Double Vanilla Pound Cake

From The Art & Soul of Baking by Sur la Table and Cindy Mushet

From The Art and Soul of Baking/Andrews McMeel Publishing. Reprinted with permission.

Double Vanilla Pound Cake

From The Art & Soul of Baking by Sur la Table and Cindy Mushet

From The Art and Soul of Baking/Andrews McMeel Publishing. Reprinted with permission.

This recipe is from The Art & Soul of Baking, by Sur la Table, the cookware and bakeware retailer, and Cindy Mushet, a professional pastry chef who also teaches baking to home cooks.

We're reproducing this recipe exactly as in the book, including equipment, two flavor variations, ways to make the cake in small or mini bundt pans, plus an added "What the Pros Know" tip that is an example of the extra help that appears throughout this comprehensive and encouraging master cookbook.

From The Art & Soul of Baking:

Pound cake gets its name from the classic ratio of one pound each of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs.  This old-fashioned ratio has been modified slightly for today’s tastes, resulting in a close-grained, tender, and buttery cake that is as welcome after school as it is at a dinner party.  A double dose of vanilla—both extract and bean—gives this cake a delicious depth of true vanilla flavor.

Ingredients

Equipment

8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch Loaf Pan, Parchment Paper, Stand Mixer Fitted with a Paddle Attachment or a Hand Mixer and a Medium Bowl, Paring Knife, Silicone or Rubber Spatula, Small Bowl, Fine-Mesh Strainer, Medium Bowl, Whisk, Cooling Rack

Making The Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and position an oven rack in the center.  Lightly coat the pan with butter, oil, or high-heat canola-oil spray and fit it with parchment paper to extend up both long sides to the top of the pan.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar:  Place the sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer for each step to achieve the same results. Use a paring knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise, then turn the knife over and use the dull edge to scrape the seeds into the sugar.  (Save the vanilla pod for another use.) Blend on low speed until the seeds are evenly dispersed. Add the butter and beat on medium-high until the mixture is very light—almost white—in color, 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.
  3. Add the eggs:  Beat the eggs in the small bowl.  With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next.  About halfway through, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then continue adding the eggs. Mix in the vanilla extract.  Scrape down the bowl again.
  4. Add dry and wet ingredients alternately:  With the fine-mesh strainer, sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into the medium bowl and whisk together.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and sour cream alternately, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half the sour cream; repeat, then finish with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand.
  5. Bake the cake:  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. When cool, remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and serve.

 

Storing

The cake can be made several days ahead and kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap. Or double-wrap, put in a resealable plastic freezer bag, and freeze for up to 8 weeks.

Sour Cream–Spice Cake

Omit the vanilla bean and reduce the vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons. Add ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg to the dry ingredients.

Orange-Cardamom Pound Cake

Omit the vanilla bean and reduce the vanilla extract to 1½ teaspoons. Add the finely grated zest of 1 large orange to the creamed butter and sugar and blend well. Add 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom to the dry ingredients.

Individual Bundt Cakes

This variation uses an individual-serving size Bundt cake pan, which has six 1-cup Bundt molds. Prepare the pan by buttering or oiling (with cooking spray) each mold thoroughly, then dusting with flour or fine dry bread crumbs and tapping out the excess. Spoon about ½ cup batter into each of the molds. Place the leftover batter (enough for one mini Bundt) in a small baking dish and bake in the oven on the same shelf—a nice chef’s treat. Bake the individual Bundts for 16 to 19 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake, as these small cakes dry out quickly. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out while they are still warm. Makes 6 individual Bundt cakes.

Mini Bundt Cakes

This variation uses a mini Bundt pan with twelve ¼-cup Bundt molds. Prepare the pan as directed in the individual Bundt cakes variation above. Spoon 3 tablespoons batter in each Bundt mold. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake, as these small cakes dry out quickly. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out while they are still warm. Rinse the baking pan under cold water until cool, dry thoroughly, prepare again and bake the remaining batter. Fill any unused molds halfway with water so the cakes bake evenly. Makes about 15 mini Bundt cakes.

What the Pros Know:

The technique of poking holes in a hot-from-the-oven cake, then brushing it with a flavored syrup, is a time-honored tradition for adding another layer of both flavor and moistness to pound cakes.  Feel free to try this method with any pound cake.

While the cake is baking, make a simple syrup with ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water (or use a flavorful liquid, such as coffee, tea, lemon juice, etc.).  Heat the syrup until the sugar has melted, then remove from the heat. You can infuse the syrup with the flavor of spices such as cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom seeds, or slices of fresh ginger as well; just be sure to strain them out once the syrup has cooled.  Add additional flavorings to the syrup if you like, such as liqueur, extract, or flavoring oils. 

As soon as the cake is removed from the oven, use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes all over the top of the cake. Be sure the toothpick touches the bottom of the pan with each poke.  Use a pastry brush to evenly coat the cake with the syrup.  Do not neglect the edges of the cake—it’s fine if some of the syrup goes down the sides of the pan. Continue to brush until all of the syrup has been used. Allow the cake to cool completely, then remove from the pan.

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