Torta Quattro Quarti al Vin Santo | Vin Santo Pound Cake
Torta Quattro Quarti in Italian, pound cake in English, this dessert is a classic. Although it originated in England, pound cake has, over the centuries, made its way across the globe. American versions of pound cake date to the 1700s—author Amelia Simmons included two recipes in her 1796 book American Cookery. The cake is especially popular in the American South, where there are countless variations, including buttermilk, coconut, and sour cream. Italian versions, not surprisingly, feature Italian flavors, like my version here, which is spiked with Vin Santo, the Tuscan dessert wine.
What makes pound cake special? The fact that it contains no leavening—no baking powder or soda, no yeast. The cake, composed (more or less) of equal parts flour, butter, eggs, and sugar, relies solely on the air beaten into the batter to rise. Achieving a beautifully risen pound cake was a challenge in the days when bakers had to rely on the wooden spoon to whip air into the ingredients. These days, the electric mixer does all the work.
Serve this plain but rich cake with whipped cream or ice cream and fresh berries or sliced stone fruit.
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) ring cake, to serve 12.
Heat the oven to 325° F (160° C). Lightly butter and flour a 10-inch (25-cm) tube pan or Bundt pan and set it aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
Put the 1 1/2 cups butter in the bowl of a standing mixer and beat briefly on medium speed to soften. Gradually add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat at high speed until light and airy, 5 full minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla.
Change the speed to medium and beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the Vin Santo. Beat in another 1/3 of the flour mixture, and then the mascarpone. Finally, beat in the remaining flour mixture just until incorporated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and shake lightly to even out the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
When the cake is done, transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cake onto a plate or another rack, and then re-invert to cool completely. Serve with the whipped cream or ice cream and fresh fruit.