Metrovino’s Parmesan Pound Cake

Nearly a year ago, at the newly opened Metrovino restaurant in Portland, Oregon’s Pearl district, I spied a dessert on the menu that sounded so implausible that I was honestly expecting NOT to like it. I mean seriously, parmesan cheese in a pound cake? I had never heard of, much less tasted, such a combination–even though I have a library full of dessert cookbooks and am always on the lookout for creative, out of the ordinary flavor combinations.

Of course I ordered the cake and it was, well, mind blowing. The texture was dense (almost clafouti dense), yet moist and tender. The flavor was intriguing, compelling even. I simply couldn’t stop eating it. I could taste the Parmesan but perhaps only because I knew it was there. The cake had a savory quality, but nothing jumped out as strangely exotic or odd. The flavor profile was difficult to describe. Which made me think of you dear reader. You simply must taste this cake for yourself. If you live anywhere near Portland, definitely get over to Metrovino as soon as you can and after ordering the Smoked Trout & Cucumber Salad,

Gazpacho with Popcorn,

and New England Style Seafood Chowder,

order the Parmesan Pound Cake.

But for those of you who live in other parts of the country or world, I secured the recipe. I want to tell you that I begged and pleaded and offered my first born on your behalf, because that would be way more dramatic, but alas, as it turned out, a quick phone conversation with amiable Metrovino owner, Todd Steele, secured MauiJim a photo shoot later that same day. It secured me a lively conversation with Executive Chef Gregory Denton and the recipe from Chef de Cuisine Gabrielle Quiñónez. And if all of this were not enough, we even got to eat the cake.

I tested this recipe 3 times and made some very minor changes to the original directions to assist the home cook to get the best results possible. Be forewarned, however, that this is not a classic pound cake recipe. No matter how I tweaked the procedure, the cake fell slightly after baking, creating the dense texture that I find so appealing. (In a moment of self doubt, I checked my photos of Metrovino’s cake, but sure enough, the texture looked similar to my tests.)

The weight of the parmesan and atypical quantity of crème fraiche compared to the other key ingredients works against a lofty cake structure. I toyed with the idea of “correcting” the formula, but that would be a decidedly different cake.  What’s special about this cake, besides the gorgeous flavor, is the texture. Even though perhaps not classic, I pronounce it perfect as is.

Now, about my last post, Fresh Strawberry-Tomato Dessert Sauce, and the FANTASY Chopped dessert round, in which I am competing against Bobby Flay and Mark LaPolla (@LifeByChocolate).  You may recall that the dreaded black basket contained Parmesan, tomatoes, strawberries, and basil.

My finished dish then is Parmesan Pound Cake with Fresh Strawberry-Tomato Sauce & Basil Syrup. How did I do all this within the 20-minute time limit you ask? Uh, what part of FANTASY don’t you understand? :-) And yes, of course I won!

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Gabrielle Quiñónez’ Parmesan Pound Cake

This most delicious and unusual cake is Chef Quiñónez’ interpretation of a Salvadorian cake called Quessadilla Salvadoreña, and is now a specialty of MetroVino restaurant in Portland, Oregon.

Chef Quiñónez and Chef Denton vary the accompaniments to this cake with the seasons. The first time I sampled it, in the summer, it was garnished with fresh local raspberries; the second time, in the fall, with caramelized apples. Both times, it was served with Stumptown Coffee Anglaise.

It’s also delicious, however, served simply, with perhaps just a dusting of powdered sugar. It is the quintessential afternoon tea cake. Sealed tightly with plastic wrap, it’s almost as good a day after baking.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

4 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated (about 1 cup)
1 cup butter, cool room temperature (2 sticks, ½ pound)
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, cool room temperature, beaten lightly
2 cups crème fraiche, cool room temperature (or 1 cup cream and 1 cup sour cream, combined)
4 ounces cream cheese (½ cup)
Optional Accompaniments
powdered sugar in a shaker
whipped cream, lightly sweetened
2 fresh strawberries per serving
Fresh Strawberry-Tomato Dessert Sauce
Fresh Basil Syrup (will post next)
  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to thoroughly distribute the baking powder. Whisk in the Parmesan. Reserve.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy, a full 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times in the process.
  3. With the mixture running a medium speed, add eggs to butter-sugar mixture a small amount at a time, incorporating well after each addition. If at any time the batter appears to be on the brink of curdling, increase the sped of the mixture and add egg more slowly.
  4. Add cream cheese and mix until smooth.
  5. On slowest speed, alternate adding a fourth portion of the flour mixture and then a fourth portion of the crème fraîche, ending with the flour mixture. Stop the machine and complete the mixing by hand, folding the ingredients together with a large rubber spatula. Do not overmix.
  6. Add the flour and gently incorporate without overworking.
  7. Butter and lightly flour (tapping out excess flour) a 9- by 12- by 2-inch metal baking pan.
  8. Add cake batter and spread to evenly fill the pan. Tap the pan down sharply on the countertop a couple of times to release any air bubbles.
  9. Bake at 350° (or 325° for a convection oven) for 45-55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Remove the cake to a wire rack to cool.
  11. To serve, invert the completely cool cake onto a cutting board, trim the edges away, and then with a serrated cake knife, cut the cake in half lengthwise. Cut widthwise into 1½-inch slices. You will end up with fourteen 4- by 1½-inch slices. (Or cut slices only as you need them, keeping the cake well sealed in plastic wrap).
  12. Serve with your choice of garnishes.

Makes one 9- by 12-inch cake; fourteen 4- by 1½-inch servings.

