When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

The great American pound cake January 7, 2009

Filed under: All-occasion cakes — crummb @ 5:54 pm
Tags: , ,

american-pound-cake-loIf there’s one thing I’ve learnt ever since I started this baking thing, it’s this: One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Or shall I say, One man’s perfect pound cake is another man’s putrid pound cake.

Shirley O. Corriher’s latest cookbook BakeWise, which I reviewed last month for the newspaper, opened with this tantalising tale: She reckons she has developed a recipe for the ultimate American pound cake.

Yeah, right. Just about every cookbook I own has a recipe for a “perfect pound cake”. So what. But what sets Corriher’s apart is that she adapted hers from four other perfect pound cake recipes.

She found that recipes taken from a relative, her step-daughter’s friend’s mother, and two from professional bakers – who all proclaim their recipe is “the best” – are essentially the same! Is your heart beating faster now? Mine sure did.

They all have 3 cups flour, about 3 cups sugar, 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups fat, 5 or 6 eggs, under a teaspoon of leavening, 2 to 3 teaspoons flavouring, and 1 cup liquid. Each recipe uses a different liquid – sour cream, buttermilk, heavy cream, milk.

So what happened was, she tweaked the recipe here and there – like substituting some butter with veg shortening, substituting some flour with potato starch, adding a bit of canola oil, egg yolks, and whipped cream – to create this suped-up, super-charged pound cake that’s ultra sweet and moist.

Is your jaw on the floor yet? Are you convulsing at the thought of finally sinking your teeth into the ultimate pound cake? Crawling out the door to get a copy of this book?

Well, of course I had to give this recipe a try. And my verdict? It’s okay only lah.

First, Corriher has a notoriously sweet tooth so one bite of this cake could send you straight to NKF (National Kidney Foundation). And, true, it is quite moist. But still, it doesn’t quite hit the spot for me. If this is the great American pound cake, I ain’t going to America. 

My perfect pound cake is one that has big holes in it. It glistens from an unearthly amount of butter added in, it’s not too sweet, and it springs back when I bite.

In short, my perfect pound is the one I grew up eating, brought home by mum from some ching-cheong bakery in the neighbourhood market. Don’t need no fancy-schmantzy canola oil or whipped cream.

I recently had a taste of it when my colleague Pat made her signature butter cake and gave me a slice at work. Believe you me, I begged her for the recipe even if it meant organising the dreaded office party for her for the next 10 years. 

The tragic thing is, even she can’t get it right all the time – something about not creaming it too long or the texture will be dense. Well, I’ve tried the recipe three times – by varying oven temperature and amount of baking powder – and they all bombed.

But one day, world, I’m gonna get there. And then I’m gonna call it the great Singapore pound cake.


16 Responses to “The great American pound cake”

  1. Cookie Says:

    You make my day!

    Many times I find that certain recipes didn’t work for me… but my friends say I am blaming the recipe and the author. Now I see I am right afterall.

    I am gonna direct those cynic to read this post!

  2. crummb Says:

    right on, sista!
    frankly, i’ve had so many failures with angmoh recipes that i’m gonna turn to local/regional cookbooks instead. i wanna check out all those incredibly yummy-looking japanese baking books next. anyone got recommendations? lemme know! 🙂

  3. wordsmith Says:

    write one urself! I feel like a druggie who’s just been given her dose…another post!

  4. crummb Says:

    awww… you’re my No. 1 fan! hugs!!! 🙂

  5. tellaure Says:

    pound cakes with big holes?!?!?! blasphemy!!!!

    but huge, frantic nods to “glistening with butter, not too sweet and springs back”. oh god, that sounds heavenly.

    i’m been stalking your blog for quite some time and i love it! keep the posts coming (:

  6. crummb Says:

    ooooo, a stalker. haven’t had one in a while. keep it commin! 🙂

  7. cookie Says:

    My respectable baker, I do not have any recommendation on a specific book but do check out Pook’s blog – She regularly produces stunning stuff from her Japanese Baking Books!

    Good Luck!

  8. crummb Says:

    oh yes! i check out her blog all the time! have always wondered what nationality she is – she appears to be thai but she can read japanese?

  9. ovenhaven Says:

    I for one am most certainly waiting for you to come up with your own cookbook; one with gorgeous photography AND fail-proof recipes.

    Quickly come up with the great Singapore pound cake!

  10. crummb Says:

    ovenhaven: thank you! hwah…. my own cookbook… *star in eyes*. gotta keep baking like mad then! 🙂

  11. cookie Says:

    I asked my Thai colleague; Pook is a thai nickname. So she’s thai who knows Japanese. Not usual cos in the 80-90s when jap enconomy was red hot, everyone wants to partake in their language… like now all angmoh wants to learn chinese like that lor.

  12. chris Says:

    Pound cake is not like the Highlander; there is more than only one. 🙂
    Got Japanese baking book in English meh? I’ve been looking for one for ages and it’s driving me mad!

  13. crummb Says:

    i’m looking too! eh eh, i’m going to do a review of japanese baking books next. i’ll ask the bookshops to help me. will let you know if there’s good news 🙂

  14. moderndomestic Says:

    This was exactly my experience with this recipe! I was so excited to try it and it sounded so promising, but the actual cake was waaay too sweet and had a weird artificial flavor. Maybe O’Corriher’s work for the food industry has killed her palate?

    It was a lot of work for just so-so pound cake. I’m a much bigger fan of the version in The Cake Bible, myself.

  15. crummb Says:

    moderndomestic: i’m so glad i’m not the only one who thinks so! Corriher’s book is great for baking theory, but i would only try her recipes if a gun were put to my head, haha.

  16. jane Says:

    Hello Crummb…lovely post joy to read.
    “Holey” cakes are my favourite too.
    check out this link

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