Viennese Raisin(less) Coffee Cake {ModBak}

The fourth recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge is Gehrueter Gugelhupf mit Rasinen (beaten coffee cake with raisins), or, more simply put, Viennese raisin coffee cake. Although I don’t have a traditional gugelhupf pan, my Wilton pan is just fancy enough to work for this recipe.

It’s fitting that this recipe comes right after the pound cakes in the book, as it is quite similar to a pound cake in ingredients, mixing method, and flavor. After beating butter and sugar until light and fluffy, I added lemon zest, vanilla, and egg yolks. Then I alternated adding a mixture of flour and baking soda with more egg yolks, mixing each into the batter. Finally, I folded in egg whites. (I omitted the raisins.)

The cake baked up beautifully. The lemon flavor was reminiscent of both the Perfect Pound Cake and Lemon Ginger Pound Cake, as was the somewhat dense texture of the cake. I wonder if the raisins might have made it seem more coffee cake-like. I’ll have to try adding them next time to find out.

If you want to see this cake made in a true gugelhupf pan, along with some stunning pictures of Vienna, check out Sara’s post. And if you want to make this and more amazing baked goods in your own kitchen, pick up a copy of The Modern Baker. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

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Lemon Ginger Pound Cake {ModBak}

It’s day five of Strawberry Week here at Of Cabbages & King Cakes. And today’s theme is a simple one — strawberries make everything better.

Case in point:

This is Lemon Ginger Pound Cake from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. In the recipe notes, Nick Malgieri states that this cake needs no accompaniment. And he’s right. It’s a great cake on its own. But with height-of-the-season strawberries and freshly whipped cream, it’s sublime.

This is the second recipe in the Cakes section of The Modern Baker. After starting this section with the delicious but fussy Perfect Pound Cake, I was looking forward to trying this simple, quick recipe. Other than grating lemon zest and ginger (I used pregrated ginger), this cake takes almost no time to throw together.

This cake is baked in a bundt pan, which is buttered, dusted with fine bread crumbs, and then sprayed with cooking spray. The bread crumbs seem like a strange addition, but they bake into the cake without a trace.

To mix the batter, I began by combining flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of my stand mixer. I added butter and beat it with the paddle attachment until it formed a heavy paste. Then I added the remaining ingredients: eggs, egg yolks, milk, lemon zest and juice, and ginger, and beat the batter until it was light and fluffy.

I scraped the batter into the prepared pan and smoothed the top.

I baked the pound cake at 325°F for about 50 minutes, until it was firm, golden, and baked throughout. After cooling the cake in the pan for five minutes, I turned it out onto a rack to finish cooling.

I dusted the top of the cake with powdered sugar and served it for dessert. The lemon and ginger combined to give this pound cake a wonderful flavor.

We ate it plain the first night and really enjoyed it. But when we topped it with strawberries and whipped cream the next evening, we realized we had really hit on something.

Check out the other Strawberry Week entries, starting with Monday’s Real Strawberry Shortcakes.

Man, I can’t wait until strawberry season next year.

Perfect Pound Cake {ModBak}

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.

This post is the first recipe in the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. Check out the Challenge page to see what the other bakers are up to this week.

Vanilla Bean Pound Cake {Bake!}

After the fun of our recent Twitterbake and my success with the New Orleans Praline Pound Cake from Nick Malgieri‘s new book, Bake!, I decided to try another one of Nick’s pound cake recipes. There are six pound cake variations in addition to the basic recipe in the book. And I was so excited to try another one that I mixed this one up while the praline pound cake was in the oven.

This version starts with the basic pound cake recipe — flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest. The only change called for in the recipe is replacing the vanilla with the seeds of a vanilla bean. I made one other change: I replaced the lemon zest with a few drops of orange oil. This batter was light and fluffy, although it didn’t beat up quite as high as the New Orleans Praline Pound Cake. I spread the batter in the pan and smoothed the top.

