I have many favourite desserts. Rum cake, guava duff, and cheesecake reign supreme. Anything featuring a decadent, flaky pastry is a winner. But one of my favourites has always been pound cake, a thick-n-solid, don’t-drop-that-on-your-toes, Brick House kinda girl.
Pound cake is not plain cake. It is not yellow cake. It is not white cake. Traditional pound cake is named not because it makes you pack ’em on, but because it contains a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Cheaters add a pinch of salt, cream of tartar, and mace, or a splash of rosewater, vanilla, or lemon.
Personally, I always liked it simple and straight up. My mum”s version was rich and dense, but not at all sticky, and with simple, comforting flavour that beautifully balances savoury and sweet, and is uninterrupted by fancier tastes. You know how sometimes you just want fries (or oven fries)? Simple, kinda savoury, filling, satisfying? Pound cake holds that place on the dessert table.
There appear to be two approaches to vegan pound cake: make it super-healthy, or make it good. Last December, I tried a recipe that fits more into the former category. Fella gave me Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook for my birthday.
It’s by the wonderful women behind the The Post Punk Kitchen, which is a fantastic online resource where I learned early vegan basics like what to use in place of eggs. The Post Punk Kitchen is also home to amazingly tasty recipes including one I adapted slightly for some easy, yummy (and very fibrous…very, very fibrous) cookies that were a hit with my non-vegan family. Good stuff. So I’d lusted for this cookbook, and upon receiving it, did a happy dance and immediately planned to make their Vanilla-Yoghurt Pound Cake.
Now, this Vanilla-Yoghurt Pound Cake is an intricate dance of 13 ingredients (10, if you omit the flavourings). The photo looked gorgeous–smooth, dense cakey goodness. Yeah, baby, bring dat, I thought, and set out to stock my kitchen with the silken tofu, soy yoghurt, arrowroot powder, and other not-commonly-stocked-in-my-kitchen goodies this recipe called for. Of course, I cheated and switched some stuff up, but not much. I used whole wheat flour, because that’s how I roll. I sifted the flour (twice) to compensate for its denser nature. Instead of canola oil (which I also never buy, since canola is, by definition, genetically modified … no thanks!) I used Earth Balance, a non-hydrogenated vegan margarine that’s pretty tasty stuff. Other than that, I was true to the recipe.
I should have baked mine another 10 or 15 minutes (as is evidenced by the fine line of stickiness just above the bottom crust), which is really not the recipe’s fault. Aside from that, it just didn’t do it for me: the whole point of a pound cake is its richness, not its moistness, and this cake was just more soft than hearty and thick. It was an adequate cake base, but for my tastes, I’d have added nuts and raisins and masked it under a vegan cream cheese icing to up the flavour ante, and frankly, an adequate cake could have been achieved with many fewer ingredients and less cost. I suspect the soy yoghurt and silken tofu did double duty as both egg substitutes and partial fat substitutes, but for what I wanted, this recipe had far too little fat in it: a 1/2 cup fat to 2 cups flour and 1 1/4 cups sugar does not a pound cake make.
Craving unsatisfied, I sulked for another eight months, then decided to tackle vegan pound cake the same way I’ve tackled all my other favourite vegan dessert recipes: take the classic recipe, and simply sub vegan options for the dairy and eggs.
Out came Mummy’s classic recipe, which calls for all of 7 ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, mace, and flour. I used Earth Balance for butter, subbed ground flax seeds out for the eggs, and prayed it wouldn’t come out gross and sticky.
The end result? Hmmm… (Accompanied by head tilt.)
Yeah … not bad. But not perfect. I liked it better than the low-fat, multi-ingredient recipe. But for a picky pound cake eater like me, this version still didn’t quite do it. Maybe a 7 out of 10. Again, I didn’t bake it long enough, and, for the record, glass cake pans suck (yes, I am blaming my tools…partially). Even when lined carefully with parchment paper that has been greased (or, in my case, unbleached coffee filters that have been greased, since I was out of parchment paper). Glass bakes your goodies faster than metal, and in my quest to avoid a cake that wasn’t ridiculously crispy at the edges, I ended up with a dense and, yes, rather flaxy tasting line of unbakedness running through the centre. The outer slices, however, were good, and tasted less like a high-omega-3 breakfast food. The inner portion required a bit of navigation around the stickier parts, but the whole cake did get eaten. Fella didn’t turn it down either, and he’s not much for desserts.
So, the verdict is: the quest for the perfect pound cake remains incomplete, and because I’d rather save you wasting ingredients on a pair of cakes that I can’t wholeheartedly cheer on, I’ll spare you the recipes. Sifting through my endless list of random documents, however, I came upon an interesting (and flax-free) recipe from some years ago, featuring walnuts … so stay tuned for Adventure 3, when I’m hoping to get it right, or at least get a little bit closer.