Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pound Cake, Take I

The first cake I ever baked at 7,000 feet was a pound cake that my grandmother used to make. Simple. Basic. Disastrous. It was an overly sweet, heavy mess. I never baked another one ‘til now. This morning, I decided to begin my adventures in high altitude baking by returning to the pound cake.

NOTE: I have decided that I will always make a sea level recipe as it is written first, without changing anything, to give me a “control” cake. Then I can experiment with variables later in further attempts.

One of the challenges of this whole enterprise is that I have no standing mixer. I’m fairly certain that the sheer volume as well as the weight of pound cake batter would be better served by a stand mixer than by a hand one, but that experiment will have to wait a while. The recipe is as follows:

1 pound butter, softened
6 eggs, room temperature
3 cups sugar
4 cups cake flour
¾ cups milk
1 t vanilla
1 t almond extract

1.     Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
2.     Add eggs one at a time.
3.     Add flour, alternating with milk
4.     Add flavorings

Bake at 300F for one hour or until done. This can be made in one or two Bundt pans, or loaf pans.

I followed this recipe to the letter and put the cake in the oven. One hour later, it was nowhere near done. Another half hour and still going. Finally after one hour and fifty minutes, I pulled it out of the oven.

I let it rest for 7 minutes before attempting to unmold it. Of course half of it stuck to the pan, despite my furious pounding on the bottom of the pan with a sturdy wooden spoon. ARGH!!!!! That’s so annoying! I feel I am to blame, though, not the cake. I have recently learned (thanks to my sister and my brother-in-law) that a rubber mallet is essential kitchen equipment for unmolding recalcitrant cakes. You flip the pan over on the cooling rack and then beat on the bottom of the pan with a rubber mallet. Don’t be tentative and girly with it; you have to really MEAN it. If you do this with proper conviction and vigor it works like a charm. Unfortunately, I could not find my rubber mallet and so improvised, and I think I lacked real commitment because I didn’t want to break my good spoon.

Anyway, the flavor of the cake is good but the texture, while not terrible, is a little on the heavy side. Next time, I am going to increase the oven temperature and see if that helps. Also, it might just not be possible to make this without a standing mixer because they’re so much more powerful and incorporate so much more air. I’ll have to test that too. 

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