Photo by Lindsey Turner (Flickr: berries and pound cake), via Wikimedia Commons
It's never too early to start planning for March 4, National Pound Cake Day. As a southerner, National Pound Cake Day lives in my heart all year round. My mom's pound cake recipe (see below) always garners praise and is a fail-safe addition to any gathering. I say "fail-safe," but that's assuming you go to the extra effort of springing for cake flour and sifting it (and if you don't have a sifter, you can get one for about $10 at most home supply stores).
Pound cake is versatile--any of the additions below will create a nice variation while preserving what's best about pound cake: its simplicity. After all, pound cake got its name because of its very basic recipe of one pound each of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs.
Save the ganache for another day, my friends--pound cake will allow you to impress and have time for other things (like, say, watching TV).
Recipe for Perfect Pound Cake
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
1 cup of shortening
3 cups sugar
4 cups of cake flour (sift then measure)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
2 tsp almond extract (or sub in one of the extracts below)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and shortening until well-blended. Add sugar slowly until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, add salt and baking powder to the flour. Combine milk and extract in a measuring cup. With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, alternately with the milk, to the butter mixture. Begin and end with flour. Pour batter into the pan. Bake for 90 minutes or until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake and dust with powdered sugar. Serves 12 to 16.
Optional additions (I'd just choose one)
1 tsp orange extract & 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract & 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cranberries
1 cup currants or raisins
Fancy molded cake pan (this is a nice, substantial cake that can hold its shape)
According to our friends at Wikipedia, pound cake is traditional across many cultures. In Mexico, raisins or walnuts are added. Wine is added to Colombian cakes. In the UK, they call it sponge cake. In France, quatre-quarts (four-fourths), alluding to the ingredient list. I think this means that National Pound Cake Day is limiting its sights...this is a cake for the whole world to enjoy.