When I was dreaming up what to serve at the Slow Food MN’s Wild Things dinner last year, I knew I had to have an interesting dessert. Most of the other dinners of the previous years didn’t include a sweet option to finish the event, so I wanted to up the ante.
Whatever the dessert was going to be, it needed to be shelf stable, easy to make en-masse, and easy for me to direct people to plate, since we were going to be serving 100+people, on a farm with little to no equipment, which is thankfully easier to do with desserts as they’re generally cold or room temperature compared to hot, savory dishes.
About a month before the dinner I started playing around with angelica as a dessert theme, since I would be able to use the fresh leaves and stem from the plant, as well as the seeds from the previous year that I could use to flavor something, with the end result including all of the different parts of the plant except the root.
Perfectionist that I am, I was never happy with the result, some had too much angelica, some too little, I agonized over small tweaks to each recipe, adjusting 1/4 teaspoon of citrus zest there and there, varying amounts of seeds, etc.
After I came up with a blend of seasonings I liked, I started to play with different types of flour, my end goal being a cake that was dense, but still moist and not crumbly like some pound cakes can end up being. All in all I probably made the cake 10 different ways, but my favorite was one of the first ones that included some hazelnut flour in the batter to give it a nutty edge.
Eventually my working on the angelica cake became sort of a joke around the kitchen, and my line cooks would see me measuring out flour, sugar and eggs, knowing I was trying another batch. I could feel their eyes on me, waiting to ask: “more poundcake chef?” to which I remember replying towards the end of testing: “YES I’M MAKING MORE POUNDCAKE! It began to become a sort of sore spot for me, I was glad to have it be over with.
In the end it was one of my favorite dishes I made throughout the year-a study of a plant I’ve learned so much from, and a celebration of a forgotten herb.
Angelica Seed Pound Cake
- Loaf pan, spice grinder
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1 cup cake flour sifted
- 4 eggs plus one yolk
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon toasted ground angelica seed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 5 scrapes each: orange and lemon zest
- 8 ounces unsalted butter
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Cream the sugar, vanilla, zests and butter in a small stand mixer with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides as needed to clean the bowl, until the mixture is lightened in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Sift flour and baking powder and mix well with the almond meal, angelica seed, and and salt and mix for another minute until combined.
- Continue mixing and add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Add the milk. Use a spatula to stir in the all purpose flour by hand until just combined.
- Spread the filling into a Pullman pan or loaf pan and bake at 300 for roughly one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.