Thursday, September 17, 2009
I love pound cake. It's so pure and simple. Pound cake is a wonder. You can make it on Sunday and it still tastes fresh and delicious on Thursday. You can warm it in the toaster and slather on a little jam. Have it a la mode. Cut a skinny little sliver and nibble it on one of those passing-through-the-kitchen moments. And it's likely you'll have everything you need to make it, once you've made it just once.
Pound cake got its name because of the original recipe - the one that called for a pound of butter, pound of eggs, pound of sugar and pound of flour. Which doesn't sound very good to me. For more scintillating information, here's a Wikipedia link.
In my mind, pound cake is heavenly and rich, but still somehow light. And in a good one, you can taste the quality of the butter, the freshness of the eggs, and it will give off such a good vanilla scent. If you're dieting, or feeling all righteous about fat and sugar, please don't read any further.
A few years ago, I bought a really nice heavy bundt pan at Sur La Table. This one is just perfect for pound cake. But if you don't have a heavy bundt pan, you can use a regular tube pan. Some people make pound cake in a loaf pan, but I like the outside crust too much.
I've tried many recipes, and my favorite is Miss Edna Lewis', but the directions provided in her collaborative book with Scott Peacock, The Gift of Southern Cooking, are what really helped me turn out a perfect cake every time.
PS Some of my friends across the pond have asked for metric measures. Here you go!
Miss Lewis' Yellow Pound Cake
8 oz excellent unsalted butter, cold, cut in 16 pieces
1-1/3 c (375 g) white sugar
pinch of salt
5 very very fresh large eggs
2c (220 g) flour, sifted
1 T (15 ml) vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
Butter & flour the bundt pan.
Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer and beat on a low speed until it has softened somewhat and is spread around the bowl and has a waxy appearance. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes, until it's fluffy. This can also be accomplished with a good wooden spoon, a bowl, and elbow grease.
Add eggs, one at a time, allowing each one to be completely incorporated before adding the next. After the third egg, add three tablespoons of the flour. This will keep the egg/butter/sugar mixture from separating. Now, add the fourth and fifth eggs, again completely incorporating one before the next is added.
Add the flour in three or four additions and mix until smooth. Do not overmix. (Don't you hate it when a recipe says that? It should look smooth. You can get the all the flour incorporated in the next step.)
Gently stir in the vanilla and lemon juice.
Spoon the batter in big blobs all around the pan. Spread it around with an offset spatula and then give it a light whack on the counter to get out any air bubbles.
Put the cake pan in a COLD oven. (And thank Miss Lewis for this smart idea.) Turn up the heat to 225•F/110•C and set the timer for 20 minutes. Then, raise the temperature to 300•F/150•C for another 20 minutes. Then to 325•F/160•C for the last 20-30 minutes. (Check after 20 minutes by inserting a pick into the cake, which will come out clean when the cake is done.)
Put the cake on a rack for about 5 minutes, then loosen it with a butter knife or offset spatula and turn the cake out onto a rack. Allow it to cool.
Store sliced pound cake in a tin lined in wax paper. It will keep at least 7 days - sometimes even 10.