The headnotes to this recipe (Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics), indicated that it was inspired by a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, reportedly one of Ina Garten’s favorite magazines (and one of mine, too). For me, learning that the dear Contessa loves one of my other favorite recipe sources was like finding out that a new best friend shares a love for a favorite author, or like introducing the love of my life to my dad and just knowing that they’d hit it off. My heart sang to see the magazine mentioned on the hallowed pages of a Contessa cookbook. The folks at Cook’s Illustrated are also responsible for the PBS series America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve rarely been disappointed by a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but I do find the instructions a little fussy, and the America’s Test Kitchen folks more than a little uppity. Then again, if I tested as many recipes and tools as they do, I’d probably be plenty uppity. I just find the Contessa series to be much more approachable and practical for most weeknight meals. That said, when I’m not afraid of a time commitment and I want the absolute best results, I turn to Cook’s Illustrated. In addition, I love it when they find that a less expensive gadget or tool works just as well or better than its pricier counterpart. It’s like cheering for the underdog.
So, needless to say, I was excited to try this recipe, where my two favorite recipe sources married on one page. Unfortunately, as soon as I got started, I realized that my cake flour had expired, and I wasn’t sure it should be used. I was already too far into the recipe to turn back, so I substituted all-purpose flour. This turned out to be an ill-advised decision on my part. I baked it for 50 minutes (the low end of the suggested time), and tested it with a toothpick. The toothpick came out clean in most places, but the cake looked like it needed a little more time in one place. Five minutes later, the toothpick came out clean everywhere. I followed the instructions to let the cake cool before removing it from the pan, and then cooled it further on a cooling rack. Then, at the moment of truth, cutting into the cake, it was mostly doughy on the inside. I blame the all-purpose flour. Bummer. Because of all the cooling time, it was too late to put the cake back into the oven.
Still, the slices that we were able to salvage were absolutely delicious, and we’ve become somewhat experienced at tasting pound cake over the years. I find that pound cake recipes work well with Nordic Ware bundt/molded pans, as they have enough fat and bulk to slide right out of the pan. (Incidentally, the Nordic Ware factory is less than 2 miles from my house. I scour the want ads for a taste-testing position, but alas, they’re only hiring metal workers. Bah.) Also, pound cake seems to be a Southern staple, so I practiced the art of baking it from Junior League and church cookbooks over the years. As far as pound cake recipes go, this one tasted fantastic, but next time I’ll be sure to have fresh cake flour on hand.