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Sunday, March 4, 2012

It's Pound Cake Day

Rose Geranium Pound Cake (recipe below)
Raise your hand if your heart begins to thump at the thought of Pound Cake. One, two, three, I see three hands...there goes four, five and six...just as I thought...As you might suspect, pound cake usually weighs one pound, WRONG! 

Pound cake is so named because the ingredients to construct it were once measured by the pound; a pound of flour (4 cups) , a pound of sugar (2-1/4 cups), a pound of butter (2 cups), and a pound of eggs (2 cups or about 8 eggs depending on size). If left to my own devices, I would have assumed the name Pound Cake referred to the amount of time and beating it took to get that buttery goodness ready for the oven.

According to Andrew Smith, in The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, the Pound Cake arrived from England in the eighteenth century, which he states "was basically a small plum cake without fruit.
...At the fancy evening parties of the early nineteenth century, cake was a principal attraction. The long party cake table covered with a white cloth typically bore a row of different "fruit cakes" down the center. Initially these cakes were plum cake, pound-cake and sponge cakes. But, by the 1830s, suppler tables also included uniquely American cakes spun out of Pound Cake and Sponge Cake. The two new Pound Cake offshoots were to be particularly important to American cake baking. They were the stunningly white Lady Cake made with egg whites rather than whole eggs and flavored with bitter almonds, and the deep yellow Golden Cake made with egg yolks and flavored with orange or lemon. The fashion was to bake both cakes to highlight the contrast in color...
Nineteenth century America also saw the introduction of Pearl Ash, an alkaline leavening similar to today's baking soda. Pearl ash allowed women to make cake with less butter and fewer eggs than Pound Cake required. Pearl ash also took away some of the drudgery of beating the cake batter for so long.
...One of the new cake families comprised various cakes with spice, raisins, and currants. These were often named for American patriots (Washington, Madison, Harrison, Jefferson) or American cities (Boston, Rutland, Dover) The other new cake was "cup cake", which proved to be one of the most important cakes in American cake baking history. The cake was so named because its ingredients were measured by the cup (which was more convenient than weighing) and because, at least initially, it was baked in small cups, which facilitated the rising of inexpensive quickly made batters. Soon enough, cup cake came to be baked in large sizes as well...
One of the reasons I don't consider myself a "true" baker is because I lack precision. Baking depends on proper technique and precise ratios. Blame it on my lack of mathematical skills:) It isn't often that I get to share some of more conventional vintage cookbooks with you. In the days when Pound Cake recipes first appeared, it would take at least an hour or more of continuous beating by hand to get it too the right consistency. Thank goodness electric mixers were eventually introduced!  In this first edition of The National Cookbook published in 1896 and authored by Marion Harland and Christine Terhune Herrick, the authors reinforce the virtues of the proper assembly of Pound Cake.

In cake, as in bread making practical knowledge of a few cardinal rules will enable the cook to bring forth an almost infinite variety of sweets in this line of culinary adventure. She who can make, once and again, good cup cake is equal to whatever the layer-cake species may offer for experiment. The filling gives character and individuality to each of the family. Become proficient in the manufacture of pound cake, and, to parody Mr. Wegg, "all cake is open to you." Recipes many and diverse are only suggestions to her whose sponge cake always turns out well, whose pound cake is never streaky, or her jelly cake too stiff or too friable.
By 1871, in Commonsense in the Household, Ms. Harland cements the importance of the "proper" ingredients in cake baking.
Pound Cake may very well be a British creation, however, through the years, the Plain Jane of Pound Cakes has been modified by varying the amounts of ingredients and even adding chemical leavenings. Some have chosen to eliminate the butter entirely while replacing it with more "heart friendly" ingredients such as Olive Oil.

Here are a few more hints for capturing the essence of that goodness you remember from Pound Cake of days gone past without relinquishing the flavor; entirely:)

1. Use egg whites or egg substitutes instead of whole eggs. (You may have to add an extra white)
2. Replace butter with reduced calorie margarine
3. Use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour (It makes a lower fat cake more tender)
4. Substitute non-fat buttermilk for cream; you'll get a rich flavor without the fat. (When you use buttermilk make sure that baking soda is one of the leavening ingredients.) 

