If 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.