Why, hello there.
I know this is a rather late post about Thanksgiving, but as with the holidays, time is a flurry for me. I’ve spent the past week recovering from the lovely tryptophan-induced coma I was in, while being secretly glad that I won’t be eating any more turkey for at least another year. I’ve been looking at and reading up cookbooks–specifically baking books, like this one. I’ve spent my Black Friday (luckily) avoiding crazy crowds and realizing that Black Friday is full of media hype that benefits retail stores but not the customer. I’ve managed to read about 15 pages of Life of Pi while the baby takes a nap during the day. I’ve started True Blood and Sex and the City with my husband! I’ve baked Cream Cheese Pound Cake not once, but twice! Yes, twice!!!
Initially, I wanted to make a pumpkin apple pie for Thanksgiving. I found the recipe on Whole Food’s web site, because my husband is a big fan of pumpkin pie, and because I’m not–I’d rather have apple instead!–I thought it would be a good compromise. As delicious as it sounds, this recipe was printed out and forgotten about. The day before Thanksgiving, I had some time off, and as I was looking through my fridge, I noticed a package of cream cheese that I purchased most likely two weeks ago, being lonely and almost frozen in the back of the fridge. It was calling out to me. I needed to set it free! I decided. Even when I opened the container and saw that the cream cheese looked questionable, my frugal self couldn’t handle throwing it away. It needed to have justice! It needed to become cream cheese pound cake!
Now, if you’ve been here before, you know that I’m a big fan of Molly Wizenberg and her blog Orangette. I’ve been following her for several years now, and recently as I was going back and re-reading her posts (it’s not very often that I’d go back and read over someone’s blog! She’s that good!), I found a pound cake recipe that she wrote about in May. It sounded delicious and simple at the time, so I saved the recipe. As with any conundrum, when I found myself with the questionable cream cheese in my fridge and decided that I needed to do something with it, I pulled out Molly’s recipe for Cream Cheese Pound Cake.
She had adapted it from another recipe, and the first time I made this cake, it was a bit of a challenge. However, the result was no doubt one of my better ones. We had family members over for Thanksgiving, and I even got small praises for my cake! (Am I getting better at baking?!?! Hallelujah!!) The recipe called for mixing the ingredients with a stand mixer, but when your kitchen is half the size of a college dorm room, you have to give up the dream of having any Cuisinart products. Instead, you mix your ingredients by hand. Over and over and over again until your arms ache. Besides getting my exercise through carrying my baby around the house, I believe that I’ve met my quota for the month while mixing up this batch of wet ingredients. I’ve put a lot of force and gusto in this recipe.
I can’t remember ever having learned so much from making such a simple cake. For one, mixing ingredients by hand when you don’t have a stand mixer is perfectly okay. In fact, why would anyone spend $300+ on a mixer, except to make their lives easier? Someday, I will have one. Someday. In the meantime, I must make do with what I have. Molly describes this cake as, “….unusually moist and even-crumbed, with a top crust that crackles like a wafer.”–that is, if you haven’t gotten into a sugar coma at this point yet. I was a bit hesitant to put in three cups of sugar into the recipe. (THREE CUPS!) Being one with a sweet tooth and always fighting my sweet tooth, I instinctively wanted to put less sugar the first time, but I decided to follow the recipe instead. Surprisingly, the sugar does make a difference.
The second time I made this cake was yesterday, not because I had cream cheese lying around, but because I purposely bought cream cheese to make the cake again. It was so lovely–the immersion of sweetness from the sugar and the crumbles from the top, and because my husband and family really liked it, I wanted to make it again…just to see if I can re-create this wonderful cake and make my process even better. As I’ve read in a baking book, written by a very wise & experienced baker, you should set out all of your ingredients on the counter prior to starting your recipe, I found this to be quite helpful. By measuring everything before mixing, I was able to speed up the process the second time I made this cake.
And being the curious and impatient that I am, I did not listen to another very wise person who cooks regularly in the kitchen (my husband) who told me that I shouldn’t change a thing when I expressed my concern about the cake being “too sweet” the first time. I made the cake with 2 1/2 cups of sugar instead of the three that it calls for the second time. Also, this time I didn’t have any large eggs, so in my head, I had a very wise idea to add an extra egg–seven medium eggs instead of six large ones. Surprisingly, I couldn’t taste the eggs this time. I don’t know what it is about eggs, but putting in the right amount of large eggs instead of substituting an extra smaller egg does make a difference. Also, the extra half a cup of sugar that I deleted from the second cake turned it into a rather dry block. Finally, although the original recipe calls for putting the mixture in a 1o-inch tube pan or two 9×5 loaf pans, I only had a small loaf pan and a round cake pan, so I decided to use the two cake pans instead. It is entirely up to you, but cake pans does bake better in my oven. Knowing how your oven heats up and bakes is also important. Baking the cake for 55-60 minutes is a fairly accurate time; however, some ovens will cook faster and some slower, so adjust your time as necessary.
Now, where was I? Being thankful, yes. I’ve managed to talk so much about this cake that I’ve completely forgotten the other main reason why I’m here. Yes, I am thankful for a lot of things this year. Life isn’t perfect sometimes, so you learn to appreciate what you have. I am thankful to have a wonderful husband, to have help with daycare, to have time to bake, albeit little time, and for a healthy, thriving 9-month old who sleeps through the night. Yes, every day I remind myself–we have another night. In the meantime, here’s the recipe for Cream Cheese Pound Cake. Enjoy your holidays.