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Cooking 101: Homemade Cake So Easy It Might As Well Come from a Box

Pound cake is the world’s most fool-proof homemade cake—and my great-grandmother’s recipe is one of the world’s tastiest, too. Although it is traditionally baked in a tube pan, pound cake batter works well as a loaf cake, sheet cake, or cupcakes and tastes delicious frosted. With a little practice, you can get a pound cake into the oven in about ten minutes. Just sift, mix, and bake.

Mama Evan’s Fool-Proof Pound Cake

  • 2 sticks of salted butter
  • 1 2/3 cups of sugar*
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups of cake flour*
  • 1/3 cup of sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract

*Be sure to sift your dry ingredients—sugar and flour—to avoid lumps in your batter. Do this with a sifter or, in a pinch, put stirring vigorously with a fork to break up any clumps. Measure after you’ve sifted.

    1. Set your cold ingredients—butter, eggs, sour cream—out on the counter an hour or two before you’re ready to bake. They will blend into the batter better at room temperature.
    2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
    3. Cream together the butter and the sugar by adding both to the mixing bowl and mixing until they are a sugary paste. This should only take a minute or two with room-temperature butter. As you mix, occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
    4. Add the eggs and flour. For a really next texture, don’t dump all five eggs and both cups of flour in at the same time. Add an egg. Blend it in. Add about a fifth of the flour. Blend it in. Repeat until everything is well blended. If you’re concerned about dropping egg shells into your cake batter, try cracking each egg first into a mug or cup before adding it to the mixing bowl.
    5. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract.
    6. Mix everything together for about two minutes. If you mix for longer than that, your cake will lose some of its lightness.
    7. Grease the pan. You can do this in a couple of ways. You can spray it with a flour-based cooking spray such as Baker’s Joy or PAM Baking. (Don’t use regular, butter-flavored cooking spray because it will make your cake taste weird.) Or you can carefully rub a stick of butter all over the inside surface of the cake pan. When you’re done, throw some extra flour into the pan and shake it. You’ll know the pan is sufficiently greased when you’ve got a thin coating of flour sticking to every surface.
    8. Pour the batter into the pan. Batter should come about three-fourths of the way up the side of the pan. Be sure to scrape the mixing bowl with a spatula. An old baker’s trick is to lightly wet the spatula with hot water and use it to smooth down the surface of the cake.
    9. Bake for about 45 minutes. (If you’re making a cake in a cupcake or sheet cake pan, expect the cake to bake in 25 or 35 minutes.) My great-grandfather loved to have a “runny streak” in his pound cake, so he would jump up and down in front of the oven to try to make it fall. Fallen cakes may taste nice, but they don’t look attractive at all. To prevent your cake from falling, leave the oven door closed as much as possible. And try to keep rambunctious kids—and husbands—out of the kitchen.
    10. Check the cake with a toothpick. Insert a toothpick, skewer, or knife into the center of the cake, as far from the edges as possible. If it comes out free of any liquid batter, the cake is done.
    11. Wait two minutes then remove the cake from the pan to cool. If you’re using a tube pan, simply pull out the center section. If you’re using a loaf, sheet cake pan, or cupcake pan, place a cooling rack over the top of the pan. Turn the whole thing upside down to remove the cake.
    12. Enjoy the cake warm or wait for it to cool. Warm pound cake is a real treat, but you’ll have to wait for it to cool if you’d like to frost it.



Once you’ve perfected the basic, sour cream pound cake, try one of these variants:

    • Cream cheese pound cake. Leave out the sour cream. Instead, blend in 8 ounces of room temperature cream cheese or light cream cheese along with the butter.
    • Chocolate pound cake. Replace 3/4 of a cup of flour with chocolate powder. Add another 1/3 cup of sugar so your cake isn’t too bitter. If you use butter to grease the pan, use chocolate powder instead of flour to coat. Chocolate pound cake may also take a little longer to bake.
    • Raspberry pound cake. Replace 2/3 of a cup of sugar with raspberry jelly. The cake will be a little spongier and much hardier. I like this variant for picnic cakes because it holds up really well.

One response »

  1. Alison’s pound cake is amazing — one of my personal favorites!

    Reply

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