Pound Cake, Interrupted

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Pound cake is practically my favorite food. It’s right up there with Lebanese favorites like tabbouleh and kibbey nayye and right up there with my favorite dessert, the Panera Bread cinnamon roll. But not all pound cakes qualify: I like slices of large ring pound cake in the style carried by Ingles grocery store in Greenville, South Carolina.

As I’ve moved from city to city, I found substitutes – the Kroger ring pound cake in Atlanta and the Safeway ring pound cake in the Bay Area. For a while, however, Safeway stopped carrying this item, so I started baking my own pound cakes for my evening ritual: two slices of pound cake, one glass of milk, and a book, just before bed.

Someone asked me about a good pound cake recipe, but as it turns out I haven’t made pound cake in a while as (a) my oven failed just before (b) Safeway began selling ring pound cakes again right around the time (c) my first novel got published, at which point writing sucked up the time I spent on other hobbies.

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Wow. That last bit is really true: I just don’t have as much time for karate or cooking or anything else because I gotta write, not just for enjoyment but because people want to read my stuff. But (b) is the controlling factor, because I gotta have pound cake, and I could make time if I had to since I have a doorway to extra time.

But I can share the recipes that I was working on before the oven failure. The following is a “ring pound cake” that was my most recent success that didn’t involve Splenda, which I’d been experimenting with, off and on, to try to reduce the calorie count of my cakes. What follows, however, is (nearly) pure butter sugar flour eggs joy:

  • May 18, 2009: Experiment: Six Egg, Three Butter Stick Pound Cake: SUCCESS
    New recipe, not as sweet as last time but structurally better.

    • Recipe: Interpolated between “Butter Sugar Flour Eggs” and “I’m Just Here for More Food” by Alton Brown
      • Three and a half cups of allpurpose flour
      • Six large eggs
      • Two and one eighth cups of sugar
      • Three-quarters pound of butter
      • One half teaspoon of salt
      • One half teaspoon of baking powder
      • One teaspoon of vanilla
    • Preparation Tricks:
      • Used a deep bowl big enough to handle all batter, which speed up mixing and made things cleaner.
      • Let butter sit as long as it takes to soften on its own, or you won’t be able to make it fluff.
      • Beat butter to a whip before adding sugar, one cup at a time
      • Beat egg yolks, egg whites and vanilla together for mixing into creamed butter.
      • Sift non-sugar dry goods (salt, baking powder, flour) together 3 times.
      • Alternate adding dry goods and buttermilk to the batter.
      • Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes.
      • Rack cool for at least 15 minutes.
    • Texture: smoother, heavier, close to what it ought to be, a little flakier this time
    • Flavor: sweet but not too sweet, smooth
    • Crust: decent texture, now darker with +2 minutes to cooking time
    • Structure: firm, though still has a slight ridge developed when cooling in the pan
    • Comments: People preferred the flavor last time, the structure this time.

pound cake 2.0

My previous best recipe is similar. I adapted one from “I’m Just Here for More Food” by Alton Brown, a chef well known for his excellent, scientifically-based cooking. After cross-referencing against the Joy of Cooking, I felt safe leaving out the vanilla on the suspicion that last time’s funny flavor wasn’t just the Splenda but my fairly old vanilla flavoring (which I found was labeled “bourbon vanilla” which made me even more suspicious.) This left the recipe:

  • Three cups of allpurpose flour
  • Three large eggs
  • Two cups of sugar
  • One cup of buttermilk
  • One half pound of butter
  • One half teaspoon of salt
  • One half teaspoon of baking powder

Preparation involved a $25 handheld motorized mixer from Fry’s
Electronics
. Also I used a few tricks:

  • Use a motorized mixer (handheld or standup)
  • Allow butter to warm to room temperature by itself – no heating in the microwave
  • Mix the butter and sugar and blend until fluffy with no sugar grains visible in the mix
  • Beat egg yolks and whites together and mix with butter and sugar blend in 3 batches
  • Sift all the dry goods (salt, baking powder, flour) together 3 times
  • Alternate adding the dry goods and buttermilk to the mix
  • Carefully flour the pan to prevent sticking.

The oven was preheated to 325, baking was 1 hour, and the cake was allowed to sit a bit before being taken out of the pan.

Results: Yum. The texture was light and flaky, on the edge of being too flaky. The flavor was good, though slightly bland – it could have used more vanilla. The crust had a good texture, but it could have been a bit darker.

See my blogpost for more details. These are the last things I have records of trying.

Maybe it’s time to try again.

-the Centaur

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