I am fascinated by traditional breads and cakes. One of my favorite books is English Bread and Yeast Cookery. One thing it mentioned was something called a Lardy Cake. It is basically a standard bread dough, enriched with lard, spices and dried fruit. It sounded delicious, but a bit too rich for my tastes. So I decided to make my own version, but using butter instead of lard. It turned out pretty good and quite tasty. It is a still a bit rich, but is something that makes a very good rare treat.
2 cups warm milk, either buttermilk or sweet milk works well
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. dry yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 cups flour
Beat together the warmed milk and the eggs, then stir in the sugar, salt, yeast and 3 cups of the flour. You can add up to another cup of flour, but you do want a fairly soft dough. Allow to rise until doubled, say an hour and a half or so.
1 cup of butter, brought to room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Beat the filling ingredients together until light and fluffy.
When the dough has doubled, beat down and place on a floured board. Sprinkle with flour and then roll out into a 24x16 inch rectangle. Spread about 1/3 of the filling mixture over the rolled out dough. Fold the ends into so they meet in the middle, then close like a book. Flour again and then rotate and roll out again, into another 24x16 inch rectangle, spread with another 1/3 of the butter mixture and repeat the folding and turning. Roll out yet one more time and spread with the remaining butter. Fold as before. Cut the dough into two parts and gently form each part into a roll that will fit inside a bundt pan. Grease and flour two non-stick bundt pans and place the rolls into each pan. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled, another 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and when the rolls have doubled, bake 30-45 minutes or until nicely browned and done. They will sound hollow when thumped. Allow to cool in the pans about 10-15 minutes, then carefully loosen the cake from the pan and allow to cool completely on a rack before slicing.
Variations: To change this recipe a bit, you could add about a tsp. of cinnamon to the filling mixture, as well as some finely chopped nuts or every some finely chopped dried fruit or raisins. If you add nuts to the filling, you could also replace chopped nuts for the flour when you grease the pans. It is very important to use a non-stick pan for this cake, as the sugar in the filling oozes out and sticks badly to a regular pan. Enjoy!