The tips and this recipe for Rose Geranium Pound Cake (pictured above) were harvested from the Low-Fat, High Flavor Cookbook published by Oxmoor House.
Rose Geranium Pound Cake
6 large rose geranium leaves
Vegetable cooking spray
3/4 cup reduced-calorie margarien, softened
3 cups sugar
8 egg whites
1-1/2 cups nonfat buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Directions: 
1. Coat geranium leaves with cooking spray; arrange leaves, dull side up, in bottom of a 10-inch tube pan lined with wax paper and coated with cooking spray and flour. Set aside.
2. Beat margarine at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg whites; beat well.
3. Combine buttermilk and vanilla, stirring well. Combine cake flour and remaining ingredients; add to margarine mixture alternating with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix after each addition. Spoon batter into tube pan. Bake at 325°  for 1 hour and 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 16 servings.

Resources

1. Sugar measuring equivalents (Joy of Baking)
2. Convert measures of ingredients for cooking & more
3. "Quatre Quarts" Pound Cake (French Pound Cake)
4. Pound Cake Tips
5. Experimenting with Size: Miniature Pound Cake
6. Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake (Fine Cooking)   

26 comments:

  1. wow love this Louise and love all these old books, I was thinking in your picnic of the last year, was so fun!! (lol)

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  2. Great write up on the pound cake. i never knew why it was called a pound cake until now! The cake's beautiful!

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  3. Happy Sunday, Louise. Somehow, I can just picture you "pounding" a cake into submission! That Rose Geranium Pound Cake is a thing of beauty. Can't wait for your Oreo Cookie Centennial Celebration!

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  4. Those geranium leaves are really beautiful, although I can imagine all my guests being baffled and/or perturbed trying to figure out whether to eat it or not :D

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  5. That day I heard Jay leno saying in the TV that all desserts should be so honest as pound cake. u eat it u gain a pound. lol =D

    dint know that it was actualy english and I have noted your hints on making a perfect pound cake.

    thx for sharing louise! =)

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  6. Whew. Glad I read this while the Knight wasn't around. He's a pound cake fiend. I only like it if it is moist, and even then, one THIN slice will do. Needless to say, I've never made one.

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  7. What a fun and tasty day! I'll have to make pound cake then.

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  8. Another great post; your pound cake is fantastic!
    Rita

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  9. I actually have some rose geranium essence that I have not used yet. It smells wonderful. Love pound cakes, so perfect with tea.

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  10. OK, I give up, how did they get those leaf-shapes into the Rose Geranium pound cake?

    Nice info!

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  11. Great post - I love pound cake, so I really enjoyed reading this. Beautiful photos too.

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  12. Whew, I would have never made it in the old days without an electric mixer. I love poundcake too. Interesting post!

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  13. Pound cake day? Count me in! Any and all kinds, Louise!

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  14. Mmm the pound cake is one of my favorites!

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  15. I could make and eat pound cake all day long. I have shipped more than a few to my oldest son for his birthday since he went to college, since they travel very well. Sadly, that much flour and sugar is off my radar now...even with the low fat substitutions (at which I've become pretty adept)!

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  16. I use oil in place of butter in many of my baked goods, particularly pound cake. Thanks for sharing more about pound cake than I ever knew.

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  17. i think nobody can resist a good pound cake! i cant imagine those days people beat the batter with their hands for an hour to make a pound cake..i would have ran out of energy to eat the cake!

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  18. Hi Louise, your pound cake is gorgeous!!!!! Love this post, I always learn something when I stop by to visit your blog!

    Here something for Oreo Cookie Day,
    http://www.soapmomskitchen.com/2010/05/cookies-and-cream-chocolate-chip.html

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  19. Pound cakes are lovely-- especially when you grill a slice up a bit and serve it with whipped cream! I used to make them frequently-- my favorite is a cornmeal-y one! :-D

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  20. Wow! This is really a great post! I love the history of this pound cake! Is so amazing! I think I can spend the whole day reading your interesting blog! BTW I love how you decorated this pound cake with Geranium leaves! LOVELY!

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  21. A lovely post! Nice history of pound cake. What a reat recipe and wonderful looking cake.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  22. The rose geranium pound cake is beautiful--such a nice twist on the rectangles.

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  23. I love how beautiful this pound cake looks and the flavouring - you celebrated beautifully!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru
    http://gobakeyourself.wordpress.com

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  24. Thank you everyone for your lovely comments.

    A hearty welcome to new visitors Kit @ i-lostinausten and Guru Uru. Thanks for popping in!!!

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  25. What an interesting read on the pound cake and the story behind its name, I feel so informed now!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Lou Ann. It really was a fun post! I mean really who can resist pound cake!

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Through this wide opened gate,
none came to early,
none returned to late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise