Let’s go back to the basics.
The history of pound cake dates back to the early 17th Century in England, however only rose to stardom a hundred years later when the recipe was divulged in most American and English cookery books. Pound cake almost inevitably conjures up the notion of a rich, dense, moist, buttery yet light cake, perfect for a teatime treat.
Getting to grips with the ingredients…
As the name suggests it, pound cakes are prepared with 1 pound of eggs, flour sugar and butter biensûr! It is a great starting point to learn the basics of patisserie. The ingredients are so simple, n’est-ce pas? The fate of your pound cake therefore lies in your mixing technique. Unlike sponge cakes, that are light and fluffy, we should be ever so grateful to butter for giving pound cakes their rich and dense quality. Too much butter is a no-no as it results in a heavy and solid pound cake, which is definitely not what you’re after. And so, the obvious question prevails: how can you capture the rich, dense and moist flavour while preserving the light texture of the pound cake? The answer is hidden in the recipe below. Notice how we are balancing 3 whole eggs with 3 egg yolks. The eggs are incorporated ever so gradually in the mixture and the additional 3 egg yolks are key to creating an emulsion to help retain the moisture and air in the mixture. All your ingredients must be at room temperature or else if they are too cold, the air in the mixture will disappear into outer space.
What I love about pound cake is that it can be as plain or as versatile as you’d like! The original pound cakes were baked with dried and candied fruits, nuts and spices. I enclose below the recipe of an absolutely delicious vanilla pound cake to start you guys off. Use it as your base to explore further creative options. How about Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake, Walnut and Raisin Pound Cake or perhaps go for the wild card: Basil and Tarragon Pound Cake and Lavender Honey Pound Cake?
I chose to bake a Vanilla Butter Pound Cake, served with homemade strawberry and rosewater sorbet. Why don’t you guys try to serve it with a dollop of lavender cream or fresh berries to balance out the sweetness of the cake.
Onto the recipe…
Here’s what you’ll need, using an 8 x 4 inches (20 x 10 cm) loaf pan. Don’t forget that all ingredients should be kept at room temperature.
- 3 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean, cut lengthways (scrape the beans)
- 1 tsp water
- 1/2 pound (227g) butter
- 1/2 pound (227g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 7 ounces (200g) light white flour, sifted
- Melted butter for the loaf pan
- Baking paper to line the loaf pan
Start by brushing melted butter on the inside of the loaf pan and line the loaf pan with baking paper to avoid the cake sticking to the pan. Set aside.
Place the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla beans, vanilla extract and water in a bowl. Break up the eggs without beating them to incorporate air.
Place the butter in a mixer bowl and beat using a paddle attachment for 2 minutes.
Add the sugar gradually and continue beating for another 4 to 5 minutes until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy.
Continue beating the mixture while adding the egg and vanilla mixture ever so slowly over 5 minutes.
Add the teaspoon of salt and fold the sifted flour incorporating it in small batches.
Pour the mixture in the loaf pan and bake at a low temperature 350˚F (185˚C) for approximately 1 hour. Insert a wooden skewer through the centre of the cake to gauge if the cake is fully baked. The skewer should come out clean. Remove the cake from the loaf pan and let it cool to room temperature.
And voilà! It doesn’t get much simpler and satisfying than that. Wrap in cling film and store at room temperature for a week… if it survives that long without being devoured! Give it a shot and do let me know how you get on.
PS: The scene below from Sleeping Beauty came to my mind as I was baking away in the kitchen and humming to the theme song. As Fauna, the Good Fairy, ‘gently folds’ her eggs into the mixture, it reminded me of how misleading recipe books can be!
Enjoy viewing the video clip. A très bientôt mes amis!