Deliciousness in simplicity is embodied by a good pound cake. The old-fashioned recipe contains just a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of eggs and a pound of flour. There’s logic, if lack of imagination, behind the “pound” cake’s name. Although the (dusty, cobwebbed) math part of my brain tells me it would be more aptly named “FOUR pound cake”… Geez, that’s a lot of cake!
People (myself included) have taken liberties with the ingredient ratios, often adding a leavener other than eggs to boost the cake’s rise. The rich, buttery taste, golden hue and dense crumb must be present, however, or you’ve explored beyond pound cake into “loaf” territory.
My version includes cream cheese. This is because on the day I made it, I ran out of butter.
Yes, it happens. And it’s a sad day when it does.
But it turned out to be one of those brilliant accidents! The cream cheese lightened the cake up a bit, while adding another layer of rich flavour with subtle tangy nuance. This will be my go-to recipe from now on! It’d be delicious with a tablespoon or two of very finely grated citrus zest stirred in, then drizzled with a glaze made with a couple tablespoons of the same citrus juice whisked with confectioners’ sugar. I served mine with lemon curd (using this recipe) and fresh berries.
Butter is the star of the show here, which brings me to the salted vs. unsalted debate. Most serious bakers would tell you to always use unsalted – so you can control the amount of salt that goes into the recipe, and they argue that salt being a preservative, it lasts longer and won’t be as fresh.
I have only ever purchased unsalted butter once in my life, and it was by accident. I feel like I just made a major confession there. Phew.
I bake almost daily for my job. I have never once had a cookie, muffin or cake cross my lips that tasted too salty, and I would certainly never let butter hang out in my fridge long enough to not be fresh.
One of my favourite baking cookbooks, The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book, explicitly uses only salted butter in their recipes, because it is more commonly available (at least in Canada!).
I love salted butter on toast. And it’s great in my savoury cooking, which I taste along the way to season properly anyway. I just don’t see what the big darn deal is about unsalted butter.
What are your thoughts? Are you firmly planted on one side or another of the butter debate?
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour (9 ounces)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan.
- In a standing mixer, beat together butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minute after each. Beat in vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Gradually add flour mixture into the butter mixture with the mixer speed on low; beat until just combined.
- Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan, smooth out the top, and bake 1 1/4 hours, or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.