We love snacking cakes (also delightfully known as everyday cakes), the kind you crave with midafternoon tea or coffee. Though by definition they should be supereasy, it isn’t always the case. To fix that, we pulled out the food processor.
A pound cake should be the ultimate easy cake. After all, it’s basically eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, mixed together and baