I really love pound cake and have made a zillion over the years. They all basically call for the same ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and either vanilla or some other extract. Why then, are some pound cakes so much better than others. I have often pondered this question. Well, maybe I haven't exactly pondered but I have thought about it.
Anyway, if all the ingredients are pretty much the same from one recipe to another, then what makes a really superior pound cake must be the method used to prepare it. Then again how much technique is actually involved in creaming butter and sugar?
Well, more than I thought as it turns out. I was flipping through the April/May edition of Fine Cooking Magazine and I came across an article and recipe for classic pound cake. It turns out that the key to perfect pound cake is all in the technique.
Now I have to warn you, making this cake is a multi-step process but the results are well worth the effort. There's a lot of whipping, creaming and very slowly adding ingredients. It takes a little time to do this the right way. I didn't say it was easy, I just said this recipe makes the best pound cake you will ever eat.
The end result is a pound cake with a perfect crumb, dense texture, and not too sweet taste. Not only is it good on its own, you can pair it with berries or ice cream or even use it to make a trifle.
I have to tell you, I am sold. This recipe is now going to be my "official" pound cake recipe. I had my friend Kay act as my official taste tester, and she agreed that it was absolutely delicious. Next time I make this recipe I may add an extract other than vanilla just to shake things up. But one thing I know for sure is that it's all in the technique.
Recipe: Classic Pound Cake
(Fine Cooking, April/May, 2011)
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, slightly firm, plus 1 tablespoon softened
8 ounces (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon table salt
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 3/4 ounces (1 1/4 cups) superfine sugar
Nonstick cooking spray
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325F. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly coat an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4 loaf pan with the 1 tablespoon of softened butter. Line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk thoroughly.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until thickened and lightened in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl and set aside. Clean the bowl of the stand mixer and fit it with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and mix 1 minute longer. Add the sugar 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, taking about 4 minutes to add it all and scraping the bowl as needed.
Still on medium-low speed, slowly add half of the beaten eggs, taking about 2 minutes to add them. Scrape the bowl as needed and beat for 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the remaining eggs (divide the flour into 3 parts and the eggs into 2 parts), mixing just until each addition is incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beat on medium low for 10 seconds more.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the back of a large soup spoon, making sure the reach well into the corners. Bang the pan on the counter to remove any air pockets.
Bake the cake until the top is golden brown, and the sides begin to pull away from the pan, and a think wooden skewer inserted slightly off center into the cake comes out clean, 1 hour and 20 to 25 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of baking, lightly spray a 12-inch strip of aluminum foil with cooking spray and rest it loosely on top of the cake. Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
To serve, dust the top with confectioner's sugar.