Old-school pound cakes come with their own easily-remembered formula (a pound of butter to a pound of sugar, eggs and flour) with leavening only coming from the air one whips into the batter. But just because it’s the classic way to do it, doesn’t mean mean I don’t think most pound cakes need a little extra creativity to keep them from becoming foamy, forgettable bricks. You can swap out some of the butter for cream cheese, as I do in my favorite non-traditional pound cake recipe, you can add loads of lemon, baking powder, baking soda and buttermilk, rendering something that is impossibly delicious but really, a pound cake in name only, or you can do as James Beard does, and apply smart cake-baking techniques to improve the predictable.
Everyday Cakes Archive
I’ve been curious to make a yeasted coffee cake for years, but every time I got close to making one, I decided against it. Would it be dry or overly-firm? Would it taste too much like bread? How would I know a good one if I’ve probably never had an authentic German kuchen — a general name for a type of sweet, yeasted cake, usually served with coffee — one? I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: I’m a master at talking myself out of things.
A few weeks ago, as I was going on about how much I like just about every color and shade of baked fruit desserts, the goofier the name — be it “grunt”, “slump”, “buckle”, or “betty” — the better, a reader named Shirley asked me if I’d ever tried anything called Blueberry Boy Bait.
Every summer, chocolate grows a little neglected in my kitchen. I don’t mean to let it happen — in my mind, there are few higher confectionery callings than brownies or ganache — but as soon as I start seeing rhubarb and strawberries and raspberries at the markets, and just today peaches (!) and blueberries (sorry NYC, there are none left. I bought them all), I start daydreaming about crisps and cobblers and grunts and crumb cakes and suddenly the winter’s stash of chocolate has grown soft and neglected in my pantry.
Let me guess: It’s Sunday. If you’re lucky, you’ve got at least a whole extra day left of a summer-summoning holiday weekend and if you’re even luckier, and the weather is a little more barbecue, pot-luck or picnic-friendly than it is where I am in the mountains of North Carolina, and maybe, just maybe, you’re trying to figure out what you can bring that won’t take you any time to make.
As you may have guessed, I have a serious soft spot for everyday cakes.* I call them Dinner Party Cakes. Or Potluck Cakes. Or I Heard You Were Coming and So I Baked You a Cake, cakes. Or If You Bake a Cake, The People Will Come cakes, as a fresh-from-the-oven cake has a way of drawing friends around your coffee table on an otherwise blah Monday night. Home baked goods are magical like that.
Meet my new favorite pound cake. I have had this cake bookmarked for, oh, 100 years or so and while some recipes that I unearth from their 100-year queue are the kinds of disappointments that did not improve with age, this is of the opposite variety: Why did it take me so long to make this? Here, let me kick myself a few times.