Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Classic Pound Cake

A classic dense, yet soft, pound cake is one I've always loved. I remember my mother would bake it for us, and it would be fresh and warm when we got home from school. And then the bakery across the street baked an excellent pound cake, which she would buy for us instead. Dédé Wilson, the author of this recipe, says that this freezes well too. Double wrap it in plastic wrap, put it in a zip lock, squeeze the air out, and freeze it. I have some in my freezer, and will pull a slice out tomorrow and spread some chocolate-hazelnut spread on it for breakfast. Decadent and delicious!

When it comes to baking I'm a stickler about measurements, temperatures, and also equipment. Read the entire recipe first, then read it again to make sure that you didn't miss anything out, and then follow the recipe when you bake it. There is nothing worse than starting the mixing process when you realize that you missed a step or an ingredient is too cold and it's ruining your batter. 

One of the most important steps in this recipe is creaming the butter. The recipe asks for the butter to be creamed for about 2 minutes, and that is about right, but if you look at it, and it isn't creamed or fluffy enough, then give it another minute or so. Similarly for when you add the sugar, beat it more if it isn't fluffy enough. 
After the creaming stage, don't over beat anything. In fact, stop when you think that maybe it needs one last beat. The last phase will ask you to fold in the flour, at which you can make sure that it is all incorporated. Gently and lovingly, fold in the flour, to ensure that all the lightness to the batter that has been created with the creaming isn't lost. 

Recipe courtesy: Dédé Wilson
Yield: Serves 10

1 2/3 cups (173g) sifted bleached cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (266g) superfine sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature


  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325F (165C). Coat an 8-by-4-inch (20-by-10cm) metal loaf pan with nonstick baking spray (the kind with the fat and flour, such as Baker’s Joy). Line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper that extends up and out of the narrow sides of the pan; coat the paper as well.
  2. Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. 
  3. Whisk the eggs together in a large measuring cup, or whisk in a bowl and transfer to a pitcher with a spout, set aside. 
  4. Beat the butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. 
  5. Gradually add the sugar, 1/4 cup (50g) at a time (you can do this by eye) and beat on high speed until the mixture has lightened and is very fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Do not rush this step. The mixture should be room temperature at this point. Turn off the mixer and touch the mixture to check. Keep beating if it is cool to the touch. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. Add the eggs about 1 tablespoon at a time (you can do this by eye), beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl occasionally. Once all the eggs are added, beat the mixture for about 30 seconds to make sure it is thoroughly combined. It should be smooth and satiny. If it looks curdled or separated in any way, the mixture is still too cold. Let it sit to warm up a bit and beat again, looking for the visual cues described above.
  7. Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the batter (removing the bowl from the stand mixer, if using), and fold in gently with a large silicone spatula. Stop when a few streaks of flour remain, then add the next batch of flour mixture and continue until all has been added. Make sure all the flour mixture has been incorporated into the batter to create a thick and smooth homogenous batter. Scrape the batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with a small offset spatula.
  8. Bake until a wooden toothpick or bamboo skewer inserted into the cake just tests clean when removed, 70 minutes to 80 minutes. The toothpick should look a bit moist and not bone-dry. Halfway through the baking, rotate the pan once front to back. The timing will depend on the temperature of your ingredients when the cake went into the oven. Cool the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then unfold the cake, peel away the parchment, place the cake upright, and cool completely. Store the cake, well wrapped with plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 4 days. Cake texture is best, and it slices most neatly after an overnights rest.

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