Basic Pound Cake

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No Southern girl is worth her salt if she can't make a good pound cake.  Pound cakes often get a bad reputation as being too dry, too dense, or just plain unappealing because they either are not well made or they come from a store, pre-packaged and as old as the Queen Mother.  In their true form, pound cakes are a delicious deviation from your standard butter cake because they are appropriately sweet, dense, velvety, and moist.  A good one is perfect on its own but can be enhanced topped with fresh fruit, whipped cream, or ice cream. 

I, being a Southern girl, felt unworth my own salt because I had never attempted to make a real (by real I mean a full pound of butter) pound cake.  Until now.  Or, rather, until Mother's Day.  You see, every gift giving occasion I have a bit of a dilemma to contend with.  Most of the people in my life are ridiculously hard to buy a gift that you feel confident giving to them.  Take my great grandmother.  She is 103 years old.  I will give you a minute to read that sentence again.  What do you get for a 103 year old?  She's not able to see well anymore, so books are out.  Her hearing isn't what it used to be, either, so music is out, too.   When trying to get ideas off my mom, she mentioned that pound cake was her favorite dessert and that I could make her one of those. 

This suggestion must have been orchestrated by God Himself, because just the previous week my grandmother gave me a special Southern Living Desserts magazine (possibly still on newsstands) featuring a recipe called Million Dollar Poundcake.  This came at the same time that the Southern Living May issue featured a basic, Two Step Pound Cake that was nearly identical to the Million Dollar Poundcake, except for extract choices.  I went with the Two Step recipe.  I had two similar recipes and the perfect occasion to try it out. 

This pound cake is large; it is not made in a loaf pan but a tube pan.  As you will see, it contains a full pound of butter and doesn't apologize for it.  For those of you who don't know a lot about the chemistry of baking, butter and other fats give moisture to baked goods.  Therefore, the more the better! 

To my unending delight, my grandmothers both said that it was one of the best pound cakes they had ever had.  I believe Mother's Day was a success.  I, unfortunately, was only able to eat a few crumbs from where I trimmed the excess off the top of the pan to level the cake.  Here is the recipe below:

Two Step Pound Cake
from May 2010 Issue of Southern Living

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
2 cups butter, softened
3/4 cup milk
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
Preheat oven to 325°. Place flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla (in that order) in 4-qt. bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer. Beat at low speed 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes.

Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch (16-cup) tube pan, and smooth. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

Cook's Notes
  • The only pan I had that would work for this recipe was my 10 cup Bundt pan.  It would really be best if you had the suggested size as my batter overflowed in the oven, creating a small fire on the oven coils.  NordicWare makes this size; it is their larger angel food pan.
    • Lesson 1- put a sheet pan or heavy duty aluminum foil under your pan to avoid an overflow creating a big mess in the bottom of your oven
    • Lesson 2- if you do cause a fire, listen to Firefighter Drew and just shut the door.  The lack of oxygen will put the fire out.
  • It is important to properly mix it because the only leavening in this cake is the air incorporated during the mixing.
  • This recipe is forgiving!  I forgot to add one of the ingredients in the order listed and it still came out great.
  • Due to the temperamental nature of my oven and the fact that my pan was too small, my cake only took an hour to bake.  Watch your cake!

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