Tag Archives: cake

You Know It’s True: Every Pound Cake I Bake, I Bake It For You

11 Mar

Okay, I might be the only game in town that revisits the humble pound cake on a regular basis.  But, you’ll thank me.  Honest.  Soon, all of you I Don’t Bake people will be riffing on the basic pound cake and coming up with All Manner of Variations because I refuse to let the subject go.  You’re welcome.

So, here’s how this most recent pound cake came about.  You guys heard about my lovely Auntie Ev, right?  Well, she passed away last Thursday morning, and The Beloved and I went to Pinehurst to meet her son, clean up the house and deal with Funeral Arrangements and such.  Then, their son Ken came and stayed with us Saturday evening before driving back home to Virginia.

This posed a bit of a problem:  what to feed Cousin Ken.  We had some leftover baked rigatoni-type stuff I had made a couple of days before and also 2 bunches of lovely asparagus, so along with a loaf of Italian bread, that took care of dinner.  But I felt that we needed a dessert to round out the meal.  Plus, desserts are comforting when people are sad, and we were all a little sad.  Not so much for Auntie Ev who really wasn’t living any kind of life at the end, but for Uncle Ray who was left behind.  And for ourselves a bit because now everything has changed.  Anyway, I looked in the fridge and in the cabinets to make sure I had enough of the Right Ingredients to make a version of Van Halen Pound Cake.  And guess what?  I did.

Remember the base recipe:

  • 20 oz. sugar
  • 12 oz. butter
  • 5 large eggs
  • 13 oz. cake flour
  • 10 oz. dairy/liquid
  • leavening, salt, extracts, zests, etc of your choice

And this is how I changed it up.  I’ll tell you what I call it in just a minute.

  • 20 oz. sugar
  • 12 oz. butter
  • zest of two oranges
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 teaspoons of Cointreau (just for fun)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 13 oz. cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (added to balance the acidic sour cream and OJ concentrate)
  • a little more than 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 4 oz. sour cream

I used The Creaming Method, as it is the Preferred Method for mixing pound cake.  I creamed together the butter, sugar, zest, extracts and Cointreau.

I added the eggs one at a time.

I whisked together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

I added them alternately with the OJ concentrate and then the sour cream.

Of course, there was plenty of Bowl Scraping as well.

Once all of your ingredients have been incorporated and the batter is thick and fluffy and smooth, scrape it into a sprayed and floured Bundt pan and bake at 325F until it’s done.  In my oven, it took an hour and ten minutes.

This cake is extremely moist and somewhat dense due to the extra sugar in the orange juice concentrate.  You could certainly cut back the granulated sugar to 17-18 ounces to keep things balanced.  The cake will rise a bit higher and have a more even crumb.  The Up Side of keeping the sugar at 20 oz. despite the OJ concentrate is that the cake is very moist and keeps well for at least a week.  That’s good news if you’re baking for only a couple of folks.  No one likes dry pound cake, and this is certainly not dry.

We loved it.  Ken loved it and took some home to his wife.  His wife Candace loved it, too.  I talked to her on the phone the other day, and she said that her usual prerequisites for Loving a Cake are that 1)it be chocolate and 2)it have frosting.  This cake was Unchocolate and Naked, and she still loved it.  High praise, indeed.

For those of you who have been following along with the Saga of the Van Halen Pound Cake, do you see how I changed things up?  And you can do the same thing.  Play with different seasonings, spices, herbs, fats, dairy, sugar, glazes, etc.  Just stick to the basic Recipe Scaffold (I just made that up), and you’ll always end up with an edible cake, even if you don’t Love It.  And how can that be wrong?

Besides, you will eventually come up with Your Perfect Pound Cake.  Make sure you write down the ingredients and amounts for all your attempts, and behold, you’re creating Original Recipes, and you’re not even Colonel Sanders!

Do try this particular cake toasted for breakfast.  After all, it contains eggs, orange juice and dairy.  Sounds like breakfast to me.

Oh, I call this guy the Anita Bryant Sunshine Pound Cake.  I don’t agree with her politics, but I will always associate her with orange juice.

My Very Own Mixing Method: Dead Easy PMAT Method

8 Jun
Using a scale to weigh your ingredients makes life So Much Easier.

Using a scale to weigh your ingredients makes life So Much Easier.

I think I may have discovered a new and easy mixing method, friends.  As Spelled Out in the title up there, I’m calling it Dead Easy PMAT Method.  You could call it DEPMAT, I guess, although that sounds kind of like some Governmental Agency that is headquartered Deep Underground in Nevada.  Credit where credit is due:  it is based on the Two-Stage Mixing Method, popularized by Queen Rose Levy Beranbaum.  If you’ve not been to her blog, go there.  She is, arguably, one of the most accessible of the Big Dog Bakers out there.

