The first entry in the Cakes section of The Modern Baker is a recipe that Nick Malgieri got from his aunt. Even though I don’t bake the recipes in each section strictly in order, I do at least like to start at the beginning. And this time, that was easy to do, as I love pound cake.
I have made two of Nick’s other pound cake recipes — New Orleans Praline Pound Cake (pralines being another love of mine) and Vanilla Bean Pound Cake. Both of these recipe were from Nick’s more recent book, Bake!, and both were easy and delicious. This recipe was a bit more complicated, but promised to be worth the effort.
What makes this batter more work to make is the mixing method. First, egg yolks are whisked by hand, then sugar is whisked in slowly, followed by vanilla and lemon extracts.
This mixture is then beat with a stand mixer until it is light and well-aerated.
While the egg yolk mixture was whipping away, I mixed the dry ingredients — cake flour and baking powder. Or I would have, if there had been any cake flour in the cupboard. But there wasn’t. So I made my own.
If, like me, you ever find yourself lacking cake flour for a recipe, don’t despair. And don’t run out to the store. It’s easy to make a perfectly acceptable substitute for cake flour using all-purpose flour and cornstarch. For every cup of flour in the recipe, measure 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into a 1-cup measure. Fill the rest of the way with AP flour. That’s it. Just use it in place of 1 cup cake flour, and you’re all set.
Now, where were we? Oh, yes. We just finished beating the egg yolk mixture. I scraped the mixture into a large bowl, then, without washing the mixing bowl, beat the butter for a minute to lighten it. Then I added the flour mixture to the butter and beat until it made a smooth paste.
I scraped the butter-flour mixture over the egg yolk mixture and stirred it all together with a rubber spatula.
Then, I had to wash the mixing bowl in hot, soapy water, as the next step was whipping egg whites, which wouldn’t work unless the mixing bowl was perfectly clean.
I beat the egg whites to a firm peak.
Now. to the tell the truth, I don’t really understand the whole whipped egg whites thing in this recipe. After carefully beating the whites to just the right consistency, you usually continue to treat them with care, folding them gently into the batter and being careful not to break them. Not so with this recipe. After beating the whites, they are unceremoniously stirred — not folded, stirred — into the batter.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the whole thing is then returned to the mixer and beat — yes, I said “beat”, sir — for 5 minutes. This seemed to completely destroy the integrity of the egg whites. But I have to admit that the resulting batter was light, airy, and beautiful.
I baked the pound cake for about an hour, which, incidentally, was about how long it took to wash all the dishes this masterpiece created.
It smelled great baking and came out of the oven looking great. I cooled the cake in the pan for about 5 minutes, then unmolded it and let it cool before slicing into it.
Many people will tell you that pound cake is best if it is allowed to dry out for a day or so. That may well be true, but I’ve never put it to the test. I’m doing well if I can wait until it cools. Or mostly cools. Or cools to the point that it won’t burn my fingers and tongue.
So, how did this fussy pound cake stack up? It was good. Really good. No, it was delicious. Rich, buttery, with a moist crumb and just a touch of lemon flavor. I ate it warm, cold, and toasted the day it was made and over then next several days. I thought about serving it with crème anglaise on the third or fourth day, but it didn’t last that long.
However, even though this was a great pound cake, I don’t see myself making it again. As delicious as it was, it wasn’t that much better than other pound cake recipes that are half the work. I might use the ingredients and proportions from this recipe with a more modern, quicker mixing method. Now, that could be a winner.