It's taken me about a year to want to bake again. After finishing work on Classic German Baking, I didn't want to even be in the same room as a piece of cake for a very long time. I don't know if it's stress baking (thanks, Trump!) or trying to find an ounce of external productivity in a life that is otherwise totally ruled by a sweet little butterball named Bruno, but I am very grateful to be finding pleasure in baking again, because it's about the only thing I seem capable of doing right now.
Last weekend I made Joanie's birthday cake for her picnic (the Kranzkuchen from CGB). We are feverishly planning Hugo's fifth birthday cake production next week (he gets to take one to daycare and there will be another one for his party and they will of course both be chocolate - but different! - because that is what he loves). I made these scones a few days ago and these cookies are on the docket for later today. I've been baking my way through this book and can't wait to tell you more about it. And last night, after the boys were in bed and with Max away on business, after reading James Comey's statement in advance of his Senate testimony and gnashing my teeth down to nubs, I made the Field Day Poundcake from the New York Times, which is every bit as majestic as Jennifer Steinhauer makes it out to be and a very good distraction from the outside world.
(What I don't understand is why the Times calls it Poundcake, as opposed to Pound Cake. Maybe one of you knows?)
It's gloriously simple, of course, just butter and eggs and sugar and flour, with a good splash of vanilla for flavor, some salt and a tiny bit of cream. Nevertheless, I made a few little tweaks that I'd like to pass on to you. First of all, per Jennifer's recommendation, I added a bit more salt than called for, about 1 1/4 teaspoons. I reduced the sugar by 1/2 cup and it was still plenty sweet. In fact, next time, I might even go down to 2 1/4 cups. This reduction didn't mess with the texture of the cake at all. I didn't use cake flour, just regular flour, and I didn't fold the flour in by hand, as she recommends, because my folding spatula was dirty and I was tired. I just switched the machine on low and beat it in gently. Same with the cream. One more thing, since Jennifer doesn't get specific about mixing times: at the start, make sure you beat the butter and sugar together until they're really light and fluffy, which takes about 5 minutes with a stand mixer. Then make sure that you beat each egg in for a minute. All this beating makes for a wondrous pile of cake batter, and, after baking, a gorgeous, even, velvety crumb. (This is just one of the great baking tips I got out of Shauna Sever's Real Sweet, mentioned above.)
I seem to have misplaced my Bundt cake pan so I used a tube cake pan, which I filled to the brim, but I still had a little leftover batter. So I poured that into muffin cups. (These, of course, bake for far less time than the full cake, just keep an eye on them and do the skewer test after about 25 minutes.) The cake was very tender when it first came out of the oven, but after cooling overnight it firmed up nicely. I plan on serving it this afternoon with sugared strawberries, while we watch the Senate hearing.
The world may be smoldering, but we will have cake.
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Jennifer Steinhauer's Field Day Poundcake
Makes one Bundt cake or two loaf cakes
453 grams (2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease the pans
600 grams (3 cups) granulated sugar (I only used 2 1/2 cups)
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
453 grams (3 cups) cake flour (I used all-purpose)
¼ cup heavy cream
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter and flour one 12-cup Bundt pan or two 8.5-inch-by-4.5-inch loaf pans, and set aside.
2. Using a stand mixer, cream together the remaining butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and salt.
3. Gently beat in the flour. Add the cream and stir just until thoroughly combined.
4. Pour the batter into the pan or pans and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack to cool completely.