Yeah, you can find lots of “blue ribbon pound cake” recipes online, but how many of them have actually earned a blue ribbon?
No, really – how many?
I assure you that this one has, indeed, won a blue ribbon at the WNC Mountain State Fair (WNC standing for Western North Carolina). Yes, I treasure the ribbon. Yes, our realtor gave us a celebratory ornament. Yes, I’ll share the recipe with you. No, there are no “noes” in that phrase set.
I’ll start off by saying that this is technically a “mock” pound cake – that is, not a true pound cake, which contains only eggs, butter, sugar, flour, and maybe salt and flavoring, such as vanilla. No liquid. No leaveners. Nothing to help you fluff up the cake besides elbow grease and time. This recipe, however, contains buttermilk and leavener, because we live in the 21st century, and because buttermilk is delicious.
I’ll say secondly that the keys to good pound cake are two things:
- Good ingredients. Since the cake itself only contains a few simple ingredients, it’s important that you actually use good versions of those ingredients. Get the best stuff you can – good eggs, good butter, good liquid. Everything except vanilla – don’t waste your good stuff on baked goods – the nuances of flavor will disappear at high heat.
- Time, patience, and air. Okay, that’s four things total, but they go together. You must allow your creaming ingredients – butter and sugar – to play nicely together, and for a good amount of time. This is when a stand mixer comes in handy, but your own two pickers and stealers will do. (That’s “hands” for the non-Shakespearean – I told you I’m an English teacher.) When you do it right, the butter-sugar mixture should look something like this:
Pound cake (and really, any quickbread or cake) is a fabulous way to use up sour milk. As long as your milk doesn’t smell rotten, it’s good for baking, I’ve found. So quit wasting milk and eat more cake. You can also play with the flavorings – I tend to go for amaretto, but I’m itching to try Frangelico and other fun liqueurs, too.
So, good ingredients and good time. Got it? Good. Let’s bake.
WNC Blue Ribbon Pound Cake (Almond Buttermilk Mock Pound Cake)
You will need:
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 3 cups sugar
- 6 eggs, at room temperature
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (you can sub sour milk)
- 2 tbsp amaretto (you can sub 1/2-1 tsp of almond extract)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour a tube pan.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream butter for 1 minute. Gradually add sugar to butter, then cream butter and sugar for at least 3 minutes until light and fluffy. DO NOT SHORTEN THIS STEP.
- Mix in eggs, one at a time, beating well with each addition.
- Gradually add one fourth of the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Add one third of the buttermilk until just combined. Repeat two more times, alternating between the flour mixture and buttermilk and ending with the flour mixture.
- Gently mix in amaretto and vanilla extract.
- Pour batter into prepared tube pan, spreading the batter evenly and tapping the pan against a surface to break any large air bubbles. Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 80-90 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the mixture comes out clean.
- Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour or until almost completely cool. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely. Enjoy!