Jul 11, 2010

Mini Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes

A few weeks ago, someone asked me what my favorite cake was. I started thinking of all the incredible cakes I've made in the last year, but it occurred to me that my very favorite cake is a simple pound cake. And so that was my answer. Eating this cake reminded me of why I love a pound cake.
Not only was it rich, buttery, and delicious, but it was probably also the easiest cake I've made so far, not counting the small hassle of scraping the vanilla beans out of the pod. (The flat blade of my 7-inch Santoku knife did this so easily that it was only a very small hassle).
I like to keep a small stock of vanilla beans from Penzeys, but I didn't have any on hand. My New Guinea beans from Whole Foods actually worked quite well.
I was excited about using my new disposable loaf pans, but I became doubtful when I looked at them more carefully. First, they're paper. I'm pretty sure my home ec. teacher advised against putting paper in the oven. Nonsense, I told myself--you put parchment paper in the oven all the time, and it's never caught on fire. I was doing a good job of reassuring myself until I noticed the little pinholes in the bottom of the pans. Doubtful again, I wondered whether the batter wouldn't leak out of those little holes. Nonsense, I said again. Why would they put holes in the bottom of the pans if batter would leak out? That would be stupid. So I sprayed them with Baker's Joy and forgot about the possibility of leakage.
The batter, as Rose warns, is not completely smooth--it's a little curdly looking. All will be well, she reassures, and she is right. In addition to the two baby loaves, there's enough batter to make two baby cupcakes. I just put mine in custard cups without the paper.
Pop all four pans in the oven, and then make the vanilla-cognac syrup. The recipe calls for (not surprisingly) vanilla cognac. "No!"  I said. I refuse to make another trip to the liquor store for another specialty liqueur. I have cognac; I have vanilla. Add them together, and you have vanilla cognac, or close enough for government cakes.
The syrup was tasty right out of the pan, and I daubed it on the cupcakes before the loaves were done. Then, despite the admonition to wait 24 hours before eating, we gobbled the cupcakes up right there and then. And mighty good they were. Unlike the Genoise Rose, where the difference in taste right after baking and 24 hours later was pronounced, I thought the pound cake was just as good right away.
The loaf cakes took about 20 minutes longer to bake. I used the knife to make a neat slash in one of the cakes.
I left the other one untouched, so its crack developed au naturel.
I like the looks of both of them.
Oh, remember the holes in the bottom of the paper loaf pans? The ones I told myself not to worry about?
When I took the loaves out of the oven, I noticed eight of these little megalith-like things on the bottom of the oven. Sort of like a mini-Stonehenge, only instead of being made from stones, these were made from pound cake batter. Tiny drops of batter must have oozed from the little holes, with each new drop forming a new circle on top of the last one.
Bless Google's heart, it told me, via a 2000 NYT article by Marian Burros, that the holes are in the bottom of the pan are there to provide quicker and more even baking, and that if you have trouble with leakage, you should just nest the baking pan inside another disposable pan. Or you could just put a cookie sheet or piece of foil on a lower rack. Or you could collect pound cake dolmens.
I bought raspberries and blueberries and the Farmer's Market this morning, and just scattered a few of them around slices of pound cake, which Jim and I had for afternoon tea. Jim is the sole member of my tasting panel this week, because I gave one loaf away, we'd already eaten the cupcakes, and we (I) didn't want to share the rest. I'm sorry to say that pound cake makes me greedy.


gartblue said...

I was reading this so intensely UNTIL I came to your little megaliths structures and just had to keel over and laugh out loud.

super super funny ..

great post and great slit on your pound cake .. will post mine today, hopefully if the kids would leave a piece for me to take a picture of.

Marie said...

I liked the structures too--and I like never knowing where baking a cake will lead you! I hope the kids save a piece of cake for you. It's really good.

faithy said...

LOL! I was scrolling looking at the photos first and was thinking to myself "what is that special ingredient?" is it to be added and how did i miss that...lol! And when i read and realised it was something else...

I love the pound cake too..too yummy! It's all gone! lol!

Mendy said...


Darn I wish I would have thought of your vanilla cognac trick! :)

Your cakes look really nice.

Hanaâ said...

