This is the second of four poundcake-centric posts. Poundcake and the usual: life, death, love. This is also the one with the actual recipe.
If a poundcake recipe is so good that Maurice Sendak (see related post) is willing to give you the rights to quote of anything he wrote, in perpetuity, why, even if thirty years had passed since you first codified it and you had made it many times since, though not in the past decade or so, why would you need to re-test and rewrite it?
Because the original recipe, which appeared in my 1982 Dairy Hollow House Cookbook, is, it pains me to say, dated.
Though I prefer the narrative style of recipe-writing in DHHCB, nowhere (except in the stubborn old Joy of Cooking) is it still used. Instead, I’ve long since bowed to contemporary style: begin recipes with ingredient list, follow with numbered procedural steps.
Too, I use different pan sizes now. There’s now a much wider range available loaf pan sizes, in a variety of materials (including second or third generation non-stick coatings). Making this cake in an array of smaller sized pans solves the tendency of large-loaf poundcakes to crack and be slightly underdone in the middle. Though this means you are pulling out pans at different times (the smaller the pan, the more quickly it’s done), plus you have mini-cakes perfect to gift.
Besides the new options in materials, the details of pans in baking are something I have learned more and more about in the intervening years as, I hope, I have become a more knowledgeable and better cook. This is just one of the ways I write a more thorough recipe now than then.
A last note: while poundcake never will, can, or should be a “light” recipe, the untraditional cup of sour cream I once added; has morphed into Greek yogurt; every bit as good, nominally less caloric.
Too, so many people avoid gluten these days, since I was retesting and rewriting I felt called on to experiment with a gluten-free variation (it will follow, in a separate post).
Sour Cream Poundcake, Redux
Makes 25 to 30 slices (see Yield and Pan Notes, below, for options in loaf-pan sizes and baking times)
1 ½ cups (3/4 pound) salted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted unbleached white flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
spray oil, additional flour and sugar (if using conventional, not non-stick, loaf pans)
1. Preheat oven to 300. If you are using contemporary unscratched non-stick-coated pans, continue. If you are using older pans, see Pan Preparation, in Yield and Pan Notes, below, and prepare pans now accordingly.
2. Using stand or handheld mixer, beat butter until smooth and fluffy. Gradually, ½ cup at a time, beat in sugar, until all is light-textured and even fluffier. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Set aside.
3. Combine and sift together the flour (which you’ve already sifted once), salt and baking soda.
4. Back at the butter-sugar-egg-mixture, use a wooden spoon to stir in a third of the flour mixture, then, when you can no longer see any flour, a third of the Greek yogurt. Repeat two more times, until the flour and yogurt are thoroughly incorporated, no little visible trails unstirred.
5. Scrape the batter into prepared pans (see Pan Notes, below). Fill each pan no higher than 2/3 of the way. Bang filled pans on the table or counter a few times to slightly level the batter. Transfer the pans to the oven.
6. Bake, keeping an attentive eye on the cakes as per the following baking time ranges:
o For mini (1 cup) loaves: bake about 50-55 minutes
o For “petite” (2 cup) loaves: bale about 65-70 minutes
o For medium ( 3 1/2 cups) bake about
As the cakes approach doneness, the house will become deliciously fragrant and the loaves deep gold at the edges, paler gold on their mounded tops. Test for doneness with a toothpick; do this in the thickest part of the mound. It’s easy to have poundcakes that are underdone in the middle, because their inherent thickness is uneven.
7. Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 10 minutes, then reverse onto a rack to cool all the way through.
This poundcake is pure vanilla, all American, a great supportive base for ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt, fresh fruit, and it’s a classic, and civilized perfection with afternoon tea, . You can alter it easily, however. Besides the obvious lily-guilding of a handful of dried cherries, cranberries, dried apricots, or raisins, or the ever-popular chocolate chips (overkill here,in my view), here are a few more:
Anise Poundcake: Stir in 2 tablespoons anize-seeds with the last of the yogurt. I find this hauntingly good.
