Jacques Pépin's Favorite Ways To Dress Up A Simple Pound Cake

If there is one thing Jacques Pépin has shown us over the course of his highly successful career, it is that we should never take simple foods for granted. For over four decades, Pépin has filled a great deal of his books and their companion television series with creative ways to transform everyday grocery store items into elegant meals and desserts. It must be said, however, that he's done some of his best work with pound cake. 

Pound cake is one of the most straightforward desserts out there made with a glorious combination plenty of butter, eggs, flour, and sugar — some 18th-century recipes called for a pound of each. It is dense, sweet, and adaptable to a wide range of variations. Pépin has two favorite methods for dressing up this classic cake, each simple and flavorful. 

Always one to add fruit to his desserts, the chef uses both oranges and raspberries to elevate these two cakes. The first method calls for lots of orange and dairy, while the second requires a great deal of raspberry jam, plus a creative garnish with leftover cake bits. 

Orange butter pound cake

If you're a fan of oranges, you will love this first method as Pépin does not shy away from his use of the iconic citrus fruit. The pound cake can be one you've made yourself, purchased at the grocery store, or acquired from a local bakery. In this recipe, the cake will be sliced and reassembled between layers of sweet orange butter and topped with a sour cream and orange liqueur sauce.

Pépin starts by using the fine side of a box grater to get a few teaspoons worth of orange rind off of the fruit. Next, in a food processor, he adds the grated rind, a few tablespoons of orange juice, a tablespoon of powdered sugar, and one stick of very soft butter that's all emulsified together to form a sweet and tangy orange butter. He then divides the pound cake into three sections and spreads a generous layer of the orange butter on the bottom and middle layers, leaving the top bare to be sprinkled with a little orange juice.

For the sauce, Pépin combines together orange juice, powdered sugar, sour cream, and a small splash of orange liqueur. To assemble the dessert, he plates two slices of the layered pound cake, garnishes it with a few slices of skinned orange, adds a dollop of the sour cream sauce, and finishes with a sprig of basil or mint. Overall, an easy and elegant take on an average hunk of pound cake.

Pound cake with jam and cake crumbs

This method was inspired by Pépins granddaughter's desire to make a birthday cake for her mother. It begins with the chef taking a whole pound cake and trimming along all the sides to form a perfect rectangle. Instead of discarding these trimmings, Pépin sends them through the food processor and turns them into cake crumbs, which are saved for use later on.

Cutting lengthwise, Pépin cuts three layers of cake and spreads each of them with very generous portions of raspberry jam, about ½ a cup per layer. The jam could be your favorite store-bought or homemade mixture, whichever you prefer. The chef then heats the jam in the microwave for about 30 seconds in order to get it soft and easily spreadable.

He continues spreading the jam over all the sides of the poundcake. Then, taking his recycled cake crumbs, he coats the cake all around. The jam acts as a glue to which the cake crumbs can stick to the exterior of the dessert. At this stage, Pépin recommends allowing the cake to rest for half an hour in the fridge before cutting it, which will allow the jam to set and keep the layers from separating. When you're ready to serve, slice the cake and garnish with a little bit of mint.