[Disclaimer: this is not the lemon loaf cake from this week’s TWD.
Orange Cardamom Cheese Pound Cake.]
This week’s TWD recipe is an easy-peasy lemon loaf cake. Initial reviews on the TWD blog site seemed mixed; most people found it dry and/or lacking in lemon flavor. Since I had just baked a pound cake not too long ago (pictured above), I didn’t feel particularly excited about this one either at first. But the technique used here is a bit different from other pound cakes and while my first pound cake was fairly good, it was also quite dense and erred on the drier side. So I was eager to learn a different technique as I wanted to achieve a lighter texture while keeping the cake tight as pound cakes should be.
Most pound cake recipes will have you cream the butter with sugar first, before adding in the eggs and finally the dry ingredients. The shape and size of your sugar crystals may actually matter in getting that lighter texture. You see, our leavening agent, i.e. baking powder, releases carbon dioxide as it comes into contact with liquids. This carbon dioxide needs a place to go and that’s where the air pockets that your sugar has made in the butter creaming process come in. When your batter heats up, bubbles form, the moisture from the cake creates steam and the air pockets get filled leading to the seemingly magical rise of your cake. So you need sugar that will cut through the butter properly and create appropriate air pockets. This also means that you need to make sure you start with soft butter and that you cream the butter thoroughly. Adding more baking powder won’t necessarily do you good; overleavening can make the bubbles run to the top and pop, and you still won’t get that wonderful rise.
Another important thing to remember is to not overbeat the dough once the dry ingredients are added. The protein in the flour turns into gluten as a result of being mixed with liquids (making the dough more elastic), so overbeating will result in a denser heavier cake. It is better to sift flour in smaller portions, in thirds for instance, and mix after each addition only until just combined. This is also why, I suppose, the Baking With Julia recipe calls for cake flour as opposed to regular all-purpose flour, since cake flour has a lower protein content.
So creaming the butter with sugar first is the most common method, and as I’ve said, the Baking With Julia lemon loaf cake uses a different technique. In this recipe, the eggs are beaten with sugar until foamy (but not fluffy), then the dry ingredients are added, then a bit of heavy cream and finally melted butter. I’ve also seen this method used in a Nigella Lawson pound cake recipe before. With the first method it was important to use soft butter, with this one it’s important to use room temperature eggs and not cold eggs. I think in general it’s better to use eggs at room temperature otherwise they won’t combine properly with sugar and flour.
Armed with this new knowledge, I was ready to give the recipe a go. But of course I had to make things just a tad more interesting. Since previous reviewers hadn’t been particularly impressed with the lemon flavor, I decided to add a touch of basil, and because I favor Asian flavors, I used Thai basil. Now with Thai basil, it seemed more natural to use lime zest instead of lemon zest. And finally, keeping with the South-East Asian theme, I substituted heavy cream with coconut cream.
[Lime Basil and Coconut Cream Pound Cake]
The result? Unlike other people, I found the cake to be quite moist and light. The lime flavor came through subtly but the cake could have used a touch more basil. The coconut cream was practically indiscernible given the small quantity used and as such makes for a great lactose-free substitute. The cake remained moist for breakfast the next day, and leftovers disappeared quickly in the office kitchen.
Lime Basil Pound Cake
Here are the changes I made:
- Used the zest of 3 limes instead of 3 lemons.
- Added a tablespoon of finely shredded Thai basil (4 big leaves) – could have used more.
- Substituted the 1/2 cup heavy cream with 1/2 cup coconut cream (see Yvonne’s Corner for more info on coconut cream).
- Lowered the sugar and used 1 cup instead of 1 1/3 cups.
[Lime Basil Cake served with Coconut Whipped Cream]
Orange Cardamom Pound Cake
For the cake depicted at the top of the post, I used a recipe adapted from Korean American Mommy. I’d recently eaten a wonderful cheese pound cake from a Korean bakery and wanted to recreate it. This cake was nothing like the one I had in mind but I enjoyed the flavor combination. I shall re-attempt the Korean cheese pound cake at another time. For now, here are the changes I made to the cited recipe:
- Used the zest of three naval oranges and added 2 tablespoons of orange juice, instead of blueberries.
- Added 1/4 teaspoon of finely ground black cardamom seeds (black cardamom is pretty potent so a little bit goes a long way).
- Added a bit of finely shredded mint leaves.
- Around the 40-45 min mark, make sure to check your cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick or knife into it. It should come out clean (or with very few crumbs). If still not done, put it back in the oven but check it again regularly. The cake should come out as soon as it is done; a few too many minutes will make it dry.
- The lime flavor was quite subtle so if you want something stronger I’d suggest adding a tablespoon or two of lime juice.
- Similarly, the Thai basil flavor didn’t come through as much. I’d probably add another tablespoon next time.
- I used coconut cream and not coconut milk. Coconut cream has a higher coconut extract content (and thus fat content) than coconut milk. Fat content of coconut milk depends on the brand, but a gross rule of thumb is that coconut milk is one part coconut to one part water while coconut cream is four parts coconut to one part water. In most recipes, you can substitute heavy cream with coconut cream in a one to one ratio.
- If you cannot find coconut cream, leave a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight and scoop out the cream that will have solidified at the top. Make sure that you don’t use coconut milk with stabilizers in it though (I tried this with Chaokoh brand coconut milk and it didn’t work). I recently switched to a brand that is only made with coconut extract and water, and does not contain any chemicals. I haven’t actually tried cooking with it yet so I’ll let you know how it goes. Also, make sure that you do not buy cream of coconut which contains sweeteners amongst other things.