Double-Vanilla Pound Cake

I have two bonafide comfort foods: roast chicken and vanilla (not together, though I recently spied a recipe with both).  Either are liable to stop my tears when I’m crying, or calm me out of a panic.  Comforting in a different kind of way than chocolate or soup is—not sick day comforting, or got the blues comforting—but a in-serious-need-of-a-life-change-and-a-hug comforting.

As some of you know, I’ve been needing just that lately.  A big life change has hit me unannounced and I’m still settling into it.  It’s nothing serious, or life-threatening; it may actually be positive in the end.  But for now, I need comfort.  Comfort in the form of double-vanilla pound cake.

This pound cake, from my new favorite baking book, is intensely vanilla.  Not too sweet, the vanilla doesn’t become cloying—like so many packaged sweets and soft-drinks; no, it’s the flavor, the beany, earthy, fragrant sweetness of vanilla that defines this cake.  It’s scattered with black specks of the real thing and vanilla extract sits sweetly in the background.

I’m sad to say that I overcooked the cake by a few minutes (stressful days can do that to you) and it was a touch too tough.  The flavor was all there though, so I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about it here.  I’ll surely make it again.  Everytime I need a hug.

Double-Vanilla Pound Cake

makes one loaf

from Cindy Mushet’s The Art & Soul of Baking

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (7 ounces) sifted cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¹/3 (3 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF and position an oven rack in the center.  Lightly coat a loaf pan with butter, oil, or high-heat canola oil spray and fit it with parchment paper to extend up both long sides to the top of the pan.

    Place the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Use a paring knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise, then turn the knife over and use the dull edge to scrape the seeds into the sugar.  (Save the pod for another use.)  Blend on low speed until the seeds are evenly dispersed.  Add the butter and beat n medium-high until the mixture is very light—almost white000in color, 4 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.

    Beat the eggs with the vanilla in a small bowl.  With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs to the butter mixture aout 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next.  About halfway though turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then continue adding the eggs.  Scrape down the bowl again.

    With a fine-mesh strainer, sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk together.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and sour cream alternatively, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half the sour cream, repeat, then finish with the flour mixture.  Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand.

    Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Baked for 45 to 55 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.  When cool, remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and serve.

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