Even though she would never admit it, my Mamaw is a fabulous baker! It was so exciting going to her house when I was little because I knew she would always have something warm and yummy waiting for us. Shoot, it’s still exciting to see her antique cake stand out on the bar, topped with some melt-in-your-mouth sensation. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been going to her house to watch her bake and learn her secrets, since most of what she does, she does by memory – which is simply amazing to me since baking is so scientific. If you don’t get the right amount of baking powder (your leavening agent), your goodies won’t rise. Without enough eggs, your ingredients won’t bind correctly, creating an irregular and perhaps even chunky result. But her baked goods are flawlessly executed every single time – without measuring. Not saying she never measures, but most of the time, nope! In working with her, I’ve made her stop as she adds ingredients and try to measure them so I can get at least a rough idea. I hope to learn to “bake without borders” (as I like to call it) like she does, but just in case I forget anything after she’s gone, I want EVERYTHING written down.
Cream Cheese pound cake is one of my absolute favorite desserts Mamaw makes. It’s just so simple and delicious. The thick, dense cake is perfectly moist and just sweet enough. Most of the time pound cakes are make in loaf pans and cut into slices like bread. But Mamaw has always made her pound cakes in Bundt pans – those deep, round pans that have the hole in the middle. You can certainly use loaf pans for this recipe, but there’s just something so elegant and Southern about a Bundt. After the cake is done and she’s flipped it over onto her cake stand, she makes a simple glaze from milk, powdered sugar, and a “tad” of almond or vanilla extract. Her glaze is then poured over the cooled cake and runs down the sides and into the center. It sort of looks like shimmery little icicles gracing the sides of the cake after it dries.
You can certainly serve it with whipped cream and fresh berries, but we usually eat it all by its self. It just doesn’t need anything… it’s perfect.
Cream Cheese Pound Cake
2 sticks (1 pound) butter
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose or cake flour
1-8 ounce block cream cheese
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
Vanilla or Almond Glaze
Almond or Vanilla extract
Step 1: Preheat oven to 300°. Grease (I always use Crisco) and flour your Bundt pan.
Note: If you are using a non-stick spray, for the love of your bakeware, please choose Bak-Klene (pronounced Bake Clean)! Pam (and other sprays) contains chemicals that polymerise (or basically turn to plastic) when exposed to heat. This reaction is what causes that horrible sticky residue on your pans that is impossible to get off. It will eventually build up to the point of ruining said bakeware. Bak-Klene does not contain this chemical, so in turn does not produce plastic on your pans. I buy mine at Williams Sonoma.
Step 2: Cream together the butter, cream cheese, granulated sugar, and oil. This is where the magic starts, so don’t short change the love you put into it here. Turn your mixer up to 7 or 8 (on a 9 speed mixer) and let these ingredients get happy together. Be sure to scrape the sides of your bowl, then mix again, to make sure you haven’t left anything behind. It should be light and fluffy when you’re done.
Step 3: When you’re satisfied that your mixture is perfectly creamed, add the eggs, one at a time. The “one at time” part is very important – it allows each egg to be distributed evenly and gives it time to emulsify the fats and liquids. Before adding each egg, I always crack it in a little glass bowl first (a tip I learned from the fabulous Paula Dean).
You want to be sure you’re not adding any shell fragments and that “the chicken was flying right that day,” to quote Miss Paula.
Step 4: Sift your flour, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl. Measure out your milk. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk, starting and ending with dry, until everything is incorporated evenly. Be sure to stop occasionally and scrape the sides of your bowl. Lastly, add the vanilla. It should be thick, smooth, and creamy.
Step 5: (If you can resist eating the batter with a spoon) Pour the batter into your prepared pan. The batter will be uneven and have air bubbles in it, like this. Tap your pan lightly on the counter a few times and rock/twist it back and forth in between taps to get out all the air you can and create a level surface, like this.
Now tuck your baby into your preheated oven for a long nap, 1 hour and 55 minutes to be precise. I check on it around an hour and a half, but it usually takes every minute. Do not open the over door for at least one hour.
Step 6: When the center doesn’t jiggle when you move the pan and a toothpick comes out clean, remove your cake and set in on the counter to cool for 10-15 minutes.
You can see in the picture how much this cake bakes up and out of the pan; totally fine and totally normal. After letting it cool for that 10-15 minutes, place a cake stand or plate over the bottom of the cake and invert the pan to release the cake. If it resists you, use a rubber spatula and gently run it between the pan and cake. Let the cake cool to room temperature.
Step 7: While your cake is cooling, mix up your glaze. I usually start with a 1 cup measuring cup, dump enough powdered sugar to fill up about 1/2 the cup, then add milk, a little at a time, until I get the consistency that I want. You don’t want the glaze to be too runny or it will all run off the cake and pool around the bottom (not that pools of delicious glaze are a bad thing, but it’s not what you’re going for here). You want it thick enough that it runs ever so slowly down the sides of your cake, but still sits happily on top. Remember to add just a tad of almond or vanilla extract, and mix well, before drizzling it on your cake.
Step 8: Try not to eat the whole cake.