireplace feature wall that is stylish but also comfortable and livable!!! Can you say gorgeous?? Alas, it was not always the case. When I came on the scene, the homeowners yearned for a much more contemporary space and the fireplace and mantel that came with the house was anything but! It was nice…if you like uber traditional fireplace walls without much personality. So…I fixed it (wink, wink)!
When you grow up in the South as I did, you find that pound cake is in a food group all to itself. You’ve had pound cake with strawberries and cream, pound cake with peaches and cream, with blackberries and cream, just whipped cream or your favorite ice cream. You’ve had dry pound cake, melt in your mouth pound cake, TOO buttery pound cake (yes…there is such a thing), too dense pound cake, toasted pound cake, week old pound cake and on and on! Pound cake is not seasonal for southerners, although we oftentimes pair it with fruits of the season as mentioned before. And it always shows up on the Easter buffet…right along with the deviled eggs and potato salad seasoned with bacon fat. My table will be no exception…but this year My Favorite Pound Cake will be getting “dressed up” in Easter finery with a flowery adornment of halo mandarins…an Easter Bonnet, if you will!
Reminiscent of the pineapple rings on a pineapple upside-down cake, the slices of fresh mandarin orange give this cake a sort of old world charm. It’s rustic but beautiful…with the look of sunny spring flowers. And the taste??!!! A nectarous cake that is super moist and laced with a hint of citrusy sweet bitterness that comes across as very…hmmm…the best way I can describe it is sophisticated and clean. Not too fussy…not overdone…not trying too hard cake. Just simple and delicious. And the look of the cake is stunning. Halo mandarins are in season until April so including this particular pound cake for Easter should be no problem! If for some reason you don’t like halos, just don’t include them in the recipe. This pound cake is delish either way.
The recipe for My Favorite Pound Cake is adapted from a Southern Living recipe published in 2006. However, I have tweaked it over the years using tricks of the trade handed down by friends and relatives who are GREAT pound cake bakers (Shannon Lollie and Connie Melzer to drop a couple names). It is fail proof and amazing!!!
SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE
1 1/2 cups butter, softened (hint…throw in a dollop more)
3 cups sugar
7 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour ( I use organic and unbleached)
1/2 tsp. salt (I add a pinch more)
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
(If making the mandarin orange version, include a couple Tbsp. of Cointreau Liqueur if you have it on hand)
If making the Halo Mandarin Version of cake…start by slicing halos in four thin slices and assembling at bottom and side of greased and parchment lined tube pan. You will use from 8 – 10 halos. See picture for assembly tips. If you are making “My Favorite Pound Cake” without fruit…forego step one.
Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears.
Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture (this is important). Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in extracts. Pour into a greased 12-cup tube pan. I also line the bottom and part of side with parchment to assure that the cake will come out clean.
Bake at 325 Degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on wire rack.
Should you want a nice whipped cream to accompany the Mandarin Orange version…this one would be perfect!
Makes about 2 cups (Prep: 5 Min.)
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. orange Liqueur
Beat whipping cream at low speed with an electric mixer until foamy; increase speed to medium-high, and gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Stir in Liqueur.