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At the heavy end of the butter cake spectrum is the pound cake, the original or "grandmother" of all butter cakes. This cake is incredibly rich, but fortunately, a very thin slice goes a long, long way.
2 cups (4 sticks) butter
2 to 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
8 extra large or 9 large eggs
4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons brandy or sherry
2 teaspoons vanilla, almond or other flavoring
A traditional pound cake has no leavening other than air and eggs. Our recipe, while egg rich, has some baking powder in it as well to lighten it a little.
To lighten it even more, separate the eggs before you begin. After creaming the butter and adding the sugar, beat in just the egg yolks. Beat the whites separately until they form stiff peaks, and fold them in after all the other ingredients have been combined.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, cream the butter until very light. Add the sugar gradually and then the eggs, one by one, and continue beating until the mixture is very light and fluffy. (An electric mixer can be most helpful and effective here.)
When you cream butter, it may seem at the beginning as if you're just mashing it flat. But if you persevere, you'll begin to see it get "fluffy." What you're really doing is adding air. When you beat the butter with sugar, it becomes even fluffier, evidence of more air. And when the eggs are beaten in, the fluffiness is at its peak. That's why this part of the mixing is so important. The more air bubbles you can beat in at this stage, the more air bubbles there are to expand in the heat of the oven. Baking powder or soda can do part of the work of leavening, but the more air bubbles you can get into a batter manually, the finer and lighter the texture of the finished cake.
In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Pour the milk into a third small bowl, mix the brandy and vanilla, or whatever flavoring you're partial to.
Alternately add the wet and dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Pour into a lightly greased tube pan, or two 5 x 9-inch bread pans, and bake for about 1 hour or until the top surface of the cake springs back when you press on it gently with your fingers.
Let the cake cool thoroughly after it is done, cover and store for a couple of days to allow the flavor to mature. A pound cake is usually sliced thin.