Saturday, February 12, 2011

Basic Butter Cake for Valentine's Day ~

Can you believe it's already Saturday! I can't...think I lost a day somewhere. I haven't given you a recipe for a while, so I looked through my cookbooks and chose this pound cake--because I love pound cake and because this recipe doesn't have as much butter as most other pound cakes. Before choosing this recipe, I chose a lemon yogurt pound cake, an orange pound cake, and brownies. But I ended up with my favorite recipe after all.

This is my go-to cake recipe for birthdays and all holidays, and I believe I've given it to you before. I have made it in every kind of pan, I think. But for company, I particularly like to double the recipe and bake it in a decorative tube pan like the one in the picture. This recipe also makes wonderful cupcakes, which Quinlyn and Michael love with or without crushed pineapple in them. In fact, Quinlyn's favorite cake is this cake with crushed pineapple in it on her birthday. If I use crushed pineapple, I replace one fourth cup of milk with pineapple juice in the batter. And even though it isn't chocolate, I think it would make a beautiful Valentine's Day cake. 

King Arthur Flour says: "Our basic butter cake contains half as much butter and egg, in relation to the rest of the ingredients, as our pound cake, so it is clearly not as rich. But these cakes are ordinarily served with a frosting which puts them in the same caloric league." 

"In going through our King Arthur Flour archives to gather baking history for our cookbook, we've discovered a number of gems. One of them is a method of combining the ingredients of a basic butter cake that flies in the face of the traditional method most of us grew up with. It makes the whole process almost as easy as a mix, and certainly, in view of the control we have over what goes into the cake, infinitely better." So I'm going to give you the quick method of mixing this cake first."

King Arthur Flour's Basic Butter Cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
(or vegetable shortening) at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

The Quick Method
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. (A wire whisk will do nicely.)

Add the butter, milk and vanilla directly to the dry ingredients. Stir the whole mixture until it's smooth. (If you're using an electric mixer, mix at slow to medium speed for about a minute and a half.) Add the unbeaten eggs and beat for another 2 minutes. That's all there is to it.

Pour the batter into lightly greased pans , 8 X 8-inch round or square pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake is done when it shrinks slightly from the sides of the pans, springs back when pressed lightly with a finger, or when a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Let it cool for 5 minutes or so before turning it out onto a wire rack. (Frost it after it is thoroughly cool, if you wish.)

The Traditional Method
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

First, cream the butter by mashing it against the side of a mixing bowl with a large, preferably wooden, spoon. When the butter is light and fluffy, slowly add the sugar, creaming it with the butter until the two are soft and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating them in thoroughly until the mixture is smooth, light and fluffy. (Today, all of this can be done quickly and easily with an electric mixer, but appreciate our grandmothers who did it by hand.)

In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the milk into a one-cup measure and add vanilla.

Alternately add the wet and dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture, a third at a time, stirring just enough to blend the ingredients after each addition. Over-beating, once the flour is in, will toughen the cake.

Pour the batter into two lightly greased, 8 X 8 inch and follow directions above for baking.

If you want the cake to be more colorful for Valentine's Day, add some red food coloring to the icing. Or simply add some hearts and flowers around the edge of the cake. In any case, I hope you enjoy your Valentine's Day dessert. I'll look for something chocolate for tomorrow.


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