Rosemary Poundcake: Stir in 2 tablespoons rosemary needles — all tough stems stripped, finely chopped — with the last of the yogurt.
Ginger Poundcake: stir in 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger with the vanilla, then add 1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger with the last addition of the yogurt.
British Seedcake: Very Downton Abbey. Instead of vanilla, add the finely grated zest of 2 oranges, and then, with the last of the yogurt, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds. James Beard called this flavor”quite addictive.”
Praline Poundcake: Substitute 2 cups of brown sugar for 2 cups of white, beating in as above. Toast, separately 1 to 1 1/2 cups pecans, then cool them. Chop them coarsely, and stir in with the last of the yogurt.
Yield & Pan Notes:
Yield: this recipe makes altogether :
6 extra-small mini-loaves (pans, such as Wilton makes, 2 ½ in X 1 ¼ in X 3 ¾ in, 1 cup capacity per pan) PLUS 1 small “petite” loaf (pans, such as Baker’s Secret makes, 5-1/2 inch x 3 inch x 1 ¾ inch — my measurements with a tape; the Baker’s Secret label says 5.72 inches by 3.12 inches by 2.08 inches — one must ask, “Seriously? .72?” — but I digress; in any case, with 2 cup capacity) PLUS 1 medium loaf (such as Baker’s Secret makes; 8 inches X 4 inches X 2 ¼ inches, with a 3 ½ cup capacity).
If you don’t have this assortment of pans, just use whatever small and medium sized loaf pans you have, keeping a watchful eye on their baking time, as per the guidelines in step 6, above.
If you’re not sure what size the pans are, well, forgive me for stating the obvious: get out your tape measure. Besides measuring by inches, you can measure by volume: fill the loaf pan (not yet prepared for baking!) up to the the edge with water, farther than you would dream of filling it with batter. Pour the water from the pan into a measuring cup. The number of cups equal the capacity – that’s how you check the capacity as cited above.
o Pan Preparation: if using traditional loaf pans (not coated with non-stick coating), prepare them as follows. Combine 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour with an equal amount of sugar; set aside. Spray each pan thoroughly with unflavored non-stick oil coating, such as Spectrum canola. Spoon in a little of the flour-sugar mixture and toss it around, so that all the sprayed surfaces — the entire inside of the pan — is coated. Turn the oiled, flour-and-sugared pan upside down over the sink and rap it a few times to remove any excess.
o Pan Materials
If you have oven-proof glass or ceramic loaf pans, avoid them for poundcake: they transfer heat more quickly than metal (which deflects it), shortening baking time, which can cause the one sometimes-pernicious poundcake problem — undercooked at the center, overcooked at the edges — to be more likely.
Metal pans: Loaf pans may be dark metal, shiny metal, or coated metal. Here is more than you want to know about them (but should know, especially if you are going to buy pans, used or new. Dull or dark-colored metals absorb more radiant heat than the more reflective shiny ones. If you use shiny pans, expect the baking time to be a bit longer. Also, be sure to scour shinies well, so that their shininess is consistent. Otherwise, batter that touches any dark splotches on an otherwise shiny pan htends to get overdone or even burn before the rest of the batter is full baked.
Medium-to-heavy gauge dull or dark metal loaf pans are excellent, but contemporary, sturdy non-stick loaf pans, of medium-heavy gauge aluminum — a deep medium slate gray, not the old black teflon (throw out any of the old Teflons) — are the best. Heavy aluminum, if coated, conducts heat beautifully. But the flimsy, give-away / throw-away disposable aluminum loaf pans? Ix-nay for bread- or loaf-cake baking, unless you want a burnt bottom.
One last interesting point on metal pans: when heated, metal expands making for easier removal of loaves or cakes (as long as said pans are non-stick or have been properly prepped.