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
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".