Modern Baker Challenge: Perfect Pound Cake

There seem to be three sorts:  the people who celebrate their birthday the whole month long, the ones who keep mum but maybe hope for a bit of festivity, and those who actively try to keep it under wraps.

Someone I work with, who we’ll say was in “category three,” celebrated a birthday last week,  or rather had her birthday celebration foisted on her. (She was outed by facebook).  As word spread, a lovely bouquet of flowers appeared mid-afternoon.  Meanwhile, I was brainstorming about what to bake.  (You know us…we love an excuse, though Karen is the champion of the stealth work celebration–remember her posts here, and here?)

I figured it was an ideal chance to skip ahead a few chapters in the Modern Baker Challenge and make Malgieri’s Perfect Pound Cake. 

It was pretty perfect.

This recipe requires a bit more effort than your average pound cake, but when would you step it up if not for someone’s birthday? 

Malgieri adapted this recipe from his aunt, and while each step is easy, there are quite a few.  First you have to beat the yolk and sugar together, then beat the flour, vanilla and lemon extracts, and butter together, then whip the egg whites into a stiff-peak meringue, then stir it all together, and beat another five minutes.  I’ll admit this last step mystifies me–why go to the trouble to beat the egg whites into a meringue, only to beat the combined batter another five minutes?  Usually you are instructed to fold egg whites in very gently, so as not to deflate the batter–what’s going on?

I still don’t understand the science, but I can tell you the cake was worth it (and all the mixing bowls).  The texture is what really grabbed me:  not heavy like you often risk with a pound cake, but of course, not airy or spongy either.  It seemed almost like a dense foam baked into a cake.  (An odd description, I’ll admit, but I can’t think of a better way to put it).  What’s more:  tender, surely thanks to the cake flour, and rich, with all that butter.

The cake was a day late, of course, but I like to think that it just extended the birthday celebration.  I’d love to make this again, ideally toasting the slices and serving warm and fragrant with a bright, intense berry coulis.  Now that would be festive!

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15 thoughts on “Modern Baker Challenge: Perfect Pound Cake

  1. I love birthdays (my own or anyone else’s) and I always say, your birthday isn’t over until you’re done celebrating! What a wonderful gift for your co-worker. Your pound cake looks delicious!

  2. i definitely fall into the first category…thus the polenta poundcake that i made for my last birthday. poundcake is definitely a great cake that is out of the ordinary, easy to transport and delicious. your co-worker is lucky.

  3. Oooh, I love a good pound cake and this one does look perfect. I am in the “celebrate my birthday week” camp, but I like the thought of celebrating the whole month!

  4. Wow that pound cake looks delicious, Sara! What a great birthday treat. Everyone’s birthdays have already passed in my office, so maybe I’ll just bake them some treats for the upcoming holidays. 🙂

  5. Hi there. New follower. Found you through Sweet Caroline’s Cooking. Glad I did. This recipe is amazing. I have never tried making pound cake but this makes me think I can do it. Yours just turned out perfect. My daughter’s birthday is close to christmas so she grew up thinking everybody got gifts for pretty much 2 weeks straight. As she gets older I find it hard to get people to remember or celebrate with it so close to christmas. When she was little they’d still come, now that she’s older she’s like the forgotten one. Hope you have a great weekend.

    • Thanks! Do you have this cookbook? I’m sorry I can’t post the recipe (the “rules” of the Challenge); it’s a great book! This recipe is certainly unusual; I was glad I had two kitchenaid stand mixer bowls (though you can do it with one).

  6. Made this this weekend. And it was pretty perfect. ANd it would be more perfect toasted with strawberries and cream, or raspberry coulis, or just about anything.

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