November 5, 2013

A Piece of Cake

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Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake


Not too long ago, I made a batch of coleslaw to go with our supper. Although the coleslaw was gone in a couple of days, a mostly full pint of buttermilk remained in the refrigerator.  I didn't want to throw it out so I used it to make my grandmother's loaf cake.  Calling this delectable dessert a loaf cake is a misnomer because my grandmother didn't bake it in a loaf pan.  My mother didn't use a loaf pan either and neither do I. What my family fondly refers to as a loaf cake is actually a pound cake.  The name isn't the only thing that's different about this recipe.

Pound cakes got their name because they were originally made with one pound each of flour, butter, sugar and eggs.  Now days, pound cakes can include leavening agents such as baking soda or baking powder; flavoring or even multiple flavorings; add ins such as fruit, nuts and chocolate to name a few.

Pound cakes are still made with butter -- or margarine -- although not necessarily a pound.  Some recipes also call for shortening, in addition to the butter or margarine.  My grandmother's recipe is made with shortening. I can tell you from personal experience the cake isn't as good when it's made with anything other than shortening, so no substitutes!

A lot of pound cake recipes call for the fat (butter, margarine, shortening) to be creamed first and then the sugar gradually added.  Not this recipe.  The shortening and sugar are creamed together from the beginning

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake


 until light and fluffy, about five to seven minutes.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

Don't rush the creaming process.  It's an important component in baking for two reasons.  One, it incorporates air into the batter which results in a lighter cake.  Two, the sugar gets evenly dispersed throughout the fat.  The sugar doesn't dissolve so don't expect the creamed mixture to be perfectly smooth.  If you feel the creamed mixture with your fingertips, it will have a slightly gritty texture.

My grandmother's recipe is also different when it comes to adding the eggs.  Every pound cake I've ever made, except this one, calls for the eggs to be added one at a time and beaten until combined.  My grandmother's recipe calls for beating the eggs together, adding them all at once 

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

and then mixing them into the creamed mixture until combined.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

Cake recipes typically call for combining the dry ingredients and adding them alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  This sequence is very important.  The creamed mixture can't absorb much liquid so it's imperative to add the dry ingredients first. If you don't, you'll end up with a tough cake.  Unless otherwise directed, a good rule of thumb is to add 1/3 dry, 1/2 wet, 1/3 dry, 1/2 wet and 1/3 dry. When you add the ingredients, mix them only until combined.  Overmixing will cause the cake to be tough.  My grandmother's recipe alternates wet and dry ingredients, but there is a slight difference.

Instead of combining the dry ingredients, only the flour is added alternately with the wet ingredient I alluded to in the first paragraph, buttermilk.  Not only does buttermilk produce a cake that is tender, it also adds a slight tangy flavor to the finished product.  More importantly, though, it's a crucial ingredient for this cake to be successful.  For that reason, no substitutes allowed!  However, if you don't have buttermilk, you can make sour milk which will take the place of buttermilk.  To make 1 cup sour milk, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 1 cup.  Thoroughly stir the mixture and let it sit for 5 minutes; proceed as directed.

The only flavoring in my grandmother's recipe is vanilla.  I highly recommend using pure vanilla extract.  I know it's expensive, but it tastes so much better that imitation vanilla.  The vanilla and two leavening agents (baking powder and baking soda) are added at the same time and mixed into the batter. 

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

Most baking powders are double-acting which means they release gas when mixed with a liquid and again when exposed to heat.  On the other hand, baking soda must be mixed with an acid in order to work as a leavening agent.  Buttermilk or sour milk acts as the acid.  This is why you can't substitute another liquid for the buttermilk.

The rest of the recipe is straightforward.  Grease and flour a Bundt or tube pan.  Or, what I do, spray the pan with Baker's Joy, a nonstick baking spray that contains flour.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake


Put the batter in the pan

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake


and bake 45 to 60 minutes, or until done.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

The easiest way to tell when the cake is done is to insert a toothpick in the cake.  If the toothpick comes out clean, or with a few crumbs, the cake is done.  Other signs include a top that springs back when lightly touched and a cake that pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Let the cake cool in the pan 10 minutes and then remove it to a wire rack to cool completely.

I serve the cake plain just like my mother and grandmother did.  If you want it a little fancier, add fresh fruit or a scoop of ice cream on top of each slice when it's served.  If you want to garnish the whole cake, an easy way to do that is to sprinkle powdered sugar on top after the cake is completely cool.

Margaret's Morsels | Loaf Cake

I don't know why the directions for my grandmother's recipe are different from other pound cake recipes.  I don't even know why or how the cake came to be know as a loaf cake!  What I do know, though, is that the cake is delicious and the method, although not conventional, works each and every time.  It's also a tasty way to use leftover buttermilk.  Even better, though, is to buy buttermilk specifically for this cake and find some other way to use the rest of the buttermilk!


Loaf Cake
12 to 16 Servings

1 cup shortening (no substitutes)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (no substitutes)*
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder

Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about five to seven minutes.  Beat eggs and add all at once to creamed mixture; mix well.  Add flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour; mix after each addition until just combined.  Add vanilla, baking soda and baking powder; mix until combined.  Pour batter in a greased and floured Bundt or tube pan.  Bake at 325° for 45 to 60 minutes, or until done.  Put the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove the cake and cool completely on the wire rack.

*To make 1 cup sour milk, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 1 cup.  Thoroughly stir the mixture and let it sit for 5 minutes; proceed as directed.


© Margaret's Morsels



16 comments:

  1. next time instead of flouring your pan try using sugar instead...

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    1. When I bake a chocolate cake, I dust the pans with cocoa instead of flour. I've never thought about using sugar for this recipe! Thanks for the suggestion!!!!

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  2. That makes a beautiful cake - looks nice and fluffy!

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    1. Thanks, Emily! It's delicious served warm with a glass of milk:)

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  3. What kind of shortening did you use. I notice it was in stick form.

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    1. I use Crisco baking sticks. It costs a little more, but I find it so much easier than measuring shortening into a measuring cup.

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  4. G'day I Love pound cake!
    Have many special childhood memories!
    Cheers! Joanne

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    1. Thanks, Joanne! To quote a cross stitch pot holder my best friend made me 20 something years ago, "Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven!"

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  5. The cake looks so delcious, Mary! Thank you for joining our party at Hadia's Lebanese Cuisine!

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    1. You're welcome. Thanks for the opportunity to share the recipe!

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  6. This sounds so yummy! I've pinned it!

    Thanks for joining the Link Up this week!

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    1. Thanks for pinning the recipe and for hosting the party!

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  7. Thanks for sharing at What'd You Do This Weekend. I like to use family recipes. It is funny how we call something by a name and don't even think about it.

    Linda

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    1. Thanks, Linda! It's like the daughter who always cut her meat in half before cooking it because that's how her mother did it. When the daughter asked the grandmother why she did that, she said it's because it wouldn't fit in the pot!

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  8. I have never made pound cake (or loaf cake, lol!). I'm not much of a baker, so I appreciate posts like this that are full of tips and whys and why nots. I have learned a lot here!
    Thank you for sharing with See Ya in the Gumbo this week/

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! I'm glad you found the blog helpful. I hope you'll give this recipe a try. It really is easy to make and delicious with a glass of milk! See Ya in the Gumbo later this week:)

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