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.
until light and fluffy, about five to seven minutes.
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.
and then mixing them into the creamed mixture until combined.
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.
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.
Put the batter in the pan
and bake 45 to 60 minutes, or until done.
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.
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!