Monday, June 22, 2009

Pound Cakes Gallore!......

There's nothing like a good Pound Cake, plus it's so versatile you can make it any flavor you prefer: Fruit, Citrus, Chocolate.... you name it and it will always be great!

Heavy, dense cake, moist and full of flavor, what more could you ask for. Makes a great fancy dinner dessert or a picnic feast. Slice and wrap in individual servings and turn it into a special lunch box treat or a beach lunch; freeze it for later and make two (you'll be glad you did) and then you can take it out and use a quick sauce, whipped cream or even frozen berries for a super fast guest offering or maybe a midnight snack.... YUM!

Pound cake refers to a type of cake traditionally made with a pound of each of four ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. However, the quantity is often changed to suit the size of the cake that is desired. As long as the ratio is preserved, the resulting cake will generally be very similar to that using the traditional quantities. Hence, any cake made with a 1:1:1:1 ratio of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar is also called a pound cake, even if the quantity used is smaller or larger than an actual pound.

There are numerous variations on the traditional pound cake, with certain countries and regions having distinctive styles. These can include the addition of flavoring agents, like vanilla or almond extract, or dried fruits of all kinds like raisins, currants, etc. as well as alterations to the original recipe in order to change the characteristics of the resulting pound cake. For example, baking powder, baking soda may be incorporated in order to bring a leavening action during baking, resulting in a less dense pound cake. A cooking oil can also be added or in place of some or all of the butter, which is intended to produce a more moist cake. "Sour cream pound cake" is a popular variation in the States which involves the substitution of sour cream (some people even use mayonnaise) for some of the butter, which also is intended to produce a more moist cake with a pleasantly tangy flavor. Some of these variations may drastically change the texture and flavor of the pound cake, but the name pound cake is often still used.

In the US, most notably in the South, they are a staple and often contain more butter (thought to make them lighter... yeah, right!), in the UK, they are often used as Fruit Cakes known to be super heavy (and if you used the British weight equivalents it would account for this) plus if you add all the dried fruit, nuts and more, well... you know what this would give you, and for the most part US tastes do not take too well to these heavier versions. In France the "four quarters" cake is popular, especially in Brittany known for their excellent dairy items and they use lemon or chocolate as additions (leave it to the French to "kick it up a notch"....), the in Mexico, we call it "panque"... and we use a more alike recipe to the US version while adding raisins, nuts, rum and other liquors and frostings made from a glaze; same can be said for the Colombian version called "ponque" (pound cake badly spelled I guess..) which is similar to the Mexican version.

I'll post several versions of this most versatile cake, hope you will try at least one and I'm sure you will remember how great these can be... I'm always surprised how fast a Pound Cake dissappears at my house (after being called and "Old Lady each and every time.... you'll see....

Lovely vanilla flavor, very moist
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco kind)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to mixer alternately with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix in vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE - What a lovely variation and sour cream adds richness on top!

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the sour cream and mix until incorporated. Sift the baking soda and flour together. Add to the creamed mixture alternating with eggs, beating in each egg 1 at a time. Add vanilla.

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake for 40 min to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

VANILLA POUND CAKE - The best basic recipe for anything you can think of, thick, heavy, rich, moist....

6 eggs
1 cup cold unsalted butter, (8 oz), cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1 8-oz pkg. cold cream cheese, cut in 1- inch pieces

2 3/4 cups sugar 1 tsp salt
2½ cups plus 2 tbl all-purpose flour

Let eggs stand at room temperature about 30 min or until they are room temperature (no more than two hours). Generously butter and lightly flour two 8×4×2" loaf pans or one 10" tube pan.

Mix cold butter about 2 min on low speed, occasionally raising to moderately high speed for 5 seconds to dislodge butter from paddle on your mixer. Add cream cheese. Beat on low speed 3 min with occasional short bursts on high speed to dislodge mixture from paddle. Beat butter and cream cheese mixture until waxy and well-blended. Still mixing on low, add the sugar in a slow continuous stream. (This should take 1½ to 2 minutes). Add salt. Continue creaming butter and cream cheese mixture for 5 min, scraping sides and bottom of bowl once halfway through.

Increase speed to medium; continue mixing 2 min more, scraping once. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 20 to 30 seconds after each addition or just until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next egg. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl after first three eggs. Beat in vanilla with the last egg. Gradually add about 2½ cups of the flour on low speed, mixing until just blended (This should take about 1 to 1½ min). Turn off mixer. Fold in remaining flour by hand with a rubber spatula, just until combined.

Turn batter into prepared pans. Shake pans gently to distribute batter. Run a spatula in zigzag pattern through batter. Drop filled pans from a height of about 6 " onto kitchen counter to dislodge any large air pockets.Place on center rack of cold oven. Turn oven setting to 300° F. Bake for 1 hour 15 min to 1 1/2 hours without opening oven door for the first 1 hour and 15 min. (Bake 1 hour 45 min for tube pan.) Test for doneness by carefully inserting a cake tester in center of cake.Transfer to cooling rack. Cool for 10 min before removing from pans. Cool completely before serving.

Note: I use this cake as a base and then add my special touches: Once cooled you can Slice the cake lengthwise twice (so you have 3 cake sections) and you can make some Pastry Cream, Whipped Cream, Vanilla (or other flavor) pudding, Lemon Curd, Cake Icing or use your favorite fresh fruits, put in a pan with a little water and 1 cup of sugar and boil until thick and makes a syrup (you can use blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, pears, apples, etc.) and put some cream (see above) and lay some of the fruit on top of the cream. Put a slice of cake on top of this, repeat the cream and fruit additions, lay another piece of cake and finish of the same with some whipped cream topping the whole thing off and some slivered, toasted almonds. Great!

You can also make a couple of these and keep them frozen just in case..... it's also great lightly toasted with some cream cheese or plain is pretty great too.You can also take a slice, cut in two and put it in a cup or glass and top off with ice cream and fruit compote, top with whipped cream. Maybe put some Amaretto, Kahlua or ?

2 sticks butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup lemon zest (8 lemons, more or less)
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk (or some heavy cream with 1 tbl vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
some mint leaves (for garnish)
very thin lemon rinds or very thin lemon slice (for garnish)
For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
3 1/2 tbl fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
Cream the butter and 2 cups sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Slowly add eggs, 1 by 1, and lemon zest.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add some flour mix to the egg sugar mix, blend, then put some of the milk, lemon mix, blend more, then more flour and so on until done and well mixed. Divide the batter between the pans. Bake for 45 min to 1 hour, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean and you know the cakes are done.
Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup of the lemon juice in a saucepan and bring together over low heat, make sure sugar dissolves and you get a nice mix. Cool cakes for 10 min or so and take out of the pans. Put on a wire rack or somewhere because you are going to make small holes on the top of the cakes, (you can use a skewer, bamboo stick or even a thin knife) and you will pour a little lemon syrup into the holes so the syrup soaks into the cakes. The cakes should cool completely.
Now you make the finishing glaze by combining the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and mixing it real well with a whisk until you’re sure it doesn’t have any lumps. It should be nice and smooth so it will look lovely. Pour the glaze over the top of the cakes so it drips down the sides. You can top with some mint leaves and very thin strips of candied lemon peel or a very thin slice of lemon.
I have also substituted orange juice, zest and rinds for the lemon ingredients and it was great too. In Yucatan I used their famous sour oranges and it makes a wonderful lemon-orange mix too. I could also see grapefruit flavor being used or any other citrus you prefer.

Hope you try some or all of these.... they'll become part of your family recipes I'm sure... my family loves them all....

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