Best of America's Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Review 2008
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold + more for the pan
3 large eggs + 3 large yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)
1 3/4 cups cake flour + more for the pan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
- Cut the butter into 1 tablespoons pieces and place in the bowl of a standing mixer, let stand at room temperature 20 to 30 minutes to soften slightly (the butter should reach no more than 60 degrees.) Using a dinner fork, beat the eggs, yolk and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup until combined. Let the egg mixture stand at room temperature until ready to use.
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.
- In a standing mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and salt at medium high speed until shiny, smooth and creamy, 2 to e minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula. Reduce the speed to medium with the mixer running, gradually pour in the sugar (this should take about 60 seconds). Once all the sugar is added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is fluffy and almost white in color, 5 to 8 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl once. With the mixer running at medium speed, gradually add the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream; this should take 60 to 90 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl; beat the mixture at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes (the mixture may look slightly broken.) Remove the bowl from the mixer; scrape the bottom and sides.
- In 3 additions, sift the flour oover the butter/egg mixture; after each addition, fold gently with a rubber spatula until combined. Scrape along the bottom of the bowl to ensure that the batter is homogeneous.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Bake until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 70 to 80 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes; invert the cake onto a wire rack, then turn the cake right side up. cool the cake on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Slice and serve.
What makes this a best recipe: Pound cake only requires a few ingredients, but it is far from simple. More often than not, it bakes up heavy, squat and dense. Pound cake recipes date back to the 18th century and originally called for a pound each of flour, sugar, butter and eggs. But the historical recipes we've tried were too heavy and dense to please modern palates. For this recipe, we put an end to all the nonsense and retooled a classic recipe to make it more reliable. We found that giving the cake lift and a lighter crumb without the addition of a chemical leavener demanded maximum aeration from the butter. After much trial and error, we realized that warm butter is too slack to aerate, so our recipe started with chilly 60 degree butter. After the butter and sugar were properly creamed, we beat the eggs and added them very gradually, which produced a more voluminous batter and higher rise in the cake. It was time to add the flour, and we liked the more delicate crumb that cake flour produced. We found that sifting the flour over the batter (and folding it in by hand) lightened and fluffed the flour, making it easier to incorporate, which also reduced the overworking the batter. We serve this cake on its own, but its also great with fresh berries and whipped cream.