Monday, October 1, 2012

How to Make Pound Cake: My Go-To Basic

Pound Cake:  Simple, Delicious, Crowd-Pleasing, Versatile.

I was staggered to see that in all the posts we've written and all recipes we've shared, I had not written about my pound cake.   I make these all the time--for snacking, for dessert, as a housewarming treat for new neighbors, to bring to meetings and school events, for shivas and bereavements, as hostess gifts, just because.

I have one friend who was practically wishing someone would die in order to receive a cake.  I assured her that becoming the local Grim Reaper was not necessary and I now keep her well supplied with loaves. This week my husband is traveling to VT with his parents to take them on a fall foliage tour, and I'm sending one of these loaves of golden deliciousness with him.

And as it happens, this recipe makes two loaves, so we'll have one for dessert tonight with honeycrisp apples and some homemade caramel sauce, and I'll send the other up north for my in-laws.

I was pretty sure I knew the origin of the name "pound cake", but I double checked to be sure:  the original pound cake recipes, which are found in cookbooks dating back to 18th Century America and England,  called for a pound of each ingredient:  butter, flour, sugar and eggs.   (Thank you,  That would make a mighty large cake, so today's version may have tweaked the proportions a bit.  But the results are still dense, moist, buttery and wonderful.

Let me first say that many pound cake recipes will insist that you have to sift flour with other dry ingredients, add different things in stages, eggs one at a time, blah, blah, blah.  The beauty of this recipe is that I throw everything in the bowl at once, turn on the mixer, and it's done in a flash.   I will offer one tip on the toss and mix method--this can sometimes result in things slopping out of the bowl onto countertops, floors and blouses.  Ick.  I cover the bowl with a large, clean dishtowel, pull it around the beater, and hold both ends firmly in one hand and the bottom of the towel around the bottom of the bowl on the opposite side.  This way, when things splash around in the process of being blended, they hit the towel and return to the bowl, instead of showering me and my kitchen with flour and egg.

Simply Fantastic Poundcake

2 1/2 sticks butter, softened if possible, if not, zap for 20-30 seconds in microwave
2 3/4 cups sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 eggs
2 tsp vanilla (or more if you like a strong vanilla flavor)
1 cup milk or buttermilk

1.  Heat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
2.  Dump all ingredients in large bowl and mix, starting on low speed and increasing to high as mixture blends. 
3.  Divide batter into pans and bake 55 mins (or more) til cakes are golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.
4.  Cool, remove from pan, and serve or save.  This cake is great as a snack with a cup of tea, for dessert topped with ice cream, melted chocolate or fresh berries, brushed with butter and grilled, then topped with fresh fruit and cream, or cut in cubes and served with fondue.  The possibilities are endless.    Can also be frozen for future use.

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