Today I am continuing the berry desserts with a very special cream cheese pound cake with champagne strawberries. For some reason, I had a very strong to bake something with cream cheese. I didn't want the usual cheesecake; instead, I decided to venture out and make something out of my element. This cake took a total of four trials to get it perfect, but I can now proudly say I know how to make one amazing cream cheese pound cake. As if the cake wasn't delicious already, top it with champagne macerated strawberries to take it to the next level.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Have questions about preparing cream cheese pound cake? I'm your girl. I feel as if I made every mistake in the book and even gave one of the test batches to my friends before realizing that I had underbaked it! Talk about having friends as your tasters, am I right?
This cake takes the basic idea of a pound cake but makes a minor change by adding cream cheese. The cream cheese adds flavor and makes it denser. If a cheesecake and a pound cake had a baby, this would be it.
Start by softening the butter and cream cheese. It is absolutely imperative that the butter and cream cheese be at room temperature. You want to be able to cream it with the sugar; hard butter and cream cheese will result in a denser cake with chunks of cream cheese throughout. Cut it into small chunks and let it sit out until you can easily make an indentation in the butter. The idea is to get it soft but not melted.
Beat the cream cheese, sugar and butter together until it becomes light and whipped. It'll look almost like frosting. Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the dry ingredients, cake flour and salt, followed by the vanilla and lemon zest. Pour into a greased cake pan and that's it! That was easy enough right?
My biggest error when preparing this cake happened when I was baking it. If the oven is too hot, the inside of the cake won't cook. Do not use the convection oven setting, it is too hot. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that my problem was the oven until my second cake. Imagine pulling a beautiful cake out of the oven only to slice into it only to see that it is underbaked!
I will also say that inserting a toothpick in the center won't be much help in this instance. The toothpick can come out clean and the center can still be underbaked. Underbaked means the cake hasn't risen fully yet and is much, much denser. It's not comparable to when a muffin is underbaked and the center is still gooey. I found that it took a minimum of 1 hour to fully bake. For good measure, after the one hour, I turned off the oven and let it sit another 10 minutes in the oven. Is it necessary? Probably not, but I wasn't willing to take the chance on my fourth cake.
While the cake is cooling, make the champagne macerated strawberries. Macerated strawberries are in my opinion, the best way to prepare fresh strawberries for a dessert. You can just sprinkle sugar on the berries and as it sits, the sugar softens the fruit and draws out the liquid, creating a syrup. In this instance, we are using champagne, honey and a pinch of salt to add flavor, sweetness and make that strawberry syrup.
Top the cream cheese pound cake with the strawberries, pour that lovely syrup and garnish with fresh mint if desired. While you're at it, have a glass of that champagne bottle you had to open for the berries!
Finally, after all that trial and error, I am able to enjoy this cream cheese pound cake with a pat on my back. The cake is a little dense with cream cheese notes and the perfect amount of sweetness. Served with the champagne strawberries, this dessert is definitely one for keeps.
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