I baked the pound cake in a 325°F oven for about an hour. Unlike the praline pound cake, which took almost 75 minutes to bake, this one baked in 60 minutes, as indicated by the recipe. I let the pound cake cool before slicing it.

New Orleans Praline Pound Cake (left); Vanilla Bean Pound Cake (right)

As you can see from the photo above, the vanilla bean pound cake didn’t bake up as high as the praline version. Nonetheless, is was light, airy, and absolutely delicious. The vanilla flavor could have been stronger, but that may have been owing to my vanilla bean, which was a bit on the dry side. I really liked the addition of the orange flavoring to the batter, and will probably make that a regular alteration to the recipe.

I mentioned my love of pound cake in the previous post and pointed out that Nick’s praline pound cake recipe stood up to any other recipe I had tried. The vanilla bean pound cake was every bit as good as the praline version.

And now I can’t wait to try the rest of them.

New Orleans Praline Pound Cake {Bake!}

About a week ago, I Tweeted that I was sweeted out and ready for some savory recipes. So, of course when it came to my turn to choose a recipe for our Twitterbake from Nick Malgieri‘s latest book, Bake!, I chose pound cake!

I’m a big fan of pound cake, so I’ve tried a lot of recipes. One of my favorites comes from a cookbook I picked up in New Orleans about 18 years ago. It’s also one of the simplest pound cake recipes I’ve ever made. And that’s been true of the best pound cake recipes I’ve found: they are simple, straightforward, and result in a cake that it moist, flavorful, and not overly heavy.

So, I was excited to try Nick’s pound cake recipe. Recipes, in fact. He offers a basic recipe, called High-Ratio Pound Cake, and six variations. One of those variations, New Orleans Praline Pound Cake, piqued my interest, so that’s the one I chose for our Twitterbake.

First, a little history. Pound cake got its name from the volume of its four main ingredients. A classic pound cake — the one your great-great-grandmother used to make — called for one pound each of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. As you can imagine, this resulted in a huge cake. As family sizes began to shrink, home cooks altered the recipe to make a smaller cake. As long as they kept the ratios the same, they could adjust the size of the cake to suit their needs. Sounds a lot like baker’s math, huh?

The basic pound cake batter is just that — basic. Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest. And even the praline variation was simple. A bit of brown sugar substituted for some of the granulated sugar, and some cinnamon, a few tablespoons of dark rum or bourbon, and a cup of pecans added to the batter.

When I had mixed up the batter, I was surprised at how light and fluffy it was. Pound cake batter is usually heavier, almost doughy, so I was anxious to see how the cake would turn out.

Just before adding the batter to the prepared pan, I folded in the pecans. As you can see in the picture above, I tossed the pecans with a small amount of flour before folding them into the batter. The recipe instruct you to do this, but doesn’t say why. The reason is that it keeps the pecans from sinking to the bottom of the loaf. Once I folded in the pecans, I scraped the batter into the pan and smoothed the top a bit.

I baked the loaf in a 325°F oven for about 75 minutes, until the tip of a knife inserted in the center of the loaf came out clean. I cooled the loaf in the pan for a few minutes, then removed it to a rack to cool completely.

This loaf rose like crazy. It puffed up so high above the top of the pan that it looked almost like a soufflé.

The praline loaf is in the back in this picture. The other loaf is a vanilla bean loaf that I mixed up while the praline pound cake was baking.

As I sliced into the loaf, I thought it looked a bit like a nut bread. But don’t let looks fool you. This was definitely a pound cake. The praline flavor was subtle and delicious. It didn’t overpower the classic pound cake flavor, but rather complemented it beautifully.

I want to try the basic pound cake recipe and a few more of the variations. But based on this recipe, I have to say Nick Malgieri has nailed the pound cake. This is easily one of the best pound cakes I’ve ever had. And it may just replace my tried and true recipe from New Orleans.