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Lani and Ann are the Weaver sisters!

Lani's household consists of Steve, the long-suffering coding genius and computer security guru; Jim, Lani's tall, red-headed and handsome son, currently finishing his second year of college; Hunter, Jasmine, Himari, Chenault, the miraculous Onyx and the even more miraculous Resk, undisputed feline rulers of the house; and Jesse, the man-hating green-cheeked conure.

Ann's household consists of Don, who is not just a computer genius but a pilot, a builder, and a damn good father; their son Steve, the marathon-running, college-bound, funniest teenager I know; and wonder dog Tater.

Other family members are Laurie, Lani's beautiful daughter who teaches at elementary levels; her handsome son Alex, aka Alexander the Great; Mary and Bo, a/k/a Mom and Dad, and Bud and Ann, Steve's patient and wonderful parents.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Cake (posted by Ann)

Mom got a sour cream pound cake recipe from our cousin Leslie a long time ago. Mom, in an attempt to make Don feel welcome, would always try to cook something that he liked when he visited. Sometime along she made the pound cake recipe - and he really liked it. Really, really liked it. So it became something of a tradition, she would make it whenever he visited.

Then one visit about 7 years ago she was distracted and actually made a mistake, putting in only 2 cups of flour instead of the 3 cups the recipe called for. She was bemoaning the poor cake when we arrived, but when Don ate a piece he declared it the best pound cake EVER. It is very tender and moist, and sometimes has a streak in it that is very dense (she calls it a "sad streak"). It's so tender that it's almost impossible to get out of the pan without leaving a bit of crust behind no matter how carefully you butter and flour.

So we rocked along for years, with Mom making "mistake" pound cakes every time Don visits. She actually times it so that the cake is warm out of the oven when he arrives, and will make him as many cakes as he can eat. With Don and Steve there, they will go through almost a pound cake a day. It also became known as "The Cake". As in "is the cake coming out of the oven?". "Don't eat the last slice of the cake!" and "if I finish it today, will your Mom make the cake for me to take home?".

Then Don started telling me that I didn't love him because I wouldn't make The Cake for him, and how mistreated he is since he has to fly me to Florida to get The Cake. This has been going on for a while, and I resisted mightily. I don't need that in my house - it's evil!! This year I finally told him that I would make him The Cake if he got me something from Tiffany's for Christmas. I figured I was safe - no Tiffany's in Panama City, Florida, and he's never shopped at Tiffany's.

Well, guess what. Mom teamed up with him and gave him something from Tiffany's to give me for Christmas. Now I'm on the hook for The Cake.

So when I got home after Christmas, I made The Cake for him, making it with 2 1/2 cups of flour instead of the 2 Mom uses, hoping to make it a little easier to handle but just as moist. I did it as I was leaving town for London for 10 days, and when I got home he told me it was so bad he had to throw it away. Grrrr. Now I'm determined!

When I was with Mom and Dad end of January, I had Mom make The Cake the day I was leaving and watched her like a hawk to make sure the recipe hadn't drifted away from the original. Only one other change - use salted butter instead of unsalted, and don't add the salt. No big deal. My idea was to do a blind tasting, since I was sure he couldn't really taste the difference. I rigged a way to carry home about 6 slices of her cake, and told Steve he had to design a testing process that would be scientifically sound. I got home, Don was arriving the next day, and I made The Cake. I only used 2 cups of flour, so it was exactly the same recipe, ingredients - everything.

By the time I got The Cake out of the pan I knew it wasn't going to be the same. Hers has a lighter, thinner crust, mine has a thicker, darker crust. Hers is more tender, mine is more substantial. Grrrr. So I gave up on the blind tasting, but at least this time he did deign to eat it instead of throw it away. I keep thinking about what could make the difference - humidity of ingredients? Maybe I should add a teaspoon of water to compensate? Oven temperature difference? I'm going to turn mine down 25 degrees, and move the cake pan higher in the oven. Or maybe - just maybe - there's some magic in her kitchen. I think that may be a possibility.

I'm now totally obsessed with The Cake, and with making it exactly like Mom's version. I'm going to rule out everything but the magic through trial and error, and I'll let you know what I come up with. Here is the basic recipe to start.

Leslie's Sour Cream Pound Cake

1 cup salted butter
6 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour (3 cups in the original recipe, 2 cups for the "mistake")
1 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Sift flour with baking powder. Cream butter and sugar until very creamy, if they don't want to cream add the vanilla to help it get started. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in flour mixture, then sour cream and vanilla.

Bake in a buttered and floured bundt pan for 90 minutes at 325 degrees on the middle shelf. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan carefully.

Now, here's a bit of family history. At some point along, Laurie copied down the recipe for me. Here's a picture of the one she wrote for me - she must have been 10? 12? You'd know better than me, Lani! Look at the printing and her initials - I love it! This one still shows the 3 cups of flour, so it dates from before the "mistake".


At 4:03 PM, Blogger kathy b said...

Ann I am so making that cake this week! THANKS

and the box is on its way to you now!!!! Take and Replace yippee

At 4:04 PM, Blogger kathy b said...

Ann I am so making that cake this week! THANKS

and the box is on its way to you now!!!! Take and Replace yippee

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Lani said...

I'm going to make The Cake this week too, and I'll keep you posted on my results. I always, always have to adjust my baking for altitude up here (and no wonder, I'm right at a mile and a half higher than Mom is!), but I've also found that the super dry air here makes an enormous difference and I have to use less flour, or more liquid, than most recipes call for. It wouldn't surprise me at all if that's at least part of the difference you're seeing. The rest? Give up. It's the magic.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Lani said...

Oh, another thought. Your Bundt pan, is it as heavy as Mom's is? That could make a difference as well.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Ann said...

Same exact bundt pan. I think her oven may be lower in temperature than the thermostat says - I'm going to give 300 a try, and will add 1 t. of water. I'm going to make The Cake this week, but right now I'm inundated with bananas that need to become banana bread.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Charlotte said...

Well, Moms are always magical. Good luck with "the cake." Yes, oven temp makes a difference. One of you needs to have her oven calibrated would be my guess. It also might matter what brand of flour you are using. "Yankee" flours have more gluten than "Southern" flours.

I'll send my mom's pouncake recipe to you. It is NOT light and fluffy. It is dense and buttery and I've never had anyone turn down another piece!

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Charlotte said...

One other magic comment, I made divinity with my mother many times at Christmas. Just with her in the kitchen, not actually doing any of the work. I have never, ever been able to do it on my own. Just something magic about her being in room. Sigh.


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