My Pound Cakes - Food for Thought!!
It is thought that pound cakes first appeared in Northern Europe during the early 1700s. The classic recipe featured a pound of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs - hence the name 'pound cake'. Unlike modern versions, it lacked leavening, liquids, and extracts. This resulted in a dense, sweet, and slightly dry cake. Over time, the classic pound cake underwent various modifications and the Southern US is generally credited for developing the dense yet moist and velvety classic we enjoy today.
Pound cake is composed of basic ingredients typically found in a kitchen pantry. Prior to beginning the recipe ensure all ingredients are at room temperature. Utilizing the highest quality ingredients possible will result in a superior pound cake. Farm-fresh eggs, top-notch vanilla extract and butter, sourced from the farmer’s market, can take a typical pound cake recipe to the next level. Now, let’s explore the individual ingredients.
For pound cake, unbleached all-purpose flour is the preferred option, though cake flour will yield a softer crumb. All-purpose flour produces the more traditional, dense, moist crumb sought after in pound cakes. Ensure the correct amount of flour is used by sifting and spooning it into the measuring cup, tapping to eliminate air pockets, and leveling with the back of a knife.
Pound cakes necessitate a substantial quantity of eggs to achieve their dense consistency. Some bakers recommend avoiding fresh eggs as they might not blend as smoothly with the batter, possibly resulting in overmixing. I normally use large eggs of store-bought variety, at room temperature, and I find it works perfectly.
A pound cake's classic flavor and yellow hue is given by butter. For this recipe, I recommend using all butter instead of a combination of butter and butter-flavored shortening. To ensure a successful result, make sure the butter is left out to come to room temperature rather than microwaving it. Note that the butter should be unsalted.
Finely-grained sugar produces a far finer crumbed pound cake, ensuring that there won't be any unsightly flecks of white -- but don't be dissuaded by the generous helping of sweetener; after all, classic pound cake is meant to be a luxurious indulgence.
Milk is not necessary for all pound cake recipes, but I enjoy the extra moisture and tenderness it adds to the batter. You'll find that I often substitute other types of liquids, such as half-and-half, buttermilk, heavy cream, sour cream, mashed bananas, egg nog, or even , to change the flavor of the cake. However, for my classic pound cakes, I opt for whole milk which is best served at room temperature.
Pound cakes are noted for their denseness, and since salt is an essential ingredient for bakery items; it activates the leavening agents, such as baking powder and baking soda. Nonetheless, I like adding a touch of baking powder for an enhanced crumb and appearance. My cake recipes employ both salt and baking powder, as is common in Southern-style pound cakes.
Incorporating vanilla extract is essential when baking pound cakes. Its subtle flavor uplifts the taste, so it is important to choose a quality brand. For an added kick, I learned from my mom to add a hint of pure lemon extract, producing a scrumptious classic pound cake.
Place in a cold oven, on the middle rack and then turn on too 300 °F. Grease a 10-cup bundt cake pan with a thin layer of shortening (I recommend butter-flavored shortening to get a golden crunch and butter flavor) and then lightly coat with flour. Set aside. (For loaf pans, two 9.5 inch pans are needed.) In a bowl, combine sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk well. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together butter until fluffy. Gradually add sugar while mixing at low speed until combined and fluffy. Whip for 3 minutes (set timer). Add eggs one or two at a time, mixing until combined. Continue mixing slow. Alternately fold in flour mixture and whole milk until batter is combined and fluffy. Scrape down bowl. Mix in vanilla & lemon extract. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Shake and tap on counter to even out batter and remove air pockets. Place in middle rack and bake 1 hr 10-20 min until.
Baking in a Cold Oven:
Baking in a cold oven is key to a successful product. The use of baking soda and/or baking powder as leavening agents in baked goods is best done in a cold oven, allowing the gases to be released more slowly for an improved rise. By using a lower oven temperature, the crust of your baked goods will be more delicate and less dense than if baked at a higher heat. Observe the difference in your finished product in the form of a lighter, thinner crust.