Friday, April 18, 2014
If you’re going to prepare a pound cake consider this version made with brown sugar and walnuts. It’s very sweet, very moist and utterly delicious served as is or adorned with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
It’s a great “plain” cake that is relatively easy to prepare. And the crumb is particularly luxurious with its ratio of butter, sugar, eggs, milk and flour.
Out of the oven, put it on a cooling rack to rest before unmolding onto a cake stand or plate
The key is to have all of your ingredients at room temperature. Assemble the butter, milk and eggs on the counter at least 2 hours before you prepare the cake. Another pointer is to use the correct pan. While it can be made in a Bundt pan, the classic way is to use a tube pan, the kind with a fixed bottom, not an angel food pan in which the bottom is removable. These pans are not easy to find, but I’ve seen them at Leroux and Bed Bath and Beyond. Another source is the bakeware supplier, Fat Daddio’s.
The quality of the ingredients you use will also elevate the goodness of this cake. Use your best butter, eggs and milk. For this recipe I relied on Maine Country Butter (available at Whole Foods), Alewive's Brook Farm eggs and Balfour Farm milk. As for flour I used soft-wheat southern all-purpose flour (such as Martha White or White Lily), which I think gives it an extra fine crumb. But traditional all-purpose flour (King Arthur) works well. You can lighten it, however, by replacing 1 cup of the all-purpose flour with 1 cup cake flour. Other local ingredients used included Schlotterbeck & Foss vanilla extract and Bakewell Cream baking powder. Or make your own leavening by mixing together a ratio of 2 parts Bakewell Cream to 1 part baking soda; the ready-made version is available mail-order from Bakewell. It’s a much better baking powder without imparting that metallic taste typical of other double-acting powders and it gives a better rise.
Under the cover dome of a cake stand, it will stay moist and fresh for 2 to 3 days on the counter; do not cover until it's completely cool
If you serve it with ice cream, the perfect one is Catbird Creamery Brown Sugar Vanilla, available at Aurora Provisions or at the creamery’s shop in Westbrook
Brown Sugar-Walnut-Pound Cake
1 1/2 (12 ounces) cups butter, softened
2 cups light-brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
5 large to extra large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Prepare a stationary-bottomed 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan by greasing it very generously with softened butter. Be sure the bottom is well greased or the cake could stick. Sprinkle a few tablespoons flour over the surface, shaking out excess. Set aside.
Sift together twice the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
In the large bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter until light and fluffy using the paddle attachment. Add the sugars and on medium high speed mix until very creamy or until the consistency of thick mayonnaise.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Gradually add the flour and milk, alternately, mixing on medium low speed until thoroughly mixed and ending with flour. Do not over beat. Add the walnuts and vanilla extract, mixing on low speed or by hand until thoroughly combined. Transfer to the prepared pan, using a rubber spatula to capture all of the batter.
Put into the oven with a rack set at the lower third level of the oven. Bake for 1 hour or until it’s nicely browned on top and a cake tester inserted comes out clean. The cake should spring back when lightly touched. Bake longer if necessary, about 15 minutes more until cake tests done.
Let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes then invert onto a cake rack. Serve with vanilla ice cream. It will keep covered in a domed cake stand for several days.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.