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“LCD” Vanilla Pound Cake

Updated September 09, 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

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F (conventional) or 335°F (convection). Set the rack in the middle of the oven. For Crunchy Feet, set racks in the upper-middle and lower-middle positions.

Set out the ingredients and equipment.

Sift the flour directly into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring.

Measure the other dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside.

Measure the liquid ingredients into a separate bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside.

Measure the butter and sugar into separate bowls and set aside.

Crack the eggs and yolk into separate bowls and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on the lowest speed for 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the creaming butter and sugar. Reserve the pod for another use.

With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolk, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl.

Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly to avoid overworking the batter. Don’t wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.

Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don’t miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom of the bowl. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter’s structure.

Prepare the pans. For a Bundt cake, spray the pan well with a nonstick spray. For Crunchy Feet, place the brioche pans on sheet pans (16 per half-sheet pan is a snug fit) and spray them liberally.

For a Bundt cake, fill the pan about three-quarters full by depositing the batter with the rubber spatula in small clumps around the prepared pan instead of by pouring it into one spot. Level the batter with the rubber spatula. Bake any leftover batter as Crunchy Feet or cupcakes. For Crunchy Feet, use a 2-ounce, trigger-release, ice-cream scoop to deposit the batter into the prepared pans so they’re three-quarters full.

. Follow the approximate bake times listed below.

ITEM: 12-cup Bundt- At Sea Level, bake 50-55 minutes; at High Altitude, bake 70 minues

ITEM: Crunchy Feet - At Sea Level, bake 15 minutes; at High Altitude, bake 30 mnutes.

. Once the top of the cake doesn’t jiggle in the center, test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer in the center of the cake. When the skewer shows just a touch of crumbs the cake is done. The sheen on top may look liquid, but this is normal and comes from the fat in the heavy cream. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack.

. For Crunchy Feet, carefully invert the brioche pans to release the cakes 3 to 4 minutes after removing them from the oven—well before they cool completely. You may have to tap each pan firmly—or even slam it—against the sheet pan to release the cake. Place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack to cool. Immediately soak the pans to make cleaning easier.

. For the Bundt cake, once the cake has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes remove the cake by inverting the pan onto a flat surface. Allow it to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before glazing.

SERVING AND STORING

Serve at room temperature either naked or with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. To boost flavor and add a special touch, use one of the Fruit Glazes or Glazing Chocolate.

Store under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store longer, label, date, and store the plastic-wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 1 month.

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