Yet another baking problem requiring an answer. I'm not much of a baker (yet) although my 13 year old daughter loves to bake and her mom (my wife) is a very good baker. In fact she made an Apple Pear Cake recipe given to her from our friend Geoff, another incredible home baker. She made the cake this past weekend and it was scrumptious. My wife was delighted her apple pear cake turned out as well as it did and was so well received. That's what I love about cooking!
This post is about a problem Stella was having with her pound cake. Here is what Stella asked me:
After baking pound cake, the top and sides are crusty to the point where I can actually peel this off instead of being buttery and soft. What am I doing wrong? I sifted the cake flour and really creamed the cream cheese, butter and sugar well.
I immediately sent Stella's dilemma to my friend Pastry Chef Jenni Field who knows everything there is to know about baking. She replied:
Hmm. Is the "crust" crunchy or just detached?
The number one reason that you can get a crunchy, detached layer on the top of cakes and brownies is that you whipped the eggs too much once they were in the batter, in essence making a "stealthy meringue." When you put the batter in the pan, the bubble matrix you created by whipping the eggs sort of magically rises to the top and detaches itself.
To test to see if this is the case (and it's really not much of a hardship to have to eat pound cake, right?!) *just* mix in the eggs, one at a time, on low speed, until they are completely incorporated. Sounds like you did all the other steps well, and the creaming is the most important way to get bubbles. Over beating the eggs just gives you too much of a good thing.
- Sift dry.
- Cream butter/sugar/cream cheese very well until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs, one at a time on low, mixing just enough to get them incorporated.
- Just mix in dry on low (alternating w/any wet). For pound cake, I usually do dry-wet-dry.
- Finish mixing by hand, folding w/a large spatula
I hope this helps!
And I hope it answers your question too.
Pound Cake Recipe
Since we are talking about pound cake, I asked Chef Jenni for a favorite version of her own. Here's what she sent me. I think you are going to like it.
This is an excellent, basic pound cake recipe that can be varied in many, many ways - add some cinnamon, use brown sugar instead of white sugar, use the zest of oranges or lemons, etc. The 1/4 cup of softly whipped cream gives the cake a wonderful, velvety texture. You don't have to do this step if you don't want to. In that case, use a whole cup of milk rather than 3/4 cup.
- 12 oz cool butter, (about 68F)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (just a pinch less if you use table salt)
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons excellent-quality vanilla extract
- 20 oz. sugar (3 cups)
- 5 large eggs
- 13 oz. cake flour, sifted (3 cups)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, very softly whipped (it should be thick but not hold peaks)
How to Prepare at Home
Set an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F. Thoroughly spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with pan spray. Add about 1/2 cup of flour and knock it around in the pan until the whole inside of the pan is coated with the flour. Turn pan upside down and firmly tap out the excess flour.
If using the cream, place a metal or glass bowl and a whisk in the freezer. You'll come back to it later.
In a bowl, whisk flour and baking powder together very well.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth and creamy
Add the salt and vanilla and blend in.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until it is all incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat well for a minute or two until the mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape bowl as necessary.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on medium-low speed until each egg is just incorporated before adding the next. Scrape bowl between each addition.
With the mixer off, spoon in about half of the flour. Mix on low until barely incorporated. If you can still see some dry flour, don't worry about it.
Alternate adding half of the milk, half the remaining flour mixture, the rest of the milk and the rest of the dry ingredients, barely mixing between each addition.
Pour the 1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream, if using, into the cold bowl. Whisk vigorously until the cream thickens to the consistency of a loose pudding. The cream will form low mounds when dropped back into the bowl but will not form peaks. This should only take a minute or two, as you're whipping such a small amount of cream.
Scrape the cream into the mixer bowl and, with a large spatula, fold in the cream and incorporate all the dry ingredients gently but thoroughly.
Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake until deep golden brown, well risen and cracked in the center. The sides will just start pulling away from the pan and a tester inserted into the cake halfway between the outer side and the inner tube will come out clean--an hour to one hour and 15 minutes.
Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool completely, about 2 hours.
To garnish, either sieve some powdered sugar evenly over the top of the cake or make a simple glaze with powdered sugar, a little milk and a splash of vanilla.
This is very good at room temperature with a cup of tea. To really put it over the top, toast a slice in the toaster oven and serve with a pat of butter. Heaven!