Let's discuss pound cake, shall we?
I have a love/hate relationship with pound cake. The love part? Well, that should be fairly obvious. I mean, it's pound cake, and if successfully prepared, pound cake is not too hard to love.
The hate part stems from the myriad of mishaps that inevitably occur when trying to create the recipe for a perfect pound cake. I have had more than my fair share of these.
But what, you may ask, constitutes a "perfect pound cake?"
No doubt that the answer varies from baker to baker. Purists may insist that the recipe is not truly a pound cake if it strays from the traditional formula: 1 pound each of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs, possibly flavored with vanilla or brandy.
But if we're being technical here, shouldn't this actually be called a four-pound cake?
This baking powder and milk-free version tends to yield very dense golden brown loaves with a fine crumb. Some say that they are too dense, or too dry (I fall into this category.) So, we bakers and bloggers do what we do best: We take a basic recipe and we change it around to make it our own unique creation.
There are countless credible recipes for pound cake in cookbooks and on the Internet these days. Some use cake flour. Some use bread flour. Some add sour cream for moisture. Some add whole milk or buttermilk. Some separate the egg whites from the egg yolks. Some incorporate fava bean puree into the batter (not really, just seeing if you are paying attention.)
Anyhow, my point is that there is no one right recipe for the perfect pound cake. You really just need to play around with options until you find the mix that makes you happy. Through trial and error, these are the things that made me happy:
1. Baking temperature: I found that my perfect baking temperature for pound cake was 325F degrees. At 350F, the loaves would become much too dark on top by the time that the insides were fully baked. I ended up having to cover them with foil during the last 10 minutes.
2. Additional dairy: My most successfully moist loaves had some sort of dairy added to them, about 1/2 cup per loaf. I didn't find a noticeable difference if I used whole milk vs. buttermilk vs. sour cream, so I usually use what I have on hand, which is usually whole milk.
3. Leavening: 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder per loaf wasn't enough. The tops of the loaves were flat, which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine when it comes to pound cake. How on earth is the glaze supposed to ooze over the sides if the top is flat??? I like a nice dome on my pound cakes. So, 1 teaspoon it was.
4. Extras: I'm a big fan of glazes and syrups on cakes. The glazes just look pretty, and the syrups allow that extra punch of flavor to soak into the tops of the loaves. I also like to stir things into the batter: toasted coconut, chopped nuts, zest, etc. It's always nice to add a little texture, right?
So, this recipe is where I am right now in my quest for perfect pound cake. No doubt it will be tweaked even further in the future (I just can't leave well enough alone!) Here are my extra tips for making this lip puckering-ly possibly perfect pound cake:
- The initial step of chopping the toasted coconut is not mandatory. I just prefer to have the coconut in small enough pieces so that it doesn't interfere with the slicing.
- This cake is actually better the day after it is made, both from a flavor and slicing standpoint. Once the glaze has set, wrap the loaf tightly in plastic wrap, and either store it at room temperature or place it in the refrigerator (my preference).
- Feel free to substitute regular limes in this recipe. For other variations, you could also use lemons, oranges, or tangerines.
- Add toasted and chopped macadamia nuts to the batter for an additional tropical element.
Coconut Key Lime Pound Cake
Makes one 9X5 inch loaf
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, lightly toasted
1 3/4 sticks (7 ounces) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
Zest of 6 key limes (about 2 regular limes)
2 tablespoons fresh key lime juice
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
For the lime syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh key lime juice
For the lime glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh key lime juice
Preheat the oven to 325F degrees.
Spray a 9X5X3-inch loaf pan with nonstick baking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and spray the parchment.
Pulse the toasted coconut in the work bowl of a food processor or a mini chopped until it is finely chopped.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and the sugar at medium speed until very light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Continue to beat the mixture after all of the eggs have been added for 3 minutes. Beat in the lime zest and the lime juice.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk, mixing until combined. Mix in the toasted coconut.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 60-70 minutes. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
Prepare the syrup: Whisk together the sugar and the lime juice in a microwave safe bowl. Heat the mixture for 30 seconds, stirring until the sugar dissolved (heat for an additional 10-15 seconds, if necessary.) Using a spoon or a pastry brush, pour or bush the syrup over the still warm loaf, allowing it to soak in. Let the loaf sit for 15 minutes.
For the glaze, whisk together the confectioner's sugar and enough of the lime juice to create a thick but pourable glaze. Pour the glaze over the pound cake, allowing it to drizzle over the sides. Let the glaze set for at least 15 minutes before serving.