Sunday, May 8, 2016

Baker's Corner: Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Happy Mother's Day!

Youth fades; love dwindles
the leaves of friendship wither
A mother's unconditional love, outlives them all....

To all you beautiful mommies out there....today is a day to be honored for all the hard (and often unnoticed) work that you do. To acknowledge the physical, emotional, mental, educational and spiritual effort that it takes to be a nurturing mom. Being a mother is a high calling so even when you feel like you are invisible, remember that you are building something far more amazing that can ever be imagined. Thank you for all you do! Have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day! And DEMAND to be pampered (if that wasn't already on the agenda!) 

And now moving on to my recipe post....

Pound cake is the undisputed queen of all naked cakes. Nothing beats the rich, buttery flavor of a homemade pound cake. Even though it is a simple, no-frills, unassuming cake, the dense, velvety texture, moist crumb and pure butter flavor make it so alluring that, it can easily outrank many a sophisticated dressed up cake. Don't you agree? 

To be completely honest with you, my baking history doesn't boast of many a pound cake. I can probably only recount two instances in the distant past where I have baked a pound cake. I used to buy the Sara Lee brand of vanilla or coffee flavoured pound cake and a tub of vanilla bean ice-cream and stash them in the freezer as an emergency backup for unexpected guests. Haha!

Recently, I felt like baking something nice to take over to a friend's place as a homemade baby shower gift. I felt like I couldn't go wrong with a classic pound cake. Although a bit old-school, this cake is always in style and a universal favourite. This recipe deviates slightly from the classic route in that it has cream cheese (which makes the cake even richer). I mean, HELLO?



A pound cake looks deceptively simple but you can very easily go wrong with it. There are a few steps that you can follow to make sure you end up with a pound cake that is light and buttery with a fine textured, moist and even crumb rather than a heavy, dry piece of bread masquerading as cake (ugh!).

What you can (and should) do:
1. Measuring the ingredients is KEY. If you are one of those people who like to randomly toss things into a bowl while baking, be forewarned that you can never get away with that when it comes to pound cake. The dry ingredients need to be sifted first and then measured using a standard dry measuring cup (make sure you level the flour with a spatula)
2. Since the ingredients used in pound cake are so simple, you would do well to use good quality butter and vanilla extract
3. The butter and sugar need to creamed very well for at least 5 minutes. Preferably use the paddle attachment of your mixer and use a medium speed.
4. The butter, eggs and any other dairy you are using MUST be at room temperature
5. The dry ingredients need to be gently folded in batches ensuring that you do not deflate the mixture
6. Care needs to be taken that this cake is not overbaked (you need to be sure of your oven settings)
7. And finally, the cake needs to cool partially in the tin but then needs to be taken out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Not at all intimidating right?!

Hey, don't mind me....just take a stab at it okay? All you have to do is pay a little more attention while following the instructions. I promise!




I am so happy I tried this recipe. This one is going to be a keeper! If you are one of those people who have had trouble with pound cake in the past then I suggest you give this one a chance. The ingredients are basic (most of them pantry staples), the instructions clear and simple and the end result is a rich, moist, fragrant cake with just the right amount of sweetness. I'm sold on it and I think you will be too!

A perfectly executed pound cake is a triumph, the memory of which will be etched in your mind for a long time to come  

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Preparation time: 15-20 min; Baking time:  60 min; Cooling time: 20-30 min
Total time: Under 2 hours
Makes: 1 loaf (9x5x3 inch); Serves 6-7
Recipe Category: Dessert/British
Recipe Level: Easy 
Recipe Source: Adapted from Joy Of Baking

Ingredients:

11/2 cups all purpose flour (sift before measuring) plus additional for dusting the pan
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature plus additional for buttering the pan
110gm package full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
11/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Butter and flour a 9x5x3 inch loaf tin. This step is important so do not skip.


2. In a large bowl, sift together the (already sifted and measured) flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.


3. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth.


4. Gradually add the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Continue beating on medium speed until light and fluffy (5-7 minutes). The mixture should go white.


5. Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.


6. Using a slow speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.


7. Add the flour mixture in three increments, and using a spatula, fold until just blended after each addition. Do not overmix.


8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 60 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.


9. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for about 10 minutes away from drafts so it has time to firm up. Remove the cake from the pan and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.



10. Slice and serve topped with greek yoghurt/whipped cream/creme fraiche and honey (if desired)




Notes:
  • You can double the ingredients in this recipe and use a 10-inch (25cm) bundt pan. The baking time will range from 55-70 min. This cake can serve 12-14 people 
  • Do not use cooking spray to grease the loaf pan. Stick with unsalted butter 
  • Do not soften the butter in the microwave. It just doesn't work as well 
  • You can change up the flavour of this cake. Some options are to use almond extract and vanilla beans, two tablespoons of liqueur (like Grand Marnier), freshly brewed coffee, half a teaspoon of orange blossom or rose water, grated citrus zest, and any warming baking spice (like cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom) 
  • This pound cake can be served alongside fresh seasonal berries (raspberries/strawberries/blueberries/blackberries), fresh passion fruit pulp or caramelized bananas in addition to the greek yoghurt/whipped cream/creme fraiche 
  • You can also top off the pound cake with a shiny glaze. The options that you can use to flavour the glaze are limitless and beyond the scope of this post! 
  • This cake will keep about 3 to 4 days at room temperature and about one week in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months 

Cheers,


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