Monday, June 2, 2014

Pound Cake

Pound cake might be one of the most boring cakes, I think. It's just a loaf cake with no frills, but its boringness might be its most charming trait. You can eat it with coffee, you can dress it up with a pile of whipped cream and berries, you can toast it in butter - toasted in butter is the my favorite. So, I take it back! I'm sorry pound cake! You are not boring. You are cool.

Pound cake got its name from the ratio of ingredients. It was literally a pound each of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. When you use that quantity though, you end up with a ton four pounds of cake so I reduce the recipe to yield just one mini loaf, which happens to weigh one pound, so we're still on that pound theme, which is pretty cool, right?
By the way, while I was making this cake, all I could think about was an episode of Arthur (the aardvark, formerly an anteater) where he makes a pound cake with his younger sister, D.W. He's reading the recipe and says, "One lub flour. What's a lub?"

Ingredients [yields one mini loaf]:
1 stick of butter (4 oz.)
½ cup sugar (4 oz.)
2 large eggs (4 oz.)
1 cup flour (4 oz.)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
+ mini loaf pan

So I actually weighed all of my ingredients. As you can see, I grabbed 4 oz each of the butter, flour, and sugar. The reason weighing can be helpful is that baking is v. scientific so you want the same amount of ingredients every time you make the same recipe. Volumetric measurements - of dry ingredients - are easily influenced by the humidity in the air, by whether the ingredients was compressed in a package for a long time, by your method of scooping, etc. If you spoon your flour into your measuring cup, you're likely to be measuring a lot more air than if you were to reach into the container of flour and tamp it into the measuring cup - you know what I'm saying?

In most cases, there's really no need to be so incredibly precise. I'd say if you're making macarons, yeah, you should be weighing your ingredients but for this cake, it's not really that important.
So, start by whipping up the room temperature butter in a big bowl with the sugar. Whip until it's lightened in color and the butter is good and fluffy. Then, throw in some salt and an egg and beat until it's combined. Then, add in the second egg and the vanilla extract and whip again. Beating the butter, sugar, and eggs together really well is important because there is no leavening agent used in this recipe, as you may have noticed. The goal during these steps is to get a good amount of air incorporated into the batter so that the pound cake will rise.
Once you've got the wet ingredients together, you can dump in the flour and beat together until it's just combined. Don't overmix because you'll end up with a tough cake. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and ensure that all of the ingredients have been incorporated.
Pour the batter into a greased mini loaf pan (5.5" x 3.5"), give it a little coaxing with the spatula to get a relatively even surface and then pop it into a 350F oven for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Would you look at that beauty? You can see how much the cake has risen and that's all thanks to the air that was whipped into the batter. It's perfect! And I am in love with the rich yellow color. I think it's gorgeous.
Slice up the cake with a serrated knife and serve. I ate these plain, because they're yummy and I felt a bit of nostalgia eating these just as is. When I was a kid, my mom would often buy Entenmann's pound cake (that was the extent of our dessert eating) and this just brought me back. It's soft, kind of dense (in a good way), buttery, sweet, simple, and delicious all on its own. You know, boring style.

But, if you're into jazzing it up, you can certainly plop a big dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream (or cool whip) and some fresh fruit. Or, you can drizzle a glaze on top - just use a bit of powdered sugar and either milk or fruit juice and whisk together. But, like I mentioned above, my favorite suggestion is to cut some thick slices, butter up each side, and chuck them into a hot pan to get good and toasty. The sugar in the cake and the fat from the butter will get caramelized and awesome.
Here's the recipe page:

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