A glaze makes a pound cake into something extraordinary. It brings a sweet creaminess to the cake and makes it tender and moist. Making the glaze is simple, but you do want the right ratio of ingredients and timing of application for maximum effect.

Pound cake is sweet — it is cake after all — but not cloyingly so. A glaze highlights the sweetness as it also counteracts the denseness of the cake. A basic vanilla sugar glaze, appropriate for just about any flavor of cake, has you mix together just 1 1/2 cups of powdered, or confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Mix the ingredients thoroughly with a wooden spoon to to create a smooth glaze.

Tips

Sift the powdered sugar first to eliminate any lumps, which could prevent your glaze from being completely smooth.

Just about any extract can be used in place of the vanilla to create a completely different taste sensation. If you use a flavoring extract, such as peppermint or coconut, instead of vanilla — add it just a 1/4 teaspoon at a time and taste as you go. Often these extracts are quite strong in flavor, and a little goes a long way.

Fresh citrus glaze provides a sumptuous variation for fruit-flavored pound cakes. For example, make a lemon glaze for a lemon cake or a blueberry cake by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice instead of milk and vanilla extract to the powdered sugar. Fresh orange juice can also make a delicious glaze when stirred directly into the powdered sugar. If you find 2 tablespoons isn’t enough to get the consistency you’re after, add a bit more juice or water to thin it out. A teaspoon of citrus zest creates a glaze with even more intense flavor.

Alternatively, make a glaze for a lemon pound cake by heating about 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir just until the sugar dissolves.

You may also spike the glaze with a tablespoon or two of flavored liqueur in place of extract. Options include Amaretto, Grand Marnier or brandy. A coffee glaze may be made by using strongly brewed coffee as the liquid ingredient.

Part of the allure of pound cake glaze is that it seeps into the cake for greater moistness and penetrating flavor. The key is to add the glaze while the cake is still warm. After you remove the pound cake from the oven, allow it to cool about 10 minutes. Then turn it out of the baking pan onto a wire rack. Poke holes in the cake with a toothpick and pour the glaze over the top. This helps the glaze go deep into the body of the cake. Avoid adding the glaze all at once. Rather, pause after adding 1/4 cup or so and allow it to seep in. Then, add more in small increments until you’ve gotten the effect you’re after.