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“LCD” Vanilla Pound Cake

Updated February 23, 2016

This cake is my mom’s favorite. Once I showed up to visit without anything from the bakery and she said, “Where’s the cake?” Now it’s a standard part of my luggage for any trip home. I call it “LCD” for lowest common denominator. It’s the one pound cake everyone knows and loves. While this recipe might seem like it has a lot of sugar, it’s necessary to drive the right amount of air into the butter during the creaming stage. That air is critical to achieving a textural harmony between light and dense. The concentration of flavors found here comes from three sources—real vanilla bean, vanilla powder, and vanilla extract. I like this three-pronged approach because it results in a layered composition of flavors. Vanilla powder is available at most gourmet stores, but even without it this cake will still win compliments. Serve plain or as a base for any shortcake. It’s an all-time favorite that must not be missed.

*Crunchy Feet are little pound cakes baked in small (2-ounce) brioche pans. They are so named because they have lots of toes, or ruffled edges, that get a little crunchy when they bake.

EQUIPMENT: mixing bowls, standing mixer, one 12-cup Bundt pan or small brioche pans 

Alcohol-free variation: Omit the brandy, amaretto, rum, vanilla extract, and whiskey. Substitute 2 tablespoons grated or minced lemon zest and 7 tablespoons whole milk. Whisk to combine with the liquid ingredients.

Cooking Methodbaking

CostSplurge

Moderate

Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursedessert, snack

Equipmentelectric mixer

Mealdinner, snack, tea

Taste and Texturebuttery, rich, sweet

Type of Dishpound cake

Ingredients

  • Unbleached all purpose flour 13½ ounces (2½ cups + 3 tablespoons), or 14½ ounces (2¾ cups + 2 tablespoons) at high altitude
  • Potato starch, 1 tablespoon
  • Vanilla powder, 1½ teaspoons
  • Salt, ½ teaspoon
  • Baking soda, ¼ teaspoon
  • Sour cream, 8 ounces (1 cup)
  • Heavy cream, 2 tablespoons, or 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon at high altitude
  • Brandy, ¼ cup
  • Amaretto, 1 tablespoon
  • Rum, 1 tablespoon
  • Vanilla extract, 1½ teaspoons
  • Whiskey, 1½ teaspoons
  • Unsalted butter, at room temperature, 8 ounces (2 sticks)
  • Extra-fine granulated sugar, 24 ounces (3 cups), or 21 ounces (2½ cups + 2 tablespoons) at high altitude
  • Eggs (large), 5, or 6 at high altitude
  • Yolk (large), 1
  • Vanilla bean, 1

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