The other day I had a sudden craving for pound cake. Not the greasy processed Entenmann’s variety (which I did have on my table and got stale because I would pass by it and cringe) but the good ol’ fashioned buttery cakey wonderful kind.
So I began to look on the interwebz. I checked my usual suspects; The Pioneer Woman & Smitten Kitchen and couldn’t really find anything so I scoured the web and came up empty. So I tried one more time over at Smitten and wham bam! I found it. The recipe that would satisfy my craving and offer me the opportunity to use vanilla. Until I saw the vanilla beans. Fear froze me as my tastebuds began to tingle. Smitten Kitchen’s recipe called for vanilla beans. *gulp*
I bake .I do. In the fall. But never with something as precious as vanilla beans. Extract? Sure. I try to only buy the best because frankly, I love vanilla but beans? No way. No how.
But the pictures. They looked amazing. You know when you’re dreaming and you dream of something in your hand, like money or candy and then you wake up and you still think you have it in your hands? This is what that picture did to me. By the way, I do not recommend trying to lick a flatscreen computer monitor.
So, ok. Vanilla beans. I trust Smitten’s recipes and look, she was also popping her own vanilla bean cherry with this recipe. If she could do it the best I could do was try, right?
So, I marched to the natural food market near my house and perused the shelves and found reasonably priced beans from a brand I trusted:
So I brought it home (As you can see) and today, I started on the recipe which was taken from Smitten Kitchen’s blog.
1 pound (2 cups) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, used is fine
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature — (I left mine out for about an hour and ten minutes and they ended up looking pretty awesome)
1 pound (9 large) eggs
1 pound (4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a food processor, grind vanilla bean and sugar until vanilla is as finely chopped as it can get. Sift this mixture twice, making sure all larger pieces have been filtered out. Set aside.
2. In another bowl, add the flour and salt together
3. In a large bowl, cream your butter with a bit of the vanilla sugar until you’ve got a good base going. word of advice, always cut up your butter. It’s easier on your blade or edge beaters and there’s less splash back. Gradually add the rest of the vanilla sugar, not stopping until it is creamy and smooth.
4. With your KitchenAid whisk the eggs one at a time (or two at time. Don’t worry if your mixture looks curdled, it’s not), beating well after each addition. Gradually sift in the flour and salt mixture, beating constantly. Add the vanilla extract and continue beating until well blended.
5. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube or bundt pan. Pour in the batter and ”spank” the bottom of the pan to distribute the batter evenly. Bake until a straw inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes, taking care not to overcook. Turn cake out onto a rack and let cool.
As a note: this cake is on the dry side. I love the flavor and the texture.It goes great with sauces, coulis, jams or caramel. I prefer to use Lemon Curd. If you want a less dry cake, I recommend, leaving it in the oven for -10 minutes. As long as the cake is cooked, meaning you took the stick out and it was dry, then you’re good.
The first thing I did was pretend I was a pastry chef and cut one of the beans in half and scrap out some of the paste from one of them
Then I got serious.
Throwing the pods and the 2 cups of sugar in my little food processor (because the big one is missing), I began…processing. I think next time I’ll use my grinder but I’m still happy with the results. I mean, I pretty much wanted to sugar scrub myself to death with the end results.
Before and After
I forgot to sift. I was still in a panic about using the beans in the first place but please please please sift. Do not forget.
Adding my sugar to my butter, this is the consistency and the coloring you should get. I used a hand mixer due to the fact that I ruined my Kitchen Aid thingamajigger*.
There is a lot of scraping the bowl, so if you are unlucky like me and don’t have your thingamabob, then you have to scrape the old-fashioned way. With a baking spatula. OK, a fancy old-fashioned way.
Then you add your eggs. Have you ever wondered what 9 eggs look like?
Eggs are expensive and seeing nine of them go into the cake…it sorta breaks my heart. Then I focus and remember…vanilla bean pound cake!
I whisked my eggs into the pound cake because pound cake is only as heavy as the air it gets. If you add more air, the cake is lighter. I think you get the picture right?
Speaking of, I didn’t include a picture of the egg/sugar/butter mixture because I had my hands full and it looked curdled. I had a moment of absolute panic because there was no way I was going to redo this recipe. NINE EGGS OK, NINE DAMN EGGS!
That’s OK though. I realized it was all just air and my panic subsided. It’s what happens when you add air.
Next is the dry ingredients. I decided to sift the flour/salt mix in because I could. Plus, I like my flour and salt to be well mixed. Plus, I like to declump my flour if I can. You don’t have to. You can just dump the dry ingredients in the bowl. As long as you dump them in gradually it doesn’t really matter.
If you decide to sift, load up your sifter and while mixing gradually add your flour. I did it by adding half a sifter at a time.
This is the final result:
Now here comes the fun part. The Spanking! At this point I’ve already greased my pan (have you ever noticed that the spray butter always sort of smells like popcorn feet? It’s gross but I had no other choice since I used ALL of my butter) and floured it. Which is something I hate, I hate flouring cake but hey, the recipe told me to.
You did remember to pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees right? Because if not, clearly this is your last chance.
Now the waiting begins. Approximately 75 minutes of it. Go do something else. Have a drink, read a book, watch a short film or do what I did and clean up after yourself! No one likes a slob!
I hate when this happens to my vanilla extract bottle. I feel like it’s a sin and I’m not even religious:
This took all of ten minutes to do.
*insert montage of doing active things that never really happened but makes me feel like a better person*
Whew! I really need to cut down on those chin-ups. My *insert arm muscles* are so strong.
The timer has beeped and the whole house smells like vanilla cake awesomeness (if only vanilla cake candles smelled like this) and it’s time to check the cake. Try to stop yourself from checking the oven often. Heat escapes from that little hotbox and then you’ve got to wait just a bit longer for your cake to cook. You keep doing it and that little bit longer takes a lot longer.
After checking to see that it is done, with the inevitable conclusion that it is, take that baby out of the oven and let it sit in the pan for about ten minutes. Yeah, that’s right, let it cook just a bit more in its own cakiness.
After the ten minutes, transfer the cake to a cooling rack. If you don’t have one then you can always use the rack that comes with your microwave. You know, the rack that no one understands the purpose of? Well, you’ve just re-purposed it. Yay! Give yourself -5 carbon footprints or something.
Anyhoo, you might have to jostle the cake pan or “spank” the pan a bit in order to get the cake out. If you’ve greased and floured well, then this should take two or three whacks (man, this sounds like a bad food porn). If not, my advice is to use a knife to cut around the sides of the cake and then try again. Also, pray. Because chances are you’ve ruined the bottom of your cake. But hey, who cares. Only show people the top and then give them alcohol and no one will be the wiser.
Close up of the bottom “Ah yeah”
Turn it right side up so that you’re able to let the cake settle the way that it should. Also, it hides the stupid flour bits from the pan.
If you look closely, you can see the awesome vanilla bean specks that beckon to the unsuspecting and suspecting alike, like stars in the night sky.
And now, after all of that damn work, you have to wait until it cools. What you decide to do during this downtime but may I suggest you take a shot and just relax for the next twenty minutes?