You don’t have to read much of my stuff to know that I value tradition and love heritage recipes. I woke up with pound cake on my mind today and decided to try my hand at a traditional pound cake that contained a pound of each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar, hence the name pound cake. Because buttermilk is my favorite kitchen resident, I wanted to include it in this most traditional recipe and come up with a Buttermilk Pound Cake.
So, it’s Sunday afternoon. I sneaked in a little nap after church. My husband is on the golf course. Belle the Basset Hound and I are alone. Sounds like the perfect setting for creating.
I weighed out a pound of each of the four ingredients and came up with the following measurements:
4 cups of cake flour
4 sticks of butter
8 large eggs
2 cups of sugar
While I’m not a baker, the ratio of the ingredients seemed out of whack. I found the amount of sugar especially troublesome and I worried that two cups wasn’t enough in comparison to the other ingredients. I look up four bajillion recipes for Pound Cake and convinced myself that I need more sugar. But coming up with the right amount was intimidating me.
Baking is a science that relies on chemistry and patience. I’m okay with the chemistry part but very short on the patience part. Cooking is less precise. If the savory dish I’m cooking isn’t turning out right, I can fix it. Baking is a different world, altogether. All the elements have to fire at right time and in the right direction to produce the desired results. I can learn the chemistry part of baking but you have to deal in absolutes. I’d rather tinker with the unknowns and the liberty that cooking offers.
Considering the cost of the ingredients in my little experiment, I didn’t want to make a big fail if I could help it. So, I called in the heavy hitters and sent my friend Jenni Field from Jenni Field’s Pastry Chef Online a message asking for help.
Jenni and I held a mini science class right on Facebook Messenger. It was awesome because she’s awesome.
After telling her my dilemma and that I wanted to make a traditional pound cake that had a traditional flavor but was beautiful like modern day pound cakes (you know, the ones that are dense, moist and have that beautiful crusty top? Yes, that one!) but I was unsure about the amount of sugar, Miss Jenni held class. She taught me that traditional pound cake were less sweet and more tough than modern pound cakes. Well, phooey! Then, she taught me that a traditional pound cake, without leavening, would be more dense than modern cakes. I told her I was going to whip the stew out of the butter. She said I wouldn’t get aeration because of the ratio of sugar to butter. Well, phooey again! So, I asked about buttermilk. Won’t the acid in buttermilk cause little mini explosions and create some lift. No, said she. There’s too much protein by way of the eggs that will keep everything tied down and bullet proof.
Phooey, phooey and gosh darn it!
She suggested I separate the eggs, add the yolks to the batter and whip the whites to fold in.
Nah….that would cause me to have to drag out my hand mixer, in addiction to my stand mixer, and mess up another bowl.
So, I went to my binder of handwritten recipes, newspaper clippings, magazine clippings, etc. I found a handwritten recipe for Pound Cake. Here’s what it said:
1 cup butter
2 cups flour
6 cups sugar
Mix well. Bake at 325.
Oh, brother! Six cups of sugar?? That can’t be right, either.
Armed with the recent tutelage from Pastry Chef extraordinaire, I put on my big girl’s panties and headed back into my kitchen. I’m ready to take a stab at this.
I prayed that I can make this pound cake blow up with precision.
Well, well. All the studyin’ and frettin’ was worth the battle. The cakes turned out beautiful. They are as moist as they can and have the old-fashioned flavor I wanted. When I first tasted the cakes, the almond flavor was a little more pronounced than I wanted. However, after a couple of days, the flavor mellowed and the taste was stupendous. So, I advise making these a couple of days ahead and store them in an airtight container until your ready to serve.
And that crust. Oh, the crust. Now, the crust didn’t want to stick to the top of the cake very well. That’s something I need to work on. But it certainly makes a good reward for the baker.
After all the studyin’ and frettin’, I didn’t mind the reward at all.
Y’all come see us!
Buttermilk Pound Cake
If using flour other than cake flour, the measure will differ. Weigh out one pound. Have eggs and butter at room temperature. Be sure to grease and flour the pans well.
yield: Two (9 inch) loaf pans or one tube pan
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
4 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature (1 pound or 2 cups)
3 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
4 cups cake flour (1 pound)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Cream the heck out of the room temperature butter and sugar using a stand mixer. Scrap down sides occasionally. Cream until smooth. It will take at least five minutes.
Add room temperature eggs, one at a time. Mix only until the yolks disappear.
Mix in flour and buttermilk, alternating, starting and ending with flour.
Stir in vanilla and almond extracts.
Divide batter among greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 10 minutes.
Loosen the sides with and remove from pan. Let completely cool on a wire rack before slicing.
- Buttermilk Pound Cake
- If using a flour other than cake flour, the measure will differ. Weigh out one pound. Have eggs and butter at room temperature. Be sure to grease and flour the pans well.
- yield: Two (9 inch) loaf pans or one tube pan
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- 4 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature (1 pound or 2 cups)
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 6 eggs, room temperature
- 4 cups cake flour (1 pound)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Cream the heck out of the room temperature butter and sugar using a stand mixer. Scrap down sides occasionally. Cream until smooth. It will take at least five minutes.
- Add room temperature eggs, one at a time. Mix only until the yolks disappear.
- Mix in flour and buttermilk, alternating, starting and ending with flour.
- Stir in vanilla and almond extracts.
- Divide batter among greased and flour loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Cool in pans for 10 minutes.
- Loosen the sides with and remove from pan. Let completely cool on a wire rack before slicing.