Friday, July 27, 2012

Perfect Classic Pound Cake

I have been babysitting some chickens while a neighbor went on vacation.  Yep, you read that right, chickens!  No, I do not live in the country, I actually live in an urban area but my neighbors have chickens!  When they go on vacation, I chicken-sit for them.  Hence, I have lots of fresh eggs.  It is really quite fun to chicken-sit.  The clever girl thinks it is so great to see the chickens and she even gets to pet them!  They are nice girls.  And she LOVES getting the eggs and carefully carrying them home.  It's great!

But now I am about to go on vacation, and I had to use these awesome eggs!  Trust me, I've been making omelets and quiches galore, but we still had lots of eggs!  Eureka!  I found a recipe for the Perfect Classic Pound Cake, which takes a total of 12 eggs!

My beautiful eggs.  I put them in an egg carton for storage, but I promise you, they came straight from the girls down the street.  Girls, as in chickens.

I did not do a very good job taking process photos of this endeavor, mostly because it was about 930pm when I started baking and thus that leads to a long night of delirium!  But this was my end result.  A huge delicious pound cake.  The recipe makes a "14-cup capacity" Bundt, and after baking this cake I have the feeling my bundt is much smaller.  It really domed out of the top.  But that is okay.  It is still delicious!

The author of this recipe gave very verbose specific instructions, so I include everything below.  It is long, so just read through it before you start so you get the gist of it all!  Whomever it is seemed to know what they were doing, and they reference making tons of confectionery treats so  there seems to be some training and experience involved. 

Perfect Classic Pound Cake
adapted from The Fine Art of Confectionery

(Yields 1 large Bundt (14-cup capacity) or 2 traditional loaves)
6 large eggs, plus 6 large egg yolks (at room temperature)
3 tablespoons good vanilla extract
3 teaspoons water
4 sticks butter (use unsalted), slightly softened
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups of cake flour

Place your oven rack in the very center of the oven and preheat to 325F.

Prepare your baking pans.  If baking in a large Bundt, make certain the pan is heavy weight and non-stick. Regardless that it is non-stick, lightly coat the pan generously with an oil-flour spray, making certain to reach into any design crevasses.
If baking in traditional 9-by-5-inch loaf pans, make certain the pans are heavy weight. Grease generously the sides and bottom of each pan with shortening, then line the pan with parchment paper. (The easiest way here is to cut two sheets of parchment paper, one the size of the pan bottom, the other the length of the perimeter (which is 28 inches long by 5 inches wide). Place the long parchment paper along the interior sides of the pan, pushing the paper into the corners well and extending the bottom edge over part of the pan’s bottom. Add a light touch of shortening to the top of the parchment paper extending onto the pan bottom. Next place the bottom piece in place, pressing down well to seal.)

Now to make the batter…
In a medium bowl whisk the 6 whole eggs well until the whites are completely blended, then add the 6 egg yolks and whisk more until the eggs are smooth. Next, whisk in the vanilla and water until everything is well blended. The more you whisk, the better this will be for the cake.  Set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed, using the paddle, for about 30 seconds until the butter is perfectly smooth and glossy. With the mixer running at this same speed, begin adding the sugar to the butter by pouring it in SLOWLY and no more than 1/4 cup at a time, allowing the sugar to be blended exceptionally well before adding more. When half of the sugar has been incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl and resume beating. Be prepared to spend 5 minutes simply adding sugar to the butter. When the last of the sugar has been added, beat for two more minutes, scrape down the bowl sides, and beat for one minute more. The blended butter and sugar will be practically white in color, light and fluffy in texture, and absolutely not grainy in the least.  (Mine was still sort of grainy.  Maybe I wasn't slow enough...  but it was still good!)

With the mixer still running at a medium-high speed, SLOWLY begin pouring the egg mixture in a very slow, thin stream. This, too, will take several minutes, but don’t rush it at all. When the entire egg mixture has been incorporated, add the salt to the batter and continue to beat for one full minute.

Remove the mixer bowl from the stand. Using a sieve or sifter, sift 1/2 cup of the flour over the batter and fold it in gently with a rubber spatula. Make certain to pull the batter up from the bottom of the bowl and fold it over the flour on the top moving slowly. Repeat folding using only 1/2 cup of flour each time until all the flour has been incorporated.

Scoop up the batter and evenly fill your Bundt pan, or divide the batter evenly between your two prepared loaf pans, gently evening the surface with your spatula.

Place into your preheated oven and bake for 70 to 80 minutes. A crack will have formed along the top of each cake. You will know the cake is done when a clean dinner knife (or thin skewer) inserted into the center of the crack in the cake’s middle returns clean.

Remove the pans from the oven and allow to rest on wire racks for 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto the rack, turning them right-side up, and allow to cool to room temperature for about 2 hours. If you baked loaves, leave the parchment paper on the cakes during this cooling process and remove when completely cooled.

I did not do this part but may for future cakes:
At this point, you can wrap the Bundt cake (or loaves) in strips of cheesecloth, using several layers, place each cake into its appropriately-sized tin, and drizzle each wrapped cake with a liquor or liqueur (Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Chambord, bourbon, Brandy, Limoncello, etc) until the cheesecloth is saturated. You will use about 1/2 cup of your favorite alcoholic treat to do this. Close the tin and place in a cool pantry. Resoak the cheesecloth each week for at least 4 weeks before consuming or giving away. After this process, these cakes will last another two weeks, so be certain to denote same on box labels or cards when giving as gifts.

If you don’t wish to soak the cakes, believe me they are absolutely PERFECT unadorned. Their taste and texture is unrivaled and truly the epitome of what a pound cake should be, but rarely is.
Unsoaked cakes should be wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap and placed into an airtight container. Store at room temperature up to 7 days…if they last that long.

If you are considering giving a liquored-up cake as a gift, you might want to include an appropriate serving sauce.  For example, a dark chocolate sauce with the bourbon-soaked cake; a jar of raspberry sauce with a cake soaked in Chambord; a jar of fresh lemon curd with a cake soaked in Limoncello; orange marmalade with the Grand Marnier cake, etc.  And even if you don’t want to soak your cakes in liquor, it is always wonderful to include a sauce when gift-giving.  Just a thought!
Printable Recipe

The clever girl and I had pound cake for breakfast!  Seriously, folks, we leave in the morning so we needed to try out this pound cake!  And is pound cake for breakfast really THAT bad?  I served it with fresh berries!  And then I danced around the kitchen singing, "Mom is great!  She feeds me pound cake!" a la Bill Cosby.  I hope you know the comedy skit I am referring to with Bill Cosby.  If you don't, go immediately from my blog and google "Bill Cosby, dad is great chocolate cake" or something like that.  And then of course come back to my blog!  That will serve as your cultural education for the day!  Glad I could help!

So how was it?  Maybe after this ridiculously long and verbose recipe you really want to know how it tasted.  Well, it was great!  Nice and soft in the middle with a delicious flavor, the beautiful golden crust around the sides had just the right amount of texture.  Mmmm.  I will definitely make this pound cake again.  Maybe with alcohol next time!  But then the clever girl can't have any so that would be a bummer.  I guess I'd just have to make two!  Maybe I could find some baby Bundt pans and split the recipe....  That would be fun....

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