Lifestyle & Culture

Weekend Reading: Butter, the Recipe!

The classic container of a classic cake. / iStock photo.

A vintage Bundt form for the traditional Bundt cake. / iStock photo.

Compliments of Elaine Khosrova (and the folks at Algonquin Books), you can fill a Bundt pan with the following classic recipe.


POUND CAKE is a very old invention, created long before we used chemical leavenings, like baking powder and baking soda, to make cakes light and airy. In the earliest recipes, a pound each of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs were doggedly beaten together by hand for a long time to aerate the mixture so it wouldn’t be too bricklike. As Hannah Glasse wrote in her cookbook, circa 1747, of mixing pound cake ingredients, “Beat it all well together for an hour with your hand, or a greatbutter3web wooden spoon.”

Even with the convenience of today’s electric mixers, beating together the butter and sugar assiduously is still the secret to the velvety texture of a classic air-leavened pound cake—tight and fine-crumbed, not dense and heavy. That kind of mechanical leavening and the texture that results is the difference between a buttery coffeecake recipe and true pound cake. Also, you’ll note that you start the cake in a cold oven, which allows for a slow, steady phase of setting the proteins and starches in the cake, followed by browning. Because this style of cake doesn’t have chemical leavenings, it doesn’t need that blast of heat that causes batters with baking powder or soda to expand better in preheated ovens.

In addition to flavor, butter plays a key role in the classic pound cake method because its semisolid nature traps air bub- bles in a constellation of crystalline and soft fats. I have made it with both higher butterfat brands (82 percent) and regular unsalted supermarket butter; both work just fine, but the former has a bit more butteriness.


¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 large eggs, at room temperature

3 cups sifted cake flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk (preferably whole), warmed to room temperature

  1. Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until very creamy and light, about 6 minutes, scraping down the sides often. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  2. Combine the flour and salt. Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and end- ing with the flour, and mixing on low speed in between to blend. Scrape down the sides as needed to make a smooth batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Give it a few raps on the counter to help force out any large air bubbles.
  3. Place the pan in a cold oven and set the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes longer, until golden and firm. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

From Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova © 2016 by Elaine Khosrova. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved.


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