Monday 3 December 2012

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Anna Olson made her debut on Food Network Canada with a show called "Sugar."  I liked it a lot and watched it regularly, seldom missing an episode.  I'd even take care to record them if I knew I might be away.

This recipe comes from that series but it's not Anna Olson or the show that I think of when I make it, it's my friend Deirdre.  

Deirdre was my husband's next-door neighbour while he was growing up, and a good friend to my mother-in-law for most of her life.  

When my mother-in-law passed away, Dee stayed in touch with us and I grew to love her very much.  She was a retired teacher with a tremenduous interest in the world around her.  I could count on her for good conversation, firm opinions, and a complete lack of sugar coating around any topic of discussion.  She remained sharp witted and engaging right up until her death, at the age of eighty-eight, last December.

Like many women who had lived through the Great Depression and World War II, Dee was very frugal.  She minded every penny carefully and, despite having lost everything in a mid-life divorce, retired owning her own home and with money to provide for her daughters.  This was entirely due to hard work and careful management on her part.   

For most of her life Dee gardened daily, read prodigiously, kept a spotless house, and did lots of home preserving.  She taught me a lot about homemaking over the years, and much of what I know about managing my resources I learned from her.

When she reached her seventies, ill health began to prevent my friend from doing much of the gardening, canning, and cooking she had done in her younger years and I found an opportunity to repay her - at least in some small way - for the many things she'd taught me.  Although we were not in the habit of exchanging birthday or Christmas gifts I sent Dee a hamper of jams, home canning, and Christmas baking each December.  

Dee loved this brown sugar pound cake.  The first time I included it in her hamper, she phoned me and asked me for the recipe.  Once she knew what was in the cake, she chided me for the expense involved in making it...but never once did she tell me not to send it!  It was the first thing she looked for upon opening her hamper.

Each year Dee would cut her cake up into small portions, wrap it well and put it in her freezer.  She made that cake last!  She meted it out in tiny portions and you knew you were very high on her list of special people if she shared a piece with you.

Although I can no longer share it with Dee, I still like to share this lovely cake with friends and visitors so the batch given here is double the original recipe.  It is a brute, making a huge quantity of batter, so do feel free to halve the quantities given.  You'll still get an excellent result.

To make brown sugar pound cake, you'll need:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-500 ml container (2 cups) sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 cups of pastry flour, measured and then sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugars together.  (I do this in my KitchenAid with a paddle attachment but an electric hand mixer will work too.)

With the mixer running at slow speed, add in the vanilla, and then the eggs - one at a time - mixing, and scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until you have a smooth batter.

Transfer the batter to a very large mixing bowl.  From this point on, you'll be mixing by hand.

Stir the baking soda into the sour cream (you can do this right in the container) and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  The sour cream will increase in volume.

Whisk the salt through the flour so that the two are well combined.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the cake batter.  Stir just until it has been absorbed.

Add in 1/2 of the sour cream and mix it in just until it's incorporated.

Repeat these steps again, ending with an addition of the final portion of flour.  You want the flour to be completely absorbed in the batter but try not to over mix.  The less mixing you do, the more tender your finished cake will be.

Oil two non-stick bundt pans or butter and flour two regular bundt pans.  Don't omit this step even if your pans are brand new and non-stick.  This cake will stick in the pans if you don't prepare them properly.

Preheat your oven to 275F.

Portion the batter into the two prepared cake pans.  Each pan should be about 3/4 full.

Place the pans on the middle rack of your preheated oven and bake them for 20 minutes.

Increase the heat to 325F and bake the cakes about 50 minutes more, rotating them in the oven halfway through the cooking time.  

The cakes are done when they've risen and turned golden brown.  A cake tester inserted into the thickest portion of the cake should come out clean.

If your cakes are still not done at the 50 minute mark, return them to the oven, turn off the heat and let them finish baking in the residual heat remaining in the oven.

Once the cakes are baked, let them cool completely before turning them out of the pans.

This cake is wonderful served plain but can be garnished with fruit and whipped cream or toasted under the broiler and served with ice cream.  It keeps quite well in an airtight container and freezes very well if double wrapped, first in waxed paper and then in foil.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely story Beth. Dee sounds like she was a lovely lady and I can almost envision her opening her hamper and seeing her smile. Sometimes the smallest things make people happy. Thanks for sharing this story. This cake looks delicious and yes it is a brute! Cheers Mr.CBB

Aunt B said...

Thanks Mr CBB. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I hope you do give the recipe a try despite the extravagance. It's crazy good.

April J Harris said...

I loved the story you told in this post - special people like Dee are such an important part of our lives. I'm sorry she is no longer with you, but this post is a lovely way to remember her. Your recipe sounds wonderful - I love brown sugar in cakes, it gives them such a lovely flavour.

Aunt B said...

Thank you April. I do miss Dee but I also know that she was ready to leave us. She knew she was at the jumping off place and had the good fortune to say goodbye to us all before she went. She left us all wiser and blessed with happy memories of her.

Joy said...

I saw this on your Facebook page, and had to pop over for a closer look! Brown sugar AND sour cream?? I am HOOKED. This WILL be the next pound cake I make. Thank you! :)
~Joy from Yesterfood

Lynnette Moore said...

I just made this cake and I loved it, have to try your recipe with sour cream, sounds delicious!

Aunt B said...

I'm so glad that you liked it Joy. Thank you for stopping by to check it out.

Aunt B said...

Thanks for dropping by Lynnette. I love pound cake of any sort but I have to say that this one is my very favourite, in part because of the tang from the sour cream.