Let's just say it was a very good day, mate.
I totally remember watching this on TV, partially because everyone kind of wants to go to Australia and see koalas, but mostly because we couldn't skip the commercials. I mention this to the kids --- minds BLOWN!
Grilled Pound Cake with Balsamic Stone Fruit
Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus cooling time
Cook Time: 1 hour baking, 10 on the grill, plus a while cooling the cake. Allow a couple hours total, but you'll have plenty of time to do other stuff.
Based on this reader recipe from Bon Appetit. The original called for store-bought pound cake, and perhaps because I was stumbling over this whole foreign concept of purchased cake I failed to notice that the recipe did not suggest grilling the fruit, just the Sara Lee*. Well, I went and grilled them both -- mind BLOWN! The cake is a slightly less dense version of my sister's crowd-pleasing Cream Cheese Pound Cake**, toasty warm and crisp on the outside, buttery and fragrant on the inside, with beautifully burnished and caramelized summer fruit and cream on top. There should be an ad for this.
For the cake:
- 3 c. flour
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 c. buttermilk
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 2 1/2 c. sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
- 2 oz (1/4 of an 8oz. package) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 eggs
- a little extra sugar and butter for preparing the pan
- 3 Tbs. brown sugar, packed
- 3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbs. freshly chopped mint leaves
- 4-5 firm, ripe pluots, plums, or nectarines
- 1/3 c. heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 c. creme fraiche (can substitute whipping cream)
- 1 1/2 Tbs. brown sugar
- A few Tbs. of extra virgin olive oil or melted butter
- A few mint leaves, for garnish, if you are feeling an urge to get fancy
InstructionsTo make the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter two 8 1/2'' loaf pans, then dust with sugar to coat. This will create a tasty crunchy edge all around your cake, which is nice anytime, but especially nice on the grill.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt, and set aside. Keep the buttermilk in the measuring cup, and add the vanilla and almond extract. Stir once or twice to combine, and set that aside, too.
- In a larger mixing bowl, combine the sugar and the lemon zest with an electric mixer for about a minute. This will release the lemon flavor into the sugar. Add the butter and cream cheese, and beat on medium speed until the mixture resembles light, fluffy, wet sand.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on a lower speed, add the flour mixture in three parts and the buttermilk mixture in two, taking turns, starting and ending with the flour. Divide the batter between the two pans.
- Bake for 55 minutes to just over an hour, until the tops are high and golden brown, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.
- Slice your fruit in half, and remove the pits. You should plan on about 1 piece of fruit for every two people. I used red pluots and they were amazing, but this would likely be just as fantastic with plums, peaches, apricots, or nectarines. Just be sure the fruit is ripe, but still firm, so it will stand up to a little heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and the mint. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors blend (longer is fine) While the cake is baking or cooling is a great time to get this part done, for example. About 10 minutes before you plan to grill, transfer the sauce into a large, flat dish or container that will hold all of the fruit, then place the fruit, cut side down, into the sauce.
To make the whipped cream:
- Combine whipping cream and creme fraiche (if using), in a mixing bowl, preferably one that's metal and has been chilled for a bit in the fridge. Using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until beginning to thicken nicely. Add the brown sugar, and continue to beat for another minute or two. You want the cream to be thick enough to hold soft peaks. This can also be done ahead while the cake is cooling. Keep the whipped cream in the fridge until ready to use.
To grill and assemble:
- Heat the grill up to medium-high heat, or use a flat griddle or grill pan on your stove. Make sure the grill is well oiled.
- Grill the fruit, cut side down. The glaze will sizzle and smoke a bit, but that's OK. Brush tops with a little of the glaze. Cook for 3-4 minutes, watching carefully to avoid burning. Turn and cook on remaining side for another minute or so. The cooking time will vary, depending on your fruit, but the goal is to have it warm but not mushy at all. Transfer to a cutting board, slice the fruit into wedges or chop roughly, and return to the container with the remaining glaze.
- Cut the cake into 3/4 inch slices, and brush both sides very lightly with olive oil. Grill cake for a couple of minutes on each side, until toasted and golden brown.
- Place a slice of cake on each plate. Top with fruit, then add a nice spoonful of the whipped cream.
These are also pretty darn stellar all by themselves. With that tangy balsamic and a smoky char, they could go down very easily in a salad or as a savory side dish, too.
* Of course you can use store-bought cake for this! I'm an outlier on this point, for sure. After all...