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Comments

  1. LisaSJA says

    I made this cake for a party on Saturday – everyone loved it! We topped it with a dollop of creme fraiche and slow-roasted strawberries.

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Lisa, so glad you tried it. It’s the most marvelous cake. Tell us more about the slow-roasted strawberries. What’s the process and what are they like?

  2. shoestringfoodie says

    i spent a few years in el salvador as a child and i know wexactly which cake you are referring to- its more a merienda treat than an actual dessert. its not even one of my more important food memories from there (that would have to be the shredded carrot salad my maid would make to serve to eat with pupusas instead of the normal curtido).

    and still, your incredible photographs have ellicited an almost pavlovian response, my mouth of course is watering and i now crave a piece. i found your heavenly parmesan poundcake recipe and will definitely be giving that a try soon.
    .-= shoestringfoodie´s last blog ..The Most Perfect Cake: Milk Chocolate and Pear Cake =-.

    • sms bradley says

      Shoestringfoodie, how marvelous! I am constantly amazed at how small the world has become since the web joined us all. Now here I meet someone who knew this unusual cake as a child! I have never encountered it in culinary literature. It deserves broader attention. Thank you for stopping by and commenting! :-)

  3. Kayte CookWatts says

    Hi. I love you. I just had this for the first time last week at Metrovino and I LOOOOOOOVE it. Thanks for posting! And if you are ever at Metrovino and have a burger craving-go for it. You won’t be disappointed. I also strongly suggest a stop at Lovejoy Bakery for any of their sandwiches if you haven’t been already.

    • sms bradley says

      Kayte, so glad you enjoyed it! It’s really quite exceptional. And unusual too. I haven’t tried Metrovino’s burger yet but will soon as we live in the neighborhood. We walk by Lovejoy Bakery almost daily when in Portland, but there is usually a line going out the door. Have yet to actually try any of their goodies. Soon though, soon. :-) p.s. I love you too. :-)

  4. physical therapist says

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  5. Jessica says

    Looks so delicious! I think the Italians might frown at the Parmesan cake but I will have to try it! Greetings from Tuscany!
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Planning Maths with a PYP Planner =-.

    • sms bradley says

      Jessica, thank you! It’s funny isn’t it? The Italians should have INVENTED this cake, what with all that Parmesan. :-)

  6. says

    Now how am I going to loose that weight by summer knowing I have to eat Parmesan pound cake? I am so surprised that I have never heard of Metro Vino! I go to Portland about 3 times a month and always eat out while I am there. My daughters and I have made a concerted effort to try a new place as much as possible. Do they serve lunch, ya think? I’m very interested in your rendition as well. Happy pound cake dreams….Dana
    .-= Dana Zia´s last blog ..Going crackers and lowering salt intake =-.

    • sms bradley says

      Hi Dana! Metrovino overlooks Tanner Springs Park and is ron the streetcar line. It’s in the Bridgeport condo building, NE corner. I don’t think they serve lunch though. I just finished off my version of the Parmesan Pound Cake. I ate the WHOLE thing over 3 days. Just as good the third day as the first. Now I am on cake restriction. It’s carrots and celery for me for the rest of the week. Oh heck, maybe TWO weeks. :-)

  7. Susan says

    About the rise of the cake. I see there is a good amount of acidic ingredients in the mixture. Shouldn’t there be some baking soda in it? Maybe 1 tsp of baking powder and at least, 3/4 tsp baking soda, maybe?

    • sms bradley says

      Susan, yes, good observation. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per cup of flour (with accompanying acidic ingredient) is the standard amount. I tried that angle but result was the same. Also. too much leavener will actually cause a cake to collapse upon removal from the oven, so need to be careful there.

      The answer lies in another direction, which I tested and confirmed last night. The resulting cake has a spectacular texture: melt-in-the-mouth tender, very light, moist, AND it does not collapse. I’m eating it on my lunch break right now. So how soon should I post LunaCafe’s Parmesan Pound Cake? :-) (My new formula in no ways denigrate’s Metrovino’s version, which I adore as well.)

        • sms bradley says

          Susan, LOL! :-) No, I used a classic butter cake technique, exactly as with the Metrovino cake. The difference lies in the proportions between the flour, eggs and liquid. I’ll try to post soon.

    • sms bradley says

      Alta, I’m with you on “stretches my imagination just a bit.” I love it when something really unusual like this works. But I have gone Parmesan MAD. Adding it to sweet muffins, clafouti, beignet, cookies. All work! Where will it end? :-)

  8. says

    I love the presentation on these – it’s so pretty!

    I’m surprised they were willing to give you the recipe. That’s amazing!
    .-= Kaitlin´s last blog ..Spent =-.

    • sms bradley says

      Kaitlin, thank you! Yes, Metrovino owner Todd Steele and Chef Gregory Denton are most gracious and generous. I so appreciate their willingness to share this novel concept with all of you–and me too of course. :-).

    • sms bradley says

      Hungry Jenny, thank you! When I owned the Northwest Culinary Academy, I would sometimes test a recipe 6 or more times, especially cakes, which are very tempermental. When you are teaching in front of 12-15 students, failure is not an option. :-)

    • sms bradley says

      Linda, LOL! :-) Just to be on tthe safe side, test the cake in advance of the party. Also, the texture is best on the same day it is baked.

    • sms bradley says

      Arugulove, why thank you! Did you check out the Strawberry-Tomato Sauce? Another sweet and savory combo. Last night I created a Strawberry-Tomato Gazpacho and ZOW–it was so good. Will post when strawberries are actually in season.

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