This brown sugar almond pound cake is extraordinarily moist and dense and overflows with almond and caramel flavor. The secret twist is the cream cheese center that bakes and swirls into the cake! Don’t forget the delicious lemon glaze to top it all off.
One thing I’ve learned during my time as a baking blogger is that sometimes the best recipes come from inspiration from other people. This time around it was my dad. It was his birthday and I wanted to treat him to something extra special. This recipe is the embodiment of everything that my dad loves.
So what does he love? He loves almond, dark cherries, lemon and cheesecake. As I was falling asleep the week before his birthday, this idea floated into my head and I couldn’t shake it. It was all of those combined into a single amazing thing!
Another lesson I’ve learned from baking: sometimes what you intended to bake turns into something else entirely but the end result is better than you could’ve imagined. (See cream cheese filling farther down the post.)
So I set off! I started with the Barefoot Contessa’s (aka the Queen’s) Lemon Cake that has superb reviews but I made a few significant changes:
- Instead of buttermilk, I used sour cream. Buttermilk is more liquidy than sour cream, but they have the same function: they are both acids and they both provide a lot of moisture to cakes.
- Because there was a lot of lemon juice in the original recipe, it provided a lot of liquid to the recipe. I knew that it had to be replaced so I used an equal amount of almond milk.
- Instead of using all granulated sugar, I went with a majority of brown sugar. Why? I am biased towards brown sugar because it provides a greater depth of flavor, darkens the color the baked good and adds moisture. I wanted a rich, caramely bread.
- I added lots of almond extract. I was worried that the brown sugar and almond would compete and neither would win, but the end result was perfect.
And my favorite addition? The cream cheese filling. Well, the kinda cream cheese filling. I’m not sure what to even call it. My inspiration came from Averie Cooks. She made banana bread with a layer of cream cheese filling and described it as a tiny bit of cheesecake in the bread. It sounded amazing. So I made the cream cheese filling but because my dad loves black cherries, I added some cut up black cherries. You are welcome to omit this step or use any fruit that you’d like! It just swirls so beautifully into the cake as it baked.
When I put the pound cakes into the oven, I was apprehensive. I really hoped the cream cheese filling would work out, but I was worried that I’d filled the pans up way too high. I nervously watched for a whole hour, but the cake rose perfectly and had a beautiful shiny finish.
After it cooled, I covered it with aluminum foil and a flour sack cloth. I stored it over night on the counter top. I thought for a bit about what kind of topping I should put on it. I didn’t want to mix too many flavors, so I was worried that a lemon glaze might be too much. But I thought something tart would add a good balance. I crossed my fingers and made the lemon glaze the next day and drizzled it over the cake. Then I put it in the fridge for a few hours before my family showed up.
I had to wait until the next to cut the cake open with my family. I was so excited for the big reveal and then…nothing. You could see the cherries. You could see where the cream cheese had baked in and swirled the cherries all over, but there wasn’t any cheesecake filling. I was disappointed.
But then a bite of it changed my mind. The cream cheese had saturated the cake batter while it was baking and it made it extra moist and dense. And the lemon glaze was the icing on the cake, literally. It was perfection.
My dad and sister raved about it and my mom ate a second piece (unheard of!). The best compliment, though, was from my roommate who doesn’t like overly sweet things: she kept asking me if she could have another slice the following days.
The moral of the story? The result was better than the imagined idea I had. Even though it’s not a traditional pound cake (traditional pound cakes don’t have leavening), it’s so dense and moist that “pound cake” is the only moniker it deserved.
And don’t be intimidated by the many little steps! They’re all quick and easy. Even though this cake has lots of fancy flavors, it comes together quite easily.
My usual list of tips:
- Ensure that you cream the butter for at least 5 minutes. This cake doesn’t have a lot of leavening and leavening only acts on pre-existing air bubbles. By whipping the butter for five minutes, you add tons of air bubbles for the leavening to act on.
- Incorporate the eggs one at a time. They incorporate more evenly than throwing them all in at once. You even work the dough less. (Thanks, Cook Illustrated.)
- Use any milk you’d like! I like almond milk because I think it added to the almond flavor of the cake, but anything will work! A higher fat content milk, such as whole milk or half and half, would yield even a moister, denser cake, so give it a try!
- Instead of sour cream, you can use buttermilk, Greek yogurt or even light sour cream.
- I used frozen sweet dark cherries for the cream cheese filling, but you’re welcome to use any kind of fruit. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or blackberries would be an excellent addition.
Happy birthday, dad! Thanks for being the best dad I could ask for.
- For the almond pound cake:
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
- 1/4 cup almond milk (or cow’s milk or soy milk)
- For the cream cheese filling:
- 1 large egg
- 4 ounces softened brick-style cream cheese
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- For the glaze:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 Tablespoons sweet dark cherries, frozen (optional or use raspberries, blueberries)
- For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray one loaf pan with cooking spray and then sugar it with about a 1/4 cup of sugar. You will have extra which you can put back into the sugar jar. You may also spray the pan with cooking spray and then line it with parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes in order to ensure that the cake has good lift. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the almond extract.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the almond milk and sour cream. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.
- For the cream cheese:
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the egg, cream cheese, sugar, flour and optional fruit of your choice and whisk to combine. Alternatively, mix with a hand mixer.
- To put it all together:
- Put about a quarter of the batter into each pan (about half of the batter total.) Then split the cream cheese mixture between the two pans. Finally, top both pans with the remaining cake batter. Don’t worry if the pans are very full! This recipe rises only a bit and won’t overflow.
- Bake for an hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Run a knife along the sides to loosen up the cake and then let cool for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove them from the pans.
- For the glaze:
- Melt the butter. Then, mix together all three ingredients. Drizzle over the cake once the cake has cooled for about thirty minutes.
- I served the cake cold from the refrigerator and it was fantastic! Otherwise, enjoy right away.
- If you’re going to save it for the next day, cover it well in the fridge. This cake stores for up to three days; make sure you store it in an air-tight container or wrap well with plastic wrap so that the cake stays moist.