Wednesday, April 30, 2008

#47 Pound Cake and #48 Buttercream II

As well as the lovely orangeade, I thought I'd make a cake. As much as I love cooking and cake, I don't often make them. So I thought I'd go for the basic plain sponge cake - a pound cake being the easiest because so you put all the ingredients in a mixer in one go. What could possibly go wrong with that!? The parsnip cake was very good, but seemed very easy; I reckon the only way to tell if one is a good baker is to make a basic cake very well. My favorite filling for sponge cake is butter cream, and I've always used my Mum's recipe, which is simply icing sugar and butter (in fact, being a child of rationing in the UK, she uses margarine). There are two butter cream recipes in English Food, but the first requires a sugar thermometer and since I don't have one of those (but if anyone fancies buying me one...), I went for (#48) Butter cream II.

The whole idea behind the original pound cake is that the ingredients all weigh a pound EACH! This is of course overdoing things in the modern home, I think the original recipe must have been for housekeepers making cakes for households. Therefore, nowadays all the ingredients weight a pound altogether: 4 ounces each of softened butter (if you keep it in the fridge, put it in the microwave on a medium setting for 45 seconds), sieved self-raising flour and vanilla sugar (see previous entry), along with 2 medium eggs (which should be 4 ounces). Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of ground almonds, which apparently make the final cake more moist, plus a level teaspoon of baking powder. Put all the ingredients in a food mixer and beat until a smooth mixture forms. An early recipe from Hannah Glasse in 1747, says that beating the mixture by hand takes an hour! No thank you, lady. Add to a lined 23cm long loaf tin and - here is where I may disagree with Grigson - bake at 180 oC for one hour and 5 minutes. When I baked mine I checked after 45 and it was overdone! I think that 30 minutes may be enough, though my loaf tin, although 23cm long, does seem quite wide.

The butter cream is a custard-based one, which sounded very nice. It was quite easy too, now that I'm sufficiently experienced in the art if custard-making. My amounts differ to Jane's because I didn't have enough butter, or the right sized eggs, but it made enough for a middle and top layer to the cake:

In a food mixer, whisk 2 egg yolks and 2 1/2 ounces of sugar until it becomes fluffy and very pale. Meanwhile boil 90 mls (a generous 2 fluid ounces). When it comes to a boil, beat it into the egg mixture. Quickly return to the pan and stir on a low heat of a couple of minutes - it should thicken very rapidly. It was hard to judge as the was so much foam; however, as it cooled and the foamy bubbles began to pop, it became noticeably thicker. When the whole thing begins to get cooler, but it still warm, gradually whisk in 5 ounces of very soft butter cut into small cubes. I then added a few drops of vanilla extract. When it is properly cold, use as required!

I simply cut the cake lengthwise in half and added a thin layer of raspberry jam and a thick layer of the butter cream and sandwiched the two halves together, then I spread the rest of the gooey cream on the top.

#47 Pound cake - 6/10. Little disappointed in the cake. It was very tasty, but rather dry. However, this may be my own fault as I haven't got used to my new oven yet. The vanilla sugar that I'd made a cuople of weeks earlier, also gave the sponge a nice, sweet scent.

#48 Butter cream II - 8/10. A lovely creamy, but not overly sickly alternative to normal butter cream. I loved it, and shall be definitely doing it again!


Anonymous said...

Neil, I think you've been very harsh on the actual cake. I thought it was really moist, not at all dry! It was airy but formed exactly the right "clagginess" to go with a cup of tea 8 / 10

As for the buttercream, this was kick ass. It was perfectly buttery (hee hee) and vanillery. I've had buttercream before where the sugar crunches when you "chew" it, but this was smoooooth. 9/10

Anonymous said...

Hi Neil, I do love this blog. It's rare to find someone as nerdy as me about cookery books!
I have problems with my fan oven drying cakes out & burning them. I routinely lower the temp by 20-30 degrees C and for cakes, it helps to put a shallow dish of water in the bottom of the oven to boost the humidity. My dad uses a pound cake recipe (from Constance Spry if I recall) which is a fruit cake, so same as yours but also a pound of raisins, currents,sultanas etc etc. He usually halves the recipe & it makes at least 2 x 9 inch cakes. Luckily they keep well for months! Looking forward to reading more. Anth (Nic's friend)

Neil Buttery said...

Hi Anthea.

I've recently re-done the cake. There's several variations on the theme. When I get the chance, I'll do a proper post, but I just reduced the cooking time. However, I have heard that fan ovens dry out cakes, so I'll deffo try the dish of water tip.

Glad you like reading the blog! See you in the corridor soon, I'm sure!

angela said...

For the buttercream boil 90mls of what?