A few years back, my mother, always the family historian, made a three-ring binder of family recipes. These recipes were mostly hers, collected from church cookbooks, St. Louis society books and contributions from family or friends. She even included a series of recipes from a cooking school weekend she attended in Italy back in the late ’70s. The point being, food and recipes and cooking together were something of a thing for our family. My grandmother was an accomplished cook in her own right, and this recipe for pound cake has never failed. It was even passed down to me, as these things ought to be, on a three-by-five notecard bearing her distinct penmanship. I have made a couple of adjustments over the years, but the heart is the same. It’s the best dang pound cake you ever did have.
And if I might offer a suggestion. … It’s perfect as it is, but it’s even better sliced and griddled with a knob of butter until it gets golden brown. Serve that up with a scoop of vanilla and any kind of syrup you choose, and there simply isn’t anything finer.
1/2 lb butter (2 sticks, salted please, and hold onto the butter wrapper, which you will use later)
3 cups sugar
2 tbsp good whiskey (traditionalists would use vanilla, I suppose, and less, but why though?)
6 eggs, separated
3 cups cake flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
A few notes: As you see, I use whiskey instead of vanilla. Feel free to use vanilla. I like salted butter in my baked goods. Recipes usually tell you to use unsalted. Don’t do that. Cake flour is different than all-purpose. Use cake flour.
When this bakes up, you will notice the top has a crispy, craggly top that is a bit unusual for pound cake, but it’s kind of the best part. Just don’t be alarmed by it if you are familiar with what pound cakes typically look like.
Cream the butter and sugar. The mixture lightens and nearly doubles in volume. This is best done in a stand mixer, but a handheld mixer will work just fine.
Add in the whiskey and then the egg yolks (remember, friends, we separated the eggs, hold on to those whites) one at a time. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine all your dry ingredients, and in another, mix together your buttermilk and sour cream.
Then slowly add both the dry ingredients and the buttermilk and sour cream to your creamed egg and sugar mixture, alternating between them until they have all been combined. Set aside.
Take the remaining egg whites and beat until stiff. I like to add a few tablespoons of sugar to help stabilize the whites myself, but you don’t have to. Once they are nice and stiff and a little glossy, slowly add them into the cake mixture by folding gently. Work from the bottom and fold over the whites. It doesn’t have to be perfect but mostly mixed together. You might still see a stripe of white here or there; this is not a problem.
Remember the butter wrapper? Yeah, so now you get to use it. Wipe the inside of a loaf pan with it, and if you need to add some more butter to the pan, the wrapper is still a good way to rub it all around, and in the corners, without getting your fingers greasy.
Pour cake mixture into the buttered pan and bake at 350 degrees. It takes a while if memory serves, and timing is always tricky — different stoves, different times — so keep an eye out. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Check it, cake test it and adjust accordingly. I believe in you; you got this.
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