Pound Cake Memories

When I was a kid, we had this local bakery named Ma Kettle’s Bakery. I don’t remember much about it except that’s where we ordered all of our special occasion cakes. I don’t remember going there for anything but birthday cakes and what I remember being a lemon pound cake. I think this must have been Ma Kettle’s specialty, because it was the one thing I remember going to the bakery to get even if it wasn’t a special occasion. I am going to have to ask my mom if it was really a pound cake, but I am pretty sure it was. I just remember it being delicious!

So when I saw the pound cake recipe in William Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking Cookbook, it reminded me of this cake, and I had to try it! I think I made a pound cake one time when I was in high school, but that has been well over 20 years ago, so I am considering this a new recipe for me.

This recipe did not call for lemon, but I distinctly remember Ma Kettle’s cake having a lemon flavor. So I looked up a few other lemon pound cake recipes just to get an idea of how they incorporated the lemon flavor into the cake. Many of the recipes used lemon extract, which I did not have, but I did find a few that used lemon zest and lemon juice. Apparently, Starbucks has a good lemon pound cake. I haven’t tried it, but I am now curious how it compares to Ma Kettle’s.

I sifted my dry ingredients and creamed by butter and sugar. The recipe called for cake flour, but I only had all purpose. I added a tablespoon of lemon zest to the creamed butter and sugar before adding the eggs. I then added the eggs one at a time. The recipe said the mixture would be a little curdled looking, and it was, but wasn’t bad. After the eggs were added, I decreased the amount of vanilla in the recipe to a 1/2 teaspoon, and added 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. To be honest, this was total guess work on my part. I didn’t know how that amount would turn out, but I went for it. It was a similar amount to what other recipes called for.

Next, it was time to fold in the flour. Folding something into a batter always makes me nervous. I know the method of folding something in is how you add air to the batter to make it lighter in the final product, but I always tend to overdo it and mix too much. I lightly folded the flour in, but in the deep Kitchen Aid mixer bowl that I have, it wasn’t easy. I needed a more shallow, wide bowl to really fold, but it worked. The batter was now mixed and went into the oven for about 70 minutes.

My first pound cake in 20 plus years came out looking pretty good, but was it Ma Kettle’s good? I think I cooked it a little longer than Ma Kettle would have. It didn’t look nearly as soft as I remember hers being, but how did it taste?

It was actually pretty delicious. You could taste the lemon, but I think it could have used even more lemon flavor. Next time, I will try lemon extract or increase my lemon zest and juice amounts. I think I just slightly over-folded the batter, but it wasn’t bad. I would say, this recipe was pretty close to my memories of a pound cake. My kids liked it, and my husband went for seconds, so that’s always a good sign.

I kept the cake covered with a damp towel, as the recipe instructed, and snuck a small piece this morning to have with my coffee, and I think it had an even better flavor this morning. The outside crust was definitely sweeter after sitting overnight. It was delicious. Another recipe I will be adding to my family recipe book and continue baking and adjusting that lemon flavor.

Pound Cake
adapted from William Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, slightly cool
1 tablespoon lemon zest (this is my addition to the recipe that I think could be increased if you like a lemony flavor)
1/2 tsp vanilla (I decreased this from the original recipe and added lemon juice)
2 tsp lemon juice

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
Whipped Cream for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9X5 inch loaf pan or an 8 inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit. Butter the paper then dust the bottom and sides with flour. (Anyone know the purpose of doing the parchment paper like this? I have been curious).

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. In a large, deep bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Using a sturdy whisk or a stand mixer, beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla and lemon juice. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a spatula, gently fold in half of the dry ingredients until almost incorporated. Add the remaining dry ingredients and using a light lifting and folding motion and turning the bowl continuously, fold until the batter is smooth and the dry ingredients are incorporated in. Do not overfold, or the cake will be too tough.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake the cake until a toothpick comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. Do not over-bake. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the wire rack and remove the parchment paper. Turn the cake over with the domed side up and let cool. You can cover the cake with a damp cloth to keep it from drying out as it cools.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh berries and cool whip.


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