Pound cake. The name says it all. This popular cake get its name from its origin back in the 1700s, when a dessert large enough to feed a family of 12 was filled with one pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Fast forward to today. After a slice or two, pounds begin to add up. Today’s versions are lighter than the Colonial era version, but with 18 fat grams and 322 calories per slice, it's time for a healthier version.
I was intrigued to learn pound cakes have been around for centuries. And, finding out the simple “one pound of each” equation was easy to remember for the vast amount of cooks who couldn’t read back in the pre-formal education days was eye-opening. Many things made their way across the pond when the British landed on our shores, but pound cake was undoubtedly one of the best imports. With its slightly crunchy coat and moist interior, it's one of the few cakes that simply doesn't require frosting. It's delicious on its own.
It wasn’t until the 1900s that artificial leaveners like baking soda and baking powder were added to the “one pound” formula. Today’s pound cakes are still rich, but contain different and, in most cases, reduced proportions of the same ingredients as the original recipe. The end result is a lighter, fluffier cake.
Equations and formulas aside, there’s nothing better on earth than a hot, fragrant slice of pound cake right from the oven. With a cup of French vanilla coffee, life simply doesn’t get any better.
Speaking of today’s pound cakes, there’s no shortage of them. In my grandmother’s files, I found recipes for 7-Up, sour cream, cream cheese and buttermilk pound cakes. She hated to play favorites, so she regularly rotated the delicious, yet distinct flavors.
A search of the internet, especially Pinterest, produced a mother load of pound cake flavors and textures. There’s literally a pound cake flavor from A to Z. I found recipes for almond, apple cider, brown sugar, buttermilk, butter pecan, cinnamon roll, cinnamon streusel, coconut cream, honey, lemon blueberry, marbled red velvet, Meyer lemon ricotta, orange Dreamsicle, peach, strawberry, Tiramisu, vanilla, and whipping cream pound cakes. And that's not the complete list. With its delicate yellow cake base, pound cakes are the perfect foil for almost any flavor or addition.
For some, adding a descriptive adjective to the name of their pound cake says it all. For example, classic, easy, heaven sent, million-dollar, old-fashioned, and perhaps the one that sums it up best – world’s best – instantly make me want to prove their claims with my own cake.
Martha Stewart possesses an arsenal of intricate pound cake recipes, but also shares an “easy, three-step process.” Here are Martha’s three easy steps for vanilla pound cake:
Step one: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 6-cup (8.5 x 4.5-inch) loaf pan; set aside.
Step two: Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat two sticks of unsalted, room temperature butter and one cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add four large eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; add two teaspoons of pure vanilla and half a teaspoon salt. With mixer on low, gradually add two cups of all-purpose flour, beating just until combined (do not overmix).
Step three: Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour (tent with aluminum foil if browning too quickly). Let cool in pan 15 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack, and turn upright to cool completely.
Reading about the multitude of pound cake flavors and cooking methods created an instant craving for one. But as I stated last week, now is the time to cut back on fat and calories if we plan on getting anywhere near shorts and swimsuits. To help achieve this goal and respond to requests for the lighter pound cake I mentioned in last week’s column, I’m sharing my adapted version of the American Heart Association’s lighter recipe. No, you won’t get the same buttery taste as a regular pound cake. But the good news is, one slice contains less than 10 fat grams, depending on how generous you are with the cake knife. You can treat yourself to two slices…or more.
Very Berry Good and Healthy Pound Cake
1 (16-ounce) pound cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
3/4 cup skim milk
4 egg whites or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup all-fruit orange spread (or your favorite fruit flavor)
2 tablespoons orange juice (or your favorite fruit juice)
1 (16-ounce bag) of frozen mixed berries, defrosted
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup orange spread (or favorite fruit flavor)
With a hand mixer, mix together pound cake mix and following four ingredients. Pour batter into prepared pan (see pan sizes and baking times below). Bake according to pan size and place on cooling rack. Let cool for 10 minutes and invert onto serving plate.
For topping: mix together mixed berries and orange juice. Microwave fruit spread for 15 to 20 seconds, or until melted. Stir into berry mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to let flavors meld. Cut cake into half-inch slices and top each one with the berry mixture.
Pan sizes and baking times: - one 9x5-inch pan: bake times (in minutes) - 50-60. Two 8x4-inch pans - bake times (in minutes) - 33-40. 12-Cup fluted tube (Bundt) – bake times (in minutes) 38-43. 10 x 4-inch Angel food (tube) – bake times (in minutes) - 40-45.
(Adapted from AHA’s 46 Healthy Soul Food Recipes)