Last week I shared a sour cream pound cake recipe that we love around here but then a strange turn of events (and perhaps a slightly-obsessive sense of completion) compels me to share this one, a more traditional or classic French pound cake.
A classic pound cake is equal parts (quatre quarts or four fourths) butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. Originally, a pound of each.
What happened? Our youngest kid turned twenty-one years old and when asked what kind of cake he wanted for this most auspicious occasion he responded, somewhat to my surprise, “a pound cake, the classic kind… and some strawberries.”
Yes, I take requests.
You’ll want to have a kitchen scale handy for this to get it just right. Otherwise, it should be close enough but may or may not be the cake that inspires wandering minstrels to write songs about you.
A true pound cake would need two loaf pans so we’ll do a half-pound cake today and you can double everything if you’d like when you make it. Two pounds of finished cake (½ + ½ + ½ + ½) seems like enough on most days. But there will be exceptions.
Go ahead and take five eggs out of the refrigerator and leave them on the counter a while to warm up to room temperature.
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
Cut 8 ounces (two sticks) of unsalted butter into tablespoon-sized pats and put them in the mixing bowl.
Use the butter wrappers to grease your loaf pan!
Using the paddle blade on your mixer, set to medium speed, mix the butter for a few minutes until it’s light and creamy.
You want super-fine sugar, sometimes called castor or caster sugar, but I rarely see it in the regular grocery store these days. And when I do they tend to mark it up. No problem though, just make your own. Put regular sugar in a small food processor (I use this little guy I got at Costco some time ago) and pulse it for a few seconds until it’s super-fine but not yet powdered.
Then add the sugar to the butter and, still on medium speed, let it go for a full five minutes. The idea is to beat some air into the creaming process. Also be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula every so often.
Swap the paddle blade for the whisk attachment on your mixer.
Now, add the eggs and the egg yolk one at a time letting each one mix in well before adding the next. I use a small bowl to crack my eggs into so I can catch any pieces of shell before they go into the batter.
Then mix in the starch and the vanilla. And please use real vanilla.
Why the starch? To smooth out the batter a bit, a little less gluten. Potato starch can be tricky to find but it is inexpensive and keeps forever. (By the way, I have found potato flour and it is something entirely different! Be careful.) Corn starch will work. However, you can just use 8 ounces of flour if needed but I like the result of this small substitution.
Slow down the speed on the mixer (so you don’t end up wearing everything) and gradually add the flour stopping the mixer once it’s fully mixed. You don’t want to over-mix it. Pour the batter into the lightly-buttered loaf pan, smooth out the top best you can with the spatula, and into the oven it goes for about 45 minutes.
Once your timer goes off, test it with a wooden skewer in the center to make sure it’s done. Let it cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes (until it’s not too hot to touch) then turn it out onto a cooling rack.
If you can, wait until the cake cools to room temperature to eat it. If you can’t, I completely understand.
For the record, I have absolutely no idea why I got my cake / pie server out of the drawer. Cake baking reflexes is my best guess.
Serve the cake plain, or dust it with a little powdered sugar, or spread a bit of jam, or slice some fresh fruit. Remember, I was asked for strawberries. And in case you were curious, we each had a small piece and yet mysteriously it was gone in the morning. I guess it’s not really much of a mystery.
Quatre Quarts (Pound Cake)
Classic pound cake (quatre quarts or four fourths) is a pound of each eggs, sugar, flour, and butter. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 8 ounces unsalted butter (two sticks)
- 8 ounces super-fine sugar (just shy of 1¼ cup)
- 4 whole eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 7 ounces all-purpose flour (just shy of 1½ cup)
- 1 tablespoon potato starch or corn starch
Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Using a small knife, cut the butter into tablespoon-sized pats and put them into the bowl of your stand mixer.
With the paddle blade attachment on your mixer, set to medium speed, beat the butter for 2 or 3 minutes until it's light and creamy. Scrape the sides down with a rubber spatula.
Swap the paddle blade for the whisk attachment.
Add the sugar. (If you don't have super-fine sugar, a handful of pulses with regular sugar in a small food processor will suffice.) Beat for a full 5 minutes.
One at a time, add the 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk and let each one mix fully before adding the next.
Beat in the vanilla extract and potato starch (or corn starch).
Slow the mixer down to medium-low and gradually add the flour and then stop. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Try not to over-mix the batter.
Pour into a buttered loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Let cool 5-10 minutes and then transfer from the loaf pan to a cooling rack to let cool completely.
Until next time, enjoy.