Let me start off by saying that even the most proficient of cooks isn’t always successful when trying new recipes. In this blog I prefer to post my recipe successes but there have been failures along the way, more than I can count I assure you. So I thought I’d dedicate this blog to a recent failure that eventually turned to triumph.
The nice thing about honing your skills as a cook is that your successes come more frequently. But every once in a while an attempt at making something is botched and you recognize it’s never good to get too smug about your culinary skills. Just this past week I botched a recipe – BIG TIME – and thought I would share that escapade with you. I call it the saga of the lemon pound cake.
It all began simply enough with my usual quest for that one new recipe I would make this week. Flipping through the various posts on (you guessed it) Pinterest I came across a recipe for lemon blueberry pound cake. I already have a recipe on this site for a lemon blueberry yogurt loaf but thought I’d try this one as I had never made a pound cake before. The recipe seemed simple enough, the only difference being that it was written to make two loafs instead of one. Great, I thought, I can have one loaf for home and give one as a gift to an unsuspecting neighbor. I liked that idea. I had to purchase some disposable foil pans as I don’t have two professional grade loaf pans. No biggie, they’re certainly cheap enough. This should be a no brainer. WRONG!!!
OMG – that’s all I can say. The end result was awful on so many levels. My husband suggested that I take a picture of the disaster and post it in the blog for all to see. So here it is to the left – can you even believe it? It looks like a blueberry explosion! Of course in the picture the cake is upside down, but right side up it was no prize either. The cake never fully cooked, the blueberries took over the entire cake and to add insult to injury they all congregated at the bottom. On top the cake had risen onto itself and created what I call a lap over effect on the edges as can be seen in the picture below . I’m not sure what causes that but I never get that effect when I use my good loaf pan. It must have something to do with the evenness of the temperature during the cooking process and the quality of the pan.
Needless to say, it was a total disaster. I haven’t had one this bad in a long time – just enough to keep me from getting too smug regarding my baking skills. I wound up having the throw both cakes away – they just were not salvageable. So why, you might ask, would I even try this recipe again? To be honest, although it looked bad and did not cook all the way through the part that did cook actually tasted pretty good. So I thought this actually could be a keeper recipe but it definitely needed an overhaul. I guess I wanted to see if I could fix what obviously was a broken mess. So the next day I put my delicate baking ego on the line and tried my hand at making the pound cake once again.
The second time I was successful but it took some manipulation of the recipe to achieve what was intended. In deference to the author of the recipe I will not mention the site where I found it. The recipe as originally written was horrific and, regardless of altitude considerations, I find it hard to believe that the proportions as written are correct (especially where the blueberries were concerned). What I decided to do was adjust the proportions to make one pound cake instead of two. I also significantly adjusted the amount of blueberries used in the loaf and the end result is I think what the author had intended when writing the recipe. So here are my lessons learned and recipe rating.
Recipe Rating: I have two ratings for this recipe, one for the original version and one for the version I created. The original version gets an F+. Although the overall flavor combinations were very good (meriting the + in the grade) there were far too many blueberries called for in the recipe. Blueberries expand and burst during the cooking process and the original amount created a blueberry nightmare (as can be seen in the picture above). My version created a cake that was nicely integrated with blueberries but was still primarily a cake and not a blueberry compote. My version gets an A.
Lesson Learned 1 – You only get what you pay for: My advice to anyone wanting to be successful in the kitchen is to use good kitchen equipment. From pots and pans to knives to baking sheets and loaf pans, I can tell you from experience you only get what you pay for. Professional grade equipment consistently produces professional results. My professional grade loaf pan cooks cake batter evenly, does not produce a batter layover effect and generally cooks in the allotted time or slightly less than the allotted time. I don’t have to use sprays or worry about greasing and flouring the pan, the cake always comes out cleanly after it has rested for 15 minutes. Do yourself a favor and invest in good kitchen equipment, it’s worth it!
Lesson Learned 2 – How to bake with blueberries: As I mentioned earlier, the original recipe for this pound cake called for way too many blueberries – 3 cups for two loafs to be exact. When I was measuring it I thought it was a lot, but I know that baking requires precision in order to be successful and so I followed the recipe as written. Big mistake. The cakes became 95% blueberries and 5% cake – the blueberries just took over.
And even though I dusted the blueberries with flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake, they still did. I think the amount of blueberries contributed to that. There simply was too many of them. Just keep in mind when baking with any fruit like blueberries, you need to coat them with flour so they evenly distribute themselves and don’t all sink the the bottom of the cake. I also read that if you use frozen blueberries (which in this case I did not) and incorporate them at the very end right out of the freezer they will evenly distribute as well without the use of flour. I’ll have to try that sometime and see if it works.
In this case, the smaller amount of blueberries dusted with flour before incorporating them into the batter did the trick. In my second attempt, the blueberries evenly distributed in the pound cake. The last tip with baking with blueberries or other fruit is to make sure you add them at the very end, right before putting the batter in the pan. Fold them in gently so that they don’t burst and create a blue cake. If you follow these simple tips you will be just fine.
Lesson Learned 3 – Creaming the butter and sugar – a common baking mistake: Most people do not cream the butter and sugar when baking, they simple combine them. Creaming takes a little more time than you would think and the end result is a mixture that is light in color and very soft and fluffy. Doing creaming correctly allows for all the added ingredients to incorporate themselves more completely and also creates a fluffier, moister cake. So next time spend an extra few minutes and do the creaming process correctly.
Lesson Learned 4 – The glaze: I’m not a big fan of glazes. For some reason they just don’t do it for me. But I like the glaze in this recipe. It complimented the cake and did not overpower it. I also felt the use of lemon zest as well as lemon juice made the flavor richer.
Even though the initial attempt to make this cake was a disaster, the second version was a big hit. After a few days there was absolutely none left. So try my version and see what you think. You can always double it to make two loaves, but be I would be careful about doubling the amount of blueberries. I would err on the side of caution and use less instead of more. You certainly don’t want to be left with a blueberry explosion!
Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
zest of half a lemon
1 extra large egg at room temperature
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/4 cup flour + 1 tsp. to dust the blueberries
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. lemon zest
1 Tbs. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest. (3-5 minutes). Add egg and vanilla and beat an additional minute.
In a separate bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk to the butter mixture. Start and end with the dry ingredients and combine each addition thoroughly. Dust the blueberries with flour. Fold them into the batter until incorporated.
Grease and flour an 8 inch loaf pan if the pan is not non-stick. Pour in batter and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (there may be some blueberry moisture on the toothpick). Let the loaf cool for 15 minutes and then remove it from the pan. Cool completely before adding the glaze.
To make the glaze: whisk all ingredients together until smooth.