The Fourth of July is all about spending time with family, eating delicious food and basking in the beautiful sun. As I write this, I am watching Hurricane Arthur slam into the coast of South Carolina, so the beautiful sun part may not be happening just yet. But hey, let’s focus on what we can control, right? Spending time with family and eating delicious food ~ that we can take care of. And we will cross our fingers for sunny weather tomorrow . . .
Pick up any classic Southern cookbook and you’ll find a recipe for pound cake. In The Gift of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock write: “Pound cake is one of the oldest and most common cakes found in the South. Many cooks routinely make one a week: It keeps well the full 7 days, and there’s always some on hand for an unexpected guest, to pack in a lunchbox, or to take to a picnic.” Put simply, once mastered, it is an excellent tool to have in your baker’s toolbox, whether you are a fellow southerner or not. Beyond that, it is the perfect canvas for all of the delicious summer fruit that is waiting to be devoured in our refrigerators. Oh and also the perfect base for an ice cream topping . . .
I tried several recipes that weren’t exactly failures, but just did not produce that delicate, moist, Sara Lee-esque crumb that I was looking for. My husband (aka the taste tester) came home one night this week and I asked him to try one of the draft pound cakes. Crossing my fingers for positive feedback, after taking a bite, he said: “Well, its a little dry.” Drat. Back to the drawing board. After several miss hits, I had a good feeling about this recipe and when he gave me the thumbs up, I knew that I had a winner. After much experimentation, I can confidently say that this is one for the recipe box.
This is such a great recipe for the summer months because the last thing you want to do is hover inside a hot kitchen in the triple digit heat. You can make this ahead of time and it will keep for several days, or you can put this in the freezer and take it out a few hours before you are ready to party. And it is very easy to put together.
While traditionally pound cake was made with equal ratios of butter, egg, sugar and flour, I found that including some sour cream and leavening agents produces a softer and more tender crumb. I toyed with the idea of using shortening, but let’s face it, shortening kind of freaks people out these days. At the last minute, I decided to include a touch of honey after I came across this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker ~ it adds just a little extra sweetness to the batter. I was also vigilant about mixing the ingredients only to the point of just combined, which I do think prevents the batter from becoming too tough.
If you are looking for a last minute dessert for tomorrow, I hope you give this a try! I know we will be enjoying it this weekend, hopefully with some delicious South Carolina peaches on top.
Sour Cream Pound Cake with Honey
(adapted from Better Home and Gardens New Cookbook)
Yield: 10 servings or 1 loaf
1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 and 1/2 cups of all purpose flour (or 1 and 1/2 cups and 3 tablespoons cake flour)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon honey
Let butter, eggs, and sour cream stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Butter and flour a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Using the paddle attachment in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on medium to high speed for about 30 seconds. Add sugar a little bit at a time and beat until light and fluffy ~ for at least 5 minutes at medium speed. Turn mixer to low speed. Add in vanilla. Add in eggs one at a time, scraping down the mixture from the sides of the bowl if needed. Add in dry ingredients and sour cream, alternating adding each a little at a time, until just combined. Add in honey. Be careful not to over mix. Pour batter into a prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Begin testing at 60 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Slide a knife along the edges of the cake. Remove from pan and cool completely.
I hope you all have a happy and safe July 4th!! Happy Birthday America!