I love the crumb of your cake. I have yet to cut into mine. Didn't have much luck with the slash in the middle though but I still thought they looked pretty. Your mini-Stonehenge is hilarious :o) Love it!

Alpha Baker Joan said...

Your cake looks fabulous! As well as your mini raspberry Stonehenges--

evil cake lady said...

great looking pound cakes! your crumb looks so even, and your slash looks very professional. i noticed the holes in my disposable pans too, but i baked them on a sheet pan so no stonehenges for me.

Melinda said...

Your little cakes look perfect. I love Rose's pound cake too. I don't think I have ever made a cake that disappeared so fast as the RLB pound cake we did for a Lazy Baker bake. Pound cake must bring out the greedy cake eaters in us!

I love your little monolith men. You will have to bake some more cakes to complete the replica. Then you will have your own mini cake plops circle! It could become a tourist attraction in Minnesota. Like the biggest ball of twine thing.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

What a cute post - I love your pound cake batter stalagmites. I can envision an oven full of them.


Patricia @ ButterYum said...

PS - I'm really impressed by your finished pound cakes, Marie. They look so professional!


Vicki said...

Oh, phooey, I could have delighted the grandkids with little megaliths if I hadn't used a cookie sheet!

Jenn said...

Oooo I love the little pound cake statues. Marie, you are becoming quite the artist :).
I'm glad you guys keep the cake for yourself (it's about time!).
I skipped the pound cake this week, but I'll be back next week for the banana cake - have a frozen banana in the fridge waiting to be processed LOL.

PAM said...

I'm addicted to pound cake also, but I only got to taste these as I took them to the beauty shop that purchases goodies from me once a week. Best I got them out of the house because they were so good. Yours look great and I LOL at the

Marie said...

I still have one piece left, but I think it will disappear tonight.

Thanks. It wasn't until pretty late in the day that I realized that vanilla cognac was something different than cognac mixed with vanilla. It actually sounds like it might be pretty good.

I like the crumb too because it reminds me of what used to be my favorite cake in the world--the Sara Lee frozen poundcake. But this one is better.

Thank you!

How come you figured out that holes in the bottom of a baking pan are not a good idea, and I didn't? Smarty.

That is an excellent idea for when I retire. I can charge admission. I could even claim that a religious cult lives in my oven and builds these structures overnight. It would be a sensation.

Jim wanted to take a picture of them in the oven but I wouldn't let him. In addition to the little megaliths, some butter leaked out of the holes, and that made a sorry mess of the oven.

You would have delighted the grandkids, but not yourself. (See above comment about state of oven).

Marie said...

It felt almost sinful to keep an entire cake for ourselves! But I'm glad we did.

Sugar Chef,
Getting the temptation out of the way is the bad part about keeping the cake for ourselves. Eating the entire cake probably explains why it felt sinful.

Monica said...

The best part of this cake.. that like many of you we keep it home, no need to give it away.. it lasted only 2 days (and only because I made mine late into the night on Sunday night)... I just got home and there is a Tom informed me that he left me the last piece, but that if I DID NOT WANT IT, he will be happy to finish it off.

And I did not soaked mine at all!

Marie, I swear your post get funnier and funnier!

Hanaâ said...

I will be uploading my post tonight (yesterday was crazy). Sorry for being late!

Lois B said...

Beautiful cakes, Marie - very professional looking slash!

Love your stonehenge.

Marie said...

I just finished the last piece tonight (Jim was gone, so I grabbed it).

There's a lot of wiggle room in that "post sometime on Monday" rule!

Thanks for admiring the professional slash (and the unprofessional Stonehenge).

Hanaâ said...

I was looking at the Choc banana stud cake recipe last night and noticed that it's missing the "Preheat oven" section, aka it doesn't specify which temperature to use. I'm tempted to use 350. If Rose/Hector/Woody read this, please enlighten us. Thanks!!

Marie said...

I checked with Woody. Your instinct was right--go with 350 degrees.

Emil said...

I was reading this post and the more I was reading the angrier I got because I thought "heeey, this is Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe, and this person isn't giving her credit anywhere!!!". Then I scrolled up and realized "wait a minute, this is actually Rose's blog". Hilarious!