I have finished baking sponge cakes and have now started with butter cakes.
You may remember Sponge cakes were made by beating whole eggs, separated eggs, or just egg whites with sugar and then added the butter and/or flavourful ingredients and last, flour and or other dry ingredients.
Butter cakes are made by whipping air into room-temperature butter and sugar and then adding eggs and flour, or by adding melted butter to beaten eggs and sugar or the so-called high-ratio cakes are made by combining butter with the dry ingredients and then adding the liquid ingredients. The high-ratio cakes are a relatively recent invention, you will never see recipes for them that predate the 1940’s.
The most traditional Butter cake is the Pound cake, made by creaming room-temperature butter with granulated or superfine sugar (we used Xylitol) to work air into the butter. Next, eggs are added, one by one, until they form a creamy emulsion with the butter and sugar. Last, flour is added and worked into the butter mixture as quickly as possible so the butter isn’t overworked.
Many butter cakes are made in the same way, with variations at different stages. Among the most common of these variations are cakes in which baking powder is mixed with the flour before the flour is folded into the butter mixture. There is NO baking powder in the Pound cake.
Butter cakes are flavoured by adding melted chocolate to the butter-sugar-egg combination or by folding melted chocolate or cocoa powder into the batter at the end. Butter cakes are also flavoured with simple ingredients such as spices, poppy seeds, chopped nuts, lemon or orange zest ad vanilla or other extracts beaten with the eggs and butter.
Some of the richest and lightest textured cakes - very similar to madeleines - are made by combining melted butter (sometimes mixed with cream or milk) with beaten whole eggs and sugar, before adding the dry ingredients. If you want a luxurious cake, with a tight crumb, consider one of these. I will do madeleines under cookies, later in the year.
The first butter cake I made was a pound cake.
Traditional pound cake is made by combining equal parts of weight of butter, eggs, sugar and flour. It contains no leavening such as baking powder and as a result, can be rather dense, but in a satisfying, buttery kind of way. Any airiness that traditional pound cakes do have is a result of beating the butter and sugar for a long rime - until the mixture has the consistency of sour cream - and then continuing the beating while adding the eggs. Flour is added at the end.
This pound cake is especially moist and buttery because milk is added as well as extra butter. It is suggested that all-purpose flour is used, because you need the extra gluten to absorb the mild and extra butter. We still used spelt flour, so although it is more dense, it is wheat-free!
We baked it in a bread pan, but you can bake it in a round cake pan too.
Make 1 loaf cake (5 by 9 inch)
Butter and flour for the loaf pan
1 ¼ plus 2 tablespoons (350g) butter, sliced, at cool room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar (Xylitol)
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest, optional
1 tablespoon grated orange zest, optional
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (2 cups spelt flour)
Butter the 5 by 9-inch loaf pan and put rectangle of parchment paper on the bottom.
Flour the sides of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (280 degrees C)
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt on high speed for about 8 minutes, or until fluffy.
Don’t be tempted to shorten the beating time or you cake will be heavy.
Scrap the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula every minute or so.
In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk and vanilla.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the egg-and-milk mixture to the butter mixture, one-third at a time.
Wait until each addition is thoroughly incorporated before adding more.
The mixture will have the consistency of sour cream or small curd cottages cheese, depending on the temperature.
Add the lemon zest to the batter and beat for 30 seconds more.
Turn off the mixer and add all the flour.
Beat on low speed for about 5 seconds, or just long enough to mix in the flour with no left over lumps.
Worked in the flour as little as possible, to avoid making the cake tough.
Scrap the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then mix for 5 seconds more.
Scrap the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Don’t smooth over the surface of the batter or it may lose some of its airiness-it will settle as it bakes.
Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a tooth pick or knife insert in the centre comes out clean.
Let cool for 15 minutes before turning out of the pan.
I used lemon glaze for decoration.
Meanwhile wash your dishes and make your glaze
This simple glaze gives a sweet and tangy note to loaf cakes such as pound cake and carrot cake.
Makes about ½ cup, enough to glaze one pound cake
1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar (we used Xylitol)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons heavy cream, or more if needed
Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir with a whisk until smooth.
Whisk in cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze is smooth and falls in a thin stream when you lift the whisk.
Drizzle the glaze over the room-temperature pound cake and set on a cake rake on a sheet pan.
Let the icing drip down the sides for a rustic, homespun effect.
Serve sliced. The cake keeps for several days tightly wrapped in plastic.