Thursday, August 26, 2010


Call me crazy, but all I want to do this summer is turn on my oven and bake. Yeah, I know it's 100 degrees outside, but does that matter? Will it matter, when, after a couple of hours I am hot, and sweaty and flop onto the grass in the backyard with a piece of blackberry cobbler while you, you are hot, and sweaty, and hungry? No. It's all worth it. Take advantage of those summertime berries, I say. They are only here for a while. Plus chances are, you will be hot and sweaty no matter what you decide to do.
Turn on your oven.
Do it.

A few weeks ago I got the most intense craving for pound cake. Why, of all things was I craving a slice of dense, intense pound cake, I have no idea. But when the craving strikes, it's hard to shake. Not even extreme heat could deter me from my mission. I've got to be honest though, I'm not really a pound cake expert. I mean, there is something about its simplicity that I have loved for years. I love the texture. I love its understated flavor and the way it goes well with a cup of tea. But I have never, ever tried making it myself. It was as good a day as any to try something new though, and so I went at it. Oh, yes, it was so worth it.

I did a bit of recipe searching before I settled on "the one." And to be honest, in the end, I totally chose this recipe because of the name. I mean, if it was good enough for Elvis, surely it would be good enough for me. And so, one sweltering summer evening, I set to work baking Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound Cake. I'm certain this cake would have been great all on it's own, but I was desperate to use some of the fresh blueberries that I had sitting on the counter. I threw a few handfuls into the bundt pan with the batter, as well as some grated lemon rind. Then I popped it in the oven, crossed my fingers, and waited.
Something kind of wonderful happened during the hour this guy was in the oven. The batter puffed up, became golden, and made the house smell sinfully sweet. I get really excited when I try a recipe for the first time and it completely blows my expectations. Even before I took it out of the oven, I knew I had crafted a masterpiece. My expectations were blown. May I suggest waiting about an hour before slicing yourself a piece of steaming pound cake dotted with molten berries. It is a serious test of willpower, but it might save you some trouble. I kind of burnt my entire mouth after taking a massive "test bite." Burnt tongues aside, this cake was insanely delicious. The texture was unlike anything I had ever eaten before. It was as light as a cloud, and yet deep and dense at the same time. It was moist and soft and comforting. And I couldn't get enough. Half the cake was consumed before I even remembered to take a picture (I feel the need to report that I did not single-handedly eat half the cake myself. I could have, but I didn't! I swear.). A mere 24 hours later, my giant cake was gone.

If you live where I live, you know this sunshine isn't going to last for long. Enjoy it while it lasts, and for goodness sake, don't neglect your oven.

Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2005

This pound cake was absolute heaven, especially after the addition of fresh-picked blueberries and grated lemon zest. I highly suggest taking advantage of some local berries (I used blueberries but raspberries or blackberries would be lovely as well) by sprinkling them into this cake. I should also mention that I cut back on the sugar a bit. I ended up using about 2 2/3 cups of sugar, which was perfect for my taste.

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for buttering pan
3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) plus additional for dusting
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
7 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
2 teaspoons vanilla
Grated zest of one lemon (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups fresh berries (optional)

Special equipment: a 10-inch tube pan (4 ½ inchs deep; not with a removable bottom) or a 10-inch bundt pan (3 ¼ inches deep; 3-qt capacity)

Put oven rack in middle position, but do not preheat oven.

Generously butter pan and dust with four knocking out excess flour.

Sift together sifted flour (3 cups) and salt into a bowl. Repeat sifting into another bowl (flour will have been sifted 3 times total).

Beat together butter (2 sticks) and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or 6 to 8 minutes with a handheld mixer. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla and lemon zest. Reduce speed to low and add half of flour, then all of cream, then remaining flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down side of bowl, then beat at medium-high speed 5 minutes. Batter will become creamier and satiny.

Spoon 3/4 batter into pan. Sprinkle berries evenly over batter, then add remaining 1/4 of batter. Rap pan against work surface once or twice to eliminate air bubbles. Place pan in (cold) oven and turn oven temperature to 350 F. Bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool cake in pan on rack 3o minutes. Run a thin knife around inner and outer edges of cake, then invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack to cool completely.

Cake keeps, covered well with plastic wrap or in an airtight container, at room temperature 5 days.