Anyway, this came about during the Wedding Cake Extravaganza.  I had to bake a billion (ten) cake layers and just couldn’t be bothered with all the mix-the-eggs-with-1/4-of-the-milk goings on, so here’s what I did:

  1. In the bowl of your trusty stand mixer, whisk all the dry ingredients (flour, leaveners, salt, sugar, cocoa [if making chocolate cake], any dry spices) together Very Very Well.
  2. Whisk all of the wet ingredients (eggs, milk/water/coffee/whatever, vanilla, other liquid flavorings) together in a large pitcher.  Whisk them really well so the eggs don’t just hang out down at the bottom of the pitcher.
  3. Make sure your butter coolish and soft-but-not-greasy.
  4. Throw the butter in with the dry ingredients and mix until Somewhat Crumbly.  This gives you the tender portion of your cake–coating a lot of the flour with straight-up fat will prohibit Undue Gluten Formation.  You actually have a little room to play here.  More mixing at the stage will give you a Very Tender Cake.  If you want to maintain structural integrity, mix until butter is well incorporated but the mixture hasn’t gotten clumpy and cookie dough-looking.
  5. Pour in 1/3 of the wet ingredients.  Start on low, and then mix and mix on medium for about 1 minute.  Scrape bowl as necessary.  The addition of the liquid (milk/water/whatever) in addition to the water in the egg whites and Serious Agitation allows for some gluten to form, making sure your cake doesn’t Fall Apart from Too Much Tenderness.
  6. Add the next 1/3 on low and mix until just blended.  Ditto with the last 1/3.  Scrape the bowl, then crank the mixer up to medium for about 3 seconds to make sure everything is Homogeneous.

Although it looks like six steps, I don’t count the measuring part, so it’s really just three steps, like this:

  1. Mix in the butter.
  2. Mix in 1/3 of the wet and beat for a minute or so.
  3. Mix in the rest of the wet in two additions.

Oh, I measured all the dry ingredients into my mixer bowl by standing the bowl on my trusty scale and hitting tare (zeroing out) in between each measurement.  I did the same for the wet ingredients.  Seriously, if you aren’t weighing your ingredients, just do it.  It’s so much easier than all that spooning and scraping and rustling-about-in-the-gadget-drawer-to-find-the-2/3-cup-measure Nonsense.  I’m just saying…

By the way, Rose’s chocolate cake mixing method has you boiling water and stirring in cocoa and cooling it and Futzing About.  I’ve done it that way, and I’ve done it my easy way.  Results?  Pretty much identical.  So, if you’re wondering if you really have to Boil Water and Stir and Wait when really all you want to do is to put cake in your face, the answer is No, you don’t.  You’re welcome.

Should I have experimented with an Unknown (to me, anyway) mixing method while making a wedding cake?  I say Yes, since I had Science to back me up.  I wasn’t just shooting in the dark, so I felt confident that I would get the results I was aiming for.  And I did, so yay me.  And now I’m telling you guys, so Yay Everyone!

Trifle: The Soup of the Pastry Kitchen

9 Dec
Don't be intimidated--it's only a trifle.

Don't be intimidated--it's only a trifle.

Just as soup is a tasty way to use up leftovers from the fridge, trifle is a way to use up odds and ends of leftover cake.  Yes, they write recipes for it as long as your arm.  Yes, they sell special trifle bowls and make it sound all scary and official, but I’m telling you, trifle is no big deal.  As a matter of fact, the definition of the non-dessert trifle is “something of little importance.”

This is how I think the dish got its start.

Disclaimer:  The following has no real basis in fact, so don’t fact check.  You’ll just be wasting your time.

A thrifty British housewife had some dry, leftover cake lying around the house.  Being thrifty (like I said), she didn’t want to waste it.  Being a creative housewife who had a bit of a reputation to uphold, she decided to use it as the base of a dessert.  Here’s what our heroine had in her kitchen:  sugar, cream, leftover jam from tea a week ago Tuesday, eggs and alcohol.  So, here’s what she did:  She soaked the cake in alcohol (I believe she used cream sherry), dolloped on some raspberry jam, whipped up a custard to pour on top and then topped the whole concoction with whipped cream.  She stood back and scrutinized her creation.  Realizing it, perhaps, left something to be desired in the way of refinement, she served it in cute little footed glass bowls for dinner the next evening, and the rest is history.

And that’s honestly all there is to trifle.  Make a cake.  Or use leftover cake.  Cube it up.  Soak it in tasty alcohol (or simple syrup with some alcohol in it).  Add some fresh or frozen fruit or some jam.  Make some pudding (homemade, please.  Chocolate or vanilla is fine).   Top it off with whipped cream (or creme fraiche, if you’re feeling saucy).

My absolute favorite trifle:  lemon sponge cake soaked in cream sherry.  Dollops of raspberry jam.  Vanilla pastry cream/pudding.  Whipped cream.

Other options:  chocolate cake soaked with Chambord.  Lightly sweetened raspberries.  Chocolate pastry cream.  Creme fraiche.

Pound cake soaked with Grand Marnier.  Mandarin oranges.  Vanilla pastry cream.  Whipped cream.

Sprinkle your trifle with candied or toasted nuts.  Or shaved chocolate.  Or broken up toffee.  Have a ball–it’s only trifle, and it’s as good as you want it to be.  You are all creative people.  Now, go make some trifle.

But wait–we have questions!!  Can I use lady fingers? Of course you can.  What about brownies? Use any cake-like substance you want.  But I hate pudding! Fine, make mascarpone cream.   I have some poached pears lying around.  Can I use them? Yes.  Any other questions, please just leave them in the comments section.  I’ve got to go.  Sheesh….

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