IN THE 1950s
-----Melissa Gray, NPR's All Things Considered producer
I call this cake the Man Catcher because
Sounds kind of sexy
A 10 inch tube pan
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
"Always read your recipe before you begin."
Another reason you want to read through your recipes before you begin: you want to understand what techniques you’ll be using to make said cake. If there’s something you don’t know
Here are the directions for Grandma Gray’s Sour Cream Pound Cake
Sour Cream Pound Cake
Center rack in oven and preheat to 350 degrees F
Prepare a pan.
Cream butter and sugar.
Sift together flour
Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream.
Add extracts. Beat until flavorings are incorporated and mixture looks smooth and even.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 90 minutes.
There’s a lot of baking shorthand in this. What does “cream” mean? Do I add the eggs all together? How do I combine the dry ingredients? What’s a tube pan? How does it get greased? Is the cake absolutely done at 90 minutes?
So many questions
“Center rack in oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.”
That’s our SECOND important step to making a cake
What does “center rack” mean? Take a look at your tube pan. Look at how tall it is—I’m guessing about 41<2044>2 inches. When you put that pan in the oven
“Preheat” means exactly what you think it means. So does 325 degrees F (Fahrenheit).
Three“Prepare a pan.”
This is not about sitting down and having a conversation or exam review with your cake pan; it’s about getting your pan all nice and greasy. Wouldn’t it be heartbreaking to have used fresh ingredients and a proper mixing technique only to have the Man Catcher refuse to rise to its full glory?
For this cake
A pound cake
If you’re using a traditional tube pan that’s flat on the bottom
“Cream butter and sugar.”
Creaming is the process of dissolving the sugar into the fat. Your goal is to have a creamy-looking mixture. That’s why it’s called creaming. D’oh!
Your first impulse might be to unwrap and dump 2 cold
3 heaping cups of granulated sugar.
I like Desi Arnaz
At least 1 hour BEFORE you’re ready to begin baking
Cut your room-temperature butter into tablespoon-sized pats and put these pats in the mixing bowl. Start your engine and mix for 1 or 2 minutes at medium speed until the butter is smooth and no longer resembles a pile of solid yellow squares.
Next step: you’re going to measure out your sugar. Not heapin’ helpings
Using this method
That means one at a time
If you’re going crazy just standing there
“Sift together flour
And about that sifting: Modern flour milling methods give us lump-free
I take a hand whisk and whisk my flour
“Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream.”
You’ve got about 3 cups of the flour mixture and 1 cup of sour cream to work with
Shift the mixer to the lowest speed. Add about 1 cup of the flour mixture and mix to incorporate. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula. Add 1<2044>2 cup of sour cream. Switch to medium speed and mix until incorporated. Stop the mixer. Repeat
“Add extracts. Beat until flavorings are incorporated and mixture looks smooth and even.”
In this case the flavorings are vanilla
That wasn’t so bad
Here’s another direction you’re going to see a lot in baking:
“Pour batter into prepared pan.”
Start pouring the batter
Do not—DO NOT—fill your tube pan to the rim. NO NO NO NO. Remember
Using your spatula
“Bake 90 minutes.”
(If you make a test cake with leftover batter
True confession: constantly “checking” the cake was once one of my worst baking habits (in addition to “creaming” entire sticks of cold butter with all the sugar at one time). Every time the oven door opens
If I’m worried about cake batter overflow
Here’s a tip for all you aspiring Martha Stewart perfectionistas: don’t stomp around the kitchen while your cake is baking. Proceed with your cleanup placidly and calmly
Let me tell you a story while you’re filling the sink with hot
Beep! Beep! Beep! Your timer just went off. Get a long toothpick
Using oven mitts
Why not pull the whole pan out of the oven rather than pull out the rack? Remember what I said about fallen cakes? Yeah. Exactly. If your cake is not quite done
Tip: Here’s something experienced home bakers will tell you
When the cake tests done
Getting back to the straight-sided tube pan: If you like the way the top of the cake looks
Put the rack on a table or counter and gently lift your cake pan slightly—it may require a very small shake to fully unmold the cake. Peel away the parchment paper. Next
If you’re using a Bundt pan