Vanilla Pound Cake

I have heard that the old rule of thumb behind pound cake is that you combine together four simple ingredients; a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of eggs, and a pound of butter.  Just that simple, right?  In all my years of baking pound cake, and the countless recipes that I’ve come across and tried, I’ve never attempted, or seen modern pound cake recipe that follow that old rule of thumb.  Why? I wondered.  Sure, it seems excessively sweet to use equal parts sugar and flour, when most cakes I’ve baked in the past tend to mirror a 2:1 ratio, and a full pound of butter seem unhealthily extravagant for a dessert cake that gets baked up in a loaf pan.  Especially, when I have a great low-fat pound cake recipe that only requires a smidgin of canola oil and fat-free yogurt.  There’s also my inbreed compulsion to add leavening agents to cakes, can you really successfully bake a pound cake without any baking powder or baking soda? Sure, the eggs will help with the rising, but won’t it still be too dense?

My baking curiosity was triggered.  I needed to try this four ingredient pound thing out, at least once, to see what happened, before I pack it in.  Four pounds worth of experimental cake seemed like too much cake for me, so I halved the recipe, and did a half of pound of each ingredient, keeping the ratios about the same.  I did some small tweaking by converting 25 grams of sugar into 25 grams of flour, and adding in some vanilla and salt for flavoring, but other then that I stayed my course.

I ended up with a perfectly respectable pound cake.  It was moist, it rose, and it wasn’t cloying.  That being said, pound cakes with baking powder or soda tend to be less dense.  The copious amounts of butter didn’t really shine through in the flavor, and the overall flavor profile was very subtly.  I would chalk this one up, as a great pound cake to be  used as a platform for other desserts, but not necessarily as a stand alone.  It lends itself well to being chopped up, and its mild flavor would pair well with other stronger tastes.

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Recipe makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb (1 cup or 2 sticks) Butter (room temp)
  • 200 grams (~1 cup) Sugar
  • 250 grams (~1.5 cups) Flour
  • 5 Eggs (228 grams)
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 1/4 tsp Salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F (~163 C).
  2. Whip butter until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  4. Beat in the sugar.
  5. Beat in the salt, vanilla extract, and the scraped out insides of the vanilla bean.
  6. Sift in the flour.
  7. Beat in the flour with the other ingredients until fully combined.  Do not over beat.
  8. Pour batter into a greased loaf tin.
  9. Bake for about 40 – 45 minutes.

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