Perfect Pound Cake

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    one

    slices

Appears in

My aunt Rachel Malgieri Rocco was a great home baker (see her Date Walnut Bread), and I watched her prepare this pound cake countless times as a child. I was fascinated by the odd mixing method—the yolks and sugar are whipped, then the flour and butter are beaten together, the egg whites are whipped, and after everything is combined the batter goes back on the mixer for a thorough beating. Several years ago I ran into Mary Lou McGrath, my aunt’s niece through marriage, and we fell to talking about all the great things we remembered our mutual aunt baking. She mentioned the pound cake and mailed me the recipe the following week. I am thrilled to have it. This is a little trouble to make because of all the different bowls you need—if you only have one mixer bowl, you can beat the butter and flour together in the same bowl as the yolks and sugar without washing it in between. Then you’ll have to wash the bowl and whisk before whipping the egg whites—not much trouble compared to the exquisite result. Note: Don’t attempt to mix this cake unless the butter is very soft, almost the consistency of mayonnaise, or the flour and butter mixture will be stiff and will not combine easily with the other elements of the batter.

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Ingredients

  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 cups cake flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks/8 ounces/225 grams) unsalted butter, softened, see Note
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • One 9 × 5 × 3-inch (23 × 13 × 7-cm) loaf pan, buttered and the bottom lined with a rectangle of parchment or buttered wax paper cut to fit

Method

  1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F(160°C).
  2. In the howl of an electric mixer, whisk the yolks by hand to break them up, then gradually whisk in the sugar in a stream. Whisk in the vanilla and lemon extracts. Place the bowl on the mixer with the paddle attachment and whip on medium speed until the mixture is pale colored and aerated, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the yolk mixture into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Mix the cake Hour with the baking powder and set aside.
  4. Without washing the mixer bowl, beat the butter with the paddle on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the flour mixture, decrease the speed to lowest, and beat until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Scrape the Hour and butter paste over the yolk mixture and use a large rubber spatula to stir them together.
  5. If you only have one mixer bowl, wash the bowl and whisk with hot, soapy water, rinse and dry well. Combine the egg whites and salt in the bowl and place on the mixer with the whisk. Whip on medium speed until the egg whites hold a firm peak—for this recipe it doesn’t matter much if the egg whites are a little overwhipped. Stir the egg whites into the flour, butter, and yolk mixture.
  6. Scrape the batter back into the mixer bowl and use the paddle to beat it on medium-low speed for 5 minutes.
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  8. Bake the pound cake for about 1 hour, until it is well risen and beautifully cracked in the center, and a toothpick or the point of a thin knife inserted in the center emerges clean.
  9. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold it onto the rack to cool rightside up.

Serving

Pound cake is a perfect tea or coffee cake. If you have any left after a couple of days, it also toasts well.

Storage

Keep the cooled cake wrapped in plastic at room temperature, or under a cake dome. Wrap and freeze for longer storage. Defrost the cake and let it come to room temperature before serving.

Pecan or Walnut Pound Cake

After you take the batter off the mixer (step 6), fold in 1 cup pecan or walnut pieces, coarsely chopped, tossed with 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour.

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