Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Williamsburg Queen's Cake

Recently my husband and I visited Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. We both agree that it is one of our favorite places on the planet! It is so easy to be swept into the bygone era when our nation was being born by walking the streets, eating the delicious colonial fare and engaging in conversation with the costumed interpreters. If you've ever been there, you're sure to know of the Bake Shop hidden away behind the Raleigh Tavern filled with authentically reproduced cookies, cakes, ham biscuits and other delights. My favorite is the Queen's Cake, which is a modernized version adapted from a colonial recipe found in The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy that was published in 1760. It is a rich pound cake, studded with plump currants and infused with bold citrus flavor that is baked in a loaf pan then served in thin slices. It is heavenly, but extremely too high in carbohydrates and fat for me to have much more than a small bite.

I came home from my trip determined to recreate this moist cake. I'm happy to say this reduced-carb version looks and tastes every bit like the original with only 1/3 the carbs and only 1/2 the amount of saturated fat and calories! I took this dessert to a luncheon and my friends raved. One in particular, who visits Williamsburg regularly, couldn't believe it was anything but the traditional recipe!

If you bake these in small loaf pans and reduce the baking time to about 20-25 minutes, they make wonderful holiday gift cakes when wrapped in silver foil or colorful plastic wrap and tied with a pretty ribbon. Also, feel free to bake it in an 8" x 8" cake pan (reduce the cooking time by 10 minutes) and serve it as a coffee cake. Anyway you bake it, this flavorful cake will be a hit with your family and friends this holiday season.

Williamsburg Queen's Cake
(Makes 16 servings)

½ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cup almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
¼ cup almond milk (plain or original)
½ cup currants

1. Before you begin, have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Prepare an 8½" x 4½" loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir with a fork to break up any lumps in the almond flour. Measure the currants into a small bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of the flour mixture; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl and using a handheld or standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add ¼ cup of the Splenda and continue beating until incorporated. Add one egg and beat well. Add another ¼ cup Splenda and continue beating until incorporated. Repeat with second egg and the remaining ¼ cup Splenda, beating well after each addition. Add the final egg and extracts and beat well. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the almond milk in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating well after each addition. Fold the currants into the batter and pour into prepared pan.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Test at 45 minutes and bake longer if additional time is needed. Do not overbake to avoid drying out.

5. Remove from oven to a wire rack. Allow bread to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and continue to cool on wire rack for another hour. This bread can be left at room temperature for 1 day or overnight, or wrap well and store in refrigerator.

Nutritional Information per serving (½" slice): 147 calories, 13 g carbohydrate, 9.4 g total fat, 3.2 g saturated fat, 1.3 g fiber, 3.6 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this compare to the version adapted from the Colonial recipe? Traditional Queen's Cake calls for 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of sugar, 5 eggs, 2 cups of flour and 2 cups currants! This results is a very high carb, high saturated fat dessert. (No wonder the Colonials didn't live very long!) For comparison, the nutritional information for the same size slice made from the traditional recipe is 282.5 calories, 38.8 g carbohydrate, 12.75 g total fat, 7.5 g saturated fat, 1.4 g fiber, 4 g protein.

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