Baking 101: Perfect pound cake

Baking 101: Perfect pound cake

One of the easier cakes to make in the pastry kitchen — the pound cake — is not your typical yellow cake.

The recipe is simple since most of the ingredients weigh the same amount. The ratio of 1:1:1:1, includes flour, butter, sugar and eggs. Weighing out ingredients is the most accurate form of measuring possible when it comes to baking, and this recipe emphasizes that, although some recipes can have converted measurements to read in “cups” for the butter, flour and sugar and “each” for the eggs.

But in the end they come out to one pound. Plus there are one or two other ingredients which also have to be included, though they are not in pound weights.

This cake is not to be confused with a standard yellow cake that would be used for a birthday cake or some other assembled layered cake confection. The ratios of ingredients and the ingredients being used differ between a pound cake recipe and a yellow cake recipe.

The texture and taste of a pound cake comes primarily from using butter in the recipe. This is what gives it that deep buttery taste, as well as the dense and moist features. Substituting oil will start to create more of a standard yellow cake, since the rich flavor will go away. Also by using oil, other ingredients will have to be adjusted in order for the cake to properly bake.

Pound cakes are meant to be durable and hold up to heavy fruits, icings or glazes. The best results of a pound cake are achieved when the following ingredients are properly used. The butter should be out a room temperature and warm enough to have your thumb leave a small indent in the surface. Extremely cold butter and/or extremely soft, almost melting butter will not beat properly, which means it will not aerate the batter properly.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, and allow about a minute in between each egg to beat the mixture. Then gently add in the flour and mix it on a slower speed (or by hand).

The modern day version of pound cake has added a leavening agent along with milk. Some recipes have even adapted to using sour cream for more flavor and additional moisture. When using one of those recipes, the baking powder should be mixed with the flour ahead of time instead of being added on its own. This will actually be alternated back and forth with the milk. All of the flour at once will produce a thick mixture, and adding the milk all at once at the end may not allow all of the batter to become smooth again. And finally if using sour cream, that is gently folded in last.

Pour the mixture into a pan that is lined with parchment in the bottom, but do not grease the sides of the pan.

Also, do not over fill the loaf pan. If a loaf pan is filled too high, the cake will rise and the uncooked batter will push toward the center, causing the sides to overcook. This leaves a raw middle and creates a brown top, even thought the overall product is still not finished.

Once the pound cake is finished, remove it from the oven. When the cake springs back from the touch of a fingertip, it is ready to come out to cool. Baked items will often carry over bake. Meaning as they cool in the pan they continue to cook around the edges due to the pan still being extremely hot. This can also contribute to a dry pound cake, or dry any cake.

Remove the pound cake from the pan after it has cooled slightly. And then allow it to continue to cool completely before cutting to serve, or even wrapping it up to freeze. This cake tastes best at a room temperature. However, it will store in the freezer for quite a bit of time.

Glazed, frosted or even with just some powdered sugar, this simple cake can be your next easy and scrumptious dessert with hardly any effort or complication in serving.

Amber Clay is a resident of the Mechanicsburg area. After graduating with her degree from the Culinary Institute of America, her food path started at the Hotel Hershey, continued on with teaching.

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