Do you have a recipe that you use over and over again with great results? It’s a recipe that you have perfected and it’s your go-to recipe that you make without giving much thought. Well I have such a recipe – a sour cream pound cake – that was my pride and joy until a few weeks ago. I actually checked my recipe card – I’ve been making this cake without any problems since 1992.
There were actually two problems, an obvious problem that was the ugly cake; and the fact that someone asked me to bake a pound cake to send to her daughter in the military. I definitely could not send the cake you see in the picture above. That is a truly ugly cake. It had a hard crust that separated from the cake. But get this – it was light, tender and absolutely delicious. It was just butt ugly!
What Caused the Problem
I had to figure out why this happened and how I could fix it, so I began a process of elimination.
First: I simply baked another cake with the same results – hard crust separating from cake but delicious. This cake was sliced, wrapped in plastic wrap and taken to work to share. It was gone by mid day.
Second: I went back to my KitchenAid Classic Mixer. Last summer my daughter gave me the KitchenAid 5.5 Qt mixer. Its motor is more powerful, so I thought “with this motor, I may be over beating the batter.” Same results. This cake was sliced, wrapped and given to a community service agency that I work with. They loved it. I understand that the director hid some slices for later.
Third: I went back to my old stem pan (on the left) with the old mixer. Last summer I also bought a new stem pan – Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum 10-Inch Angel Food Cake Pan. I don’t remember the brand of the old cake pan, but it was heavy too. Same results. This one was was divided between my daughter and a few friends.
Fourth: Oops, I forgot to adjust the oven temperature on cake #3. Because that pan is dark and nonstick, I should have changed the baking temperature from 325 degrees to 300 degrees. Same results. This one was wrapped and put in the freezer.
Fifth: I remembered that last summer I also began buying 25 pound bags of flour from Costco. I don’t know how much protein is in that flour which could contribute to too much gluten formation. So, I went to Publix and purchased a bag of what I used to use – Gold Medal flour, all purpose flour. Same results. Cake was sliced in half, wrapped and frozen.
OK, by now I’ve scoured the internet, read the trouble shooting section of The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes by Shirley Corriher. I found information about over beating the batter resulting in a hard crust, but nothing about a crust that separates.
Next, I consult the heavy hitters – my mom and the pound cake queen Ms B. My mom said to check the amount of sugar and make sure I wasn’t over beating the cake. Ms B said check the sugar and make sure I wasn’t over beating the cake after I added the eggs.
Now I’m totally confused. The amount of sugar was spot on. I had never heard of over beating the eggs. Everything I had read suggested that you couldn’t over beat the cake until you added the flour.
Sixth: Let’s see if it makes a difference if I bake the same recipe in two loaf pans. Yes, it did. Crust was slightly hard but did not separate. However, I promised to make a 10 inch round cake. Into the freezer it went.
Seventh: I Googled “sour cream pound cake” to find one with the exact ingredients as mine and found a recipe by Paula Deen. However, the way she mixed her cake was totally foreign to me. She creamed the butter and sugar, added the sour cream then alternated the flour with the eggs. Huh? That has to be a typo. BUT, what have I got to lose? Nothing. Guess what? SUCCESS!
Cake number 7 also went into the freezer but without frustration.
What did I learn from all of this? After 8 cups of butter, 24 cups of sugar, 48 eggs, 24 cups of flour, 64 ounces of sour cream, 8 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract and 8 teaspoons of pure almond extract, I should have asked Ms B first