Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

A Pound and Two

Coming back from school, there is a flurry of running feet. Keeping aside their bags, lunch kits back in the kitchen, a quick wash and the most expectant question, “What’s for tea?” While most days, it’s the simple bread, butter and jam that rocks the tiny kitchen table; some days it’s an elaborate snack meal. Well yesterday it was pound cake added to the simple mix. The difference was in it being elaborate and homemade.

Made from the traditional ingredients of flour, butter, eggs and sugar, the pound cake gets it’s name from the measure of one pound of each. Baked in either a loaf pan or a Bundt mold, dusted with powdered sugar, lightly glazed or layered with a coat of icing on or between the slices; these cakes have been dates back to the early 17th century. Early variations involved the replacement of the flour with cornmeal made from dried corn (maize), the creation then being known as Indian meal.

While for the English it is a pound, for the French it is “quatre-quarts”, means four quarters. With equal weights present in each of the four quarters, the same quantity of four ingredients are used. Depending on the occasion, certain areas use rum (Christmas Eve), mashed bananas or the addition of choclate or lemon juice, simply for flavour.

Moving ahead to the German cuisine, the Eischwerteig mit Fett (roughly “egg-weight dough with fat”) is a recipe very similar to the pound cake, but referenced in multiples of the weight of the average egg used. The recipe calls for measures for such a cake to be baked in a spring form tin (26 cm) as four eggs, 3 egg-weights of butter, 4 egg-weights of sugar, three egg weights of flour and one egg-weight of starch. Adding it up, it makes a close English pound of each or the French four equal quarters. With terms of measures being in base egg-weight, scaling it up or down helps not just in the quantity but addition of ingredients for the added variation like the Falscher Rehrücken (fake venison saddle with bitter chocolate and almonds) or the Nußkuchen (hazelnut cake).

With numerous variations on the traditional pound cake and certain countries and regions having their own signature and distinctive styles, one can stretch their creativity and imagination. From the inclusion of vanilla, almond or orange extracts to the incorporation of dried fruit as well as proportionate alteration to the measures, tea-time can turn out to be an anticipated wait , creative expression and simply, an indulgence after a tiring or busy day.

“Pound Cake.
The old rule–and there is none better–calls for one pound each of butter, sugar and flour, ten eggs and a half wine glass of wine and brandy. Beat the butter to a cream and add gradually a pound of sugar, stirring all the while. Beat ten eggs without separating until they become light and foamy. Add gradually to the butter and sugar and beat hard. Sift in one pound sifted flour and add the wine and brandy. Line the cake pans with buttered paper and pour in the well beaten mixture. Bake in a moderate oven. This recipe may be varied by the addition of raisins, seeded and cut in halves, small pieces of citron or almonds blanched and pounded in rose water. Some old fashioned housekeepers always add a fourth of a teaspoon of mace. The mixture may be baked in patty tins or small round loaves, if preferred, putting currants into some, almonds or raisins in the rest. Pound acake is apt to be lighter baked in this way. The cakes may be plain or frosted, and they will grow richer with the keeping in placed in stone jars.”
—The New York Evening Telegram Cook Book, Emma Paddock Telford [Cupples & Leon:New York] 1908 (p. 126)