Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sometimes simple tastes are the best

Best Vanilla Pound Cake - February 6, 2009

This recipe really is the best vanilla pound cake I've made or tasted. It has a nice dense crumb like all good pound cakes should and it's rich with butter and vanilla. It looks so deceptively simple but the appeal is all in the flavor. If you like butter, this is your cake. I even prefer this cake over a chocolate cake.

The recipe is from The Country Baking Treasury by Lisa Yockelson. I don't know if it's even in print anymore but I found this modest little book in a bookstore in the bargain aisle. Best $5 I've ever spent as every recipe I've made from it has turned out really well. Lisa Yockelson has published other cookbooks that I also bought and she scores every time. I think there are probably only a few recipes I've made from her cookbooks that haven't turned out but dozens of others have and some have become my favorites. Considering how much baking I've done, that says a lot. I think my favorite aspect of this cake is how simple it is but I just enjoy the simple, good taste of it. Nothing fancy, no frosting or glaze, no chips or nuts, just a good simple vanilla butter cake. Sometimes simple is the best. The key to a good pound cake is creaming together the ingredients and making sure you beat in enough air when you cream the butter and sugar together. Don't skimp on this part. If you have a stand mixer, use it. Pound cakes are also one reason why I love my Kitchenaid mixer - makes it effortless.

3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2¾ cups vanilla-scented granulated sugar
Seed scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
5 jumbo eggs, at room temperature
1½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk, at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting, optional
  1. Lightly butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan or a 10-inch fluted Bundt pan. Preheat the oven to 325˚F.
  2. Resift the flour with the baking powder and salt onto a large sheet of waxed paper. Cream the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer on moderately high speed for 3 minutes. Beat in the sugar in 3 additions, beating for 1 minute after each portion has been added. Blend in the vanilla bean scrapings. Beat on high speed for 1-2 minutes.
  3. With the mixer on moderate speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each one; scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl frequently to keep the mixture even textured. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour. Pour and scrape batter into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake the cake on the lower-third-level rack of the preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until golden on top and a wooden pick inserted in the middles of the cake comes out clean and dry.
  5. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a thin, flexible palette knife. Invert onto a second cooling rack, then invert again to cool right side up. Dust the top of the cake with sifted confectioners’ sugar if desired.

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