Great expectations, meet my mama’s poundcake!

Browsing through some of my old cooking magazines for inspiration, I became increasingly aware that tastes have quite literally changed over the last 20 years or so. Ingredients and techniques that I thought were exotic and unusual (raspberry vinegar and foods wrapped into ‘purses’ or bundled together) now seem over the top AND staid. Curious. I will admit that I have and still do love some food fads – like artisanal cheese and the current bacon infatuation.

Hey, I am Southern… so the love of the pig (and all it’s piggy parts) have always been a constant in my life. But today I’m not writing about pork, but rather the “other” P-word. Born in the 18th century kitchen and revered since time immortal (or at least since the first days of even oven temperature), famed as the traditional wedding cake, and the best loved dessert on the southern sideboard – the pound cake.

For as much as tastes change and fads come and go, I know this much is true: a good pound cake never goes out of style and is always in high demand. My mother’s pound cake is quite possibly – and according to my daddy, most definitely – the best pound cake, ever. Period. The end. It is the item most requested at any family potluck or social gathering at which my Mother is expected to attend. And see that I specified “item”, not just food, but anything from beverages (adult and otherwise) to the main dish.

Luckily, I happen to not only have access to the recipe, but was taught by my mother the techniques employed in creating this cake since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. In as much as it is very important to use quality ingredients, it is essential to follow the mixing techniques. This cake uses no chemical leaveners. The cake rises due to mechanical leaveners – chiefly “creaming” the butter and sugar and incorporating the eggs into the batter one at a time, beating well after each.

This cake has only 6 ingredients so yes, the better the butter, the cream, the eggs and the flour, the better the pound cake. This is one time that I do use salted butter too. I usually serve this cake plain but have been known to spoon on some homemade vanilla custard and in-season fruit from time to time.

Before I finish, I do have a word of warning: Once you try this pound cake you will forever more compare all other pound cakes to this one. This may bring some disappointment into your life, since once you’ve have the best, nothing else can match it. I’ll add too, that with high caloric intake there will be high expectations – this recipe will not disappoint on either count. Just go for an after-dinner stroll… and have another piece!

Sift some flour once and then measure out exactly 3 level cups.

Yes, I said sift 3 times!

This fabulous cake has only 6 ingredients and no “chemical leavening agents”.

Grease and flour the pan, even one with a non-stick surface.

Tip of the day: Save your wrappers! Instead of tossing out butter wrappers into the trash, place in a plastic bag and toss into the freezer. You never know when you may need to butter a casserole dish!

In this recipe creaming the butter with the sugar is as important as sifting the flour 3 times. I usually start by whipping up the butter first.

Creaming the butter and sugar is the leavening agent in this cake recipe. This is after only 1 minute of creaming, a long way to go!

At 3 minutes the mixture is still crumbly and not light. With my KitchenAid mixer I use the No. 4 speed setting.

After 8 minutes the sugar and butter are much lighter and we’re almost there!

After 10 minutes, the sugar/butter mixture is light, creamy with only a hint of sugar granules.

Next add in the eggs ONE AT A TIME. Beat well and I mean really well after each. With my mixer I mix at the No. 4 speed setting for about 60 seconds after each egg. I also scrape down the sides of the bowl after every second egg too.

After the addition of all the eggs. Very creamy.

After you alternately add the flour and cream (begin and end with the flour), mix in the vanilla extract. Sometimes my mother uses almond extract instead.

The finished batter, ready for the pan. I thought this image was sort of pretty in an industrial chic meets the bakery sort of way.

Batter up! Yes, I am a little messy but it can be difficult to pour batter and take a photo at the same time.

After 90 minutes, the cake is ready to be pulled from the oven. Allow to rest on a rack for 10 minutes or so and then turn onto a serving plate. You may need to cut away some of the crust in the center first, though, especially if your cake pan is smallish like mine. I think I need a new tube pan!

Pound cake with homemade vanilla custard and fresh peaches. Hello summer!

Pound Cake

  • 1 cup butter (salted)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour – sifted 3 times (*see below)
  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ pint whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter and flour a tube or Bundt pan.

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar. It should be light and fluffy. It will take about 10 minutes at medium speed in a heavy-duty mixer. Be sure to scrape down the sides during this process at least once. Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down bowl after every second egg.

After all eggs have been added, mix in the flour (in 4ths) alternately with the whipping cream (in 3rds) – beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl, if necessary. Mix in the vanilla extract and pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 1 ½ hours. Cool cake on a rack for about 10 minutes and turn out onto a serving platter. Allow to cool completely before covering.

* Sift at least 3 cups of flour once. Then accurately measure 3 cups of flour out of the first batch and sift twice more.

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