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Vanilla Pound Cake

March 5, 2011

While I’d consider myself a black raspberry chocolate chip, gingerbread molasses and banana oreo with jimmies in a cone, I’m married to a vanilla.

Vanilla ice cream, in a bowl, with nothing on it.

Though I suspect he orders it just so I won’t covertly steal his precious scoop, I honestly do not understand. Why, when you have rainbow sherbert*, chocolate brownie, and coffee chip, would you ever choose vanilla?

I’ve never been a big fan of vanilla** unless it’s on top of my apple pie or buried so deep in my chocolate chip cookie I can’t even tell it’s there. But I think I’m starting to come around. Maybe it’s osmosis after living with Mr. Vanilla for 4 years. Maybe it’s that my tastes are changing, becoming more in tune with subtle, simple flavors (though my most recent concoction doesn’t really support that theory). Or maybe I’m just getting lazy.

Lazy was definitely the reason I decided to make vanilla pound cake today. We’re having people over tonight and I had just accidentally opened a bag of self-rising flour when I meant to open plain flour. Plus, I couldn’t be bothered washing more than one bowl.

When I remembered 1. that Mr. Vanilla had recently complained that I’d bought too much butter (again) and 2. that I’d recently been persuaded by some very energetic Queenslanders at our local farmers market to buy what they called “the finest vanilla bean on the planet” for a “modest” $5 a pop, I knew what I needed to make.

This cake is so easy you can do it while you contemporaneously talk to your sister on Skype, make broccoli and feta bourekas, tell the builder exactly which risers need repainting, listen to said builder lament about the hallucinogenic side effects of the antibiotics he’s on, and clean up as you go.

Trust me, I just did it.

The only less than straightforward part is the very first step – mixing the butter and cream cheese – which, for mixer-less people like me, may jam up hand-held beaters and spray cream cheese flecks all over the kitchen. This can be solved by adequately softening the butter (something I forgot to do somewhere between not owning a microwave and the whole hallucinogenic antibiotics thing) and bringing the cream cheese to room temperature. After that, it’s pretty smooth sailing….until it comes time to decide just how much batter to accidentally forget to pour into the pans. You know what I’m talking about.

My hopes for this vanilla pound cake were totally informed by the 117 extremely positive comments on Epicurious, which said things like, “This is the best pound cake recipe! Turns out perfectly every time,” and “Probably the best pound cake I’ve ever had–unbelievably moist, great flavor, great texture (not crumbly). A winner!” And, indeed, it is.

It slipped easily out of the pan, and with it’s golden, moist, buttery, crumb…I was smitten. I gobbled up the slice I cut for the mini photo shoot – when the cake was still warm out of the oven – before I had time to realize that I’m supposed to serve a full, uncut cake tonight. Oh, well. My guests will understand once they taste it. I just couldn’t help myself. And you won’t be able to, either.

* Just to garner a little of your sympathy re: the food dessert that is Australia, there is no rainbow sherbet here. Or any sherbet that I’ve been able to ascertain. Commence sending condolence cards.

** I make a very big exception to this rule for vanilla frosting, which I could eat on just about anything.


This cake is simple perfection (though a little strawberry jam never hurt anyone, am I right?). I’ve adapted it from Aunt Rosé’s Pound Cake, which I cound on Epicurious, where 117 other people can tell you how good it is. My sister successfully convinced me that 2 sticks of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 1 package of cream cheese, and 6 eggs an unhealthy symbol of American gluttony did not make. I don’t even care if she was right, I’m just glad I listened to her.

1  cup (2 sticks/225 grams) butter, softened
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese
2 1/3 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean (or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract)
6 eggs
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Sift in the flour, and beat on low speed to combine. Add the sugar and the vanilla. If you’re using a bean, split it down the middle horizontally and use a knife (or your finger nail) to scrape out all the countless tiny seeds and add them to the batter. Mix well with beaters, then add the eggs one and a time and mix to form a batter. At this point, feel free to switch to a big wooden spoon.
Butter and flour a large bundt pan or whatever pans you want (I used 2 6″ loaf tins and a 7″ cake pan), and pour the batter in, keeping in mind that the dough will rise, so only fill up your pans about 3/4 full. Bake for 35 – 55 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pan. The cake will be ready when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Can be made a few days ahead or frozen and defrosted before serving.
Serve with macerated berries and whipped cream OR strawberry jam OR toasted with butter OR be like Mr. Vanilla and just eat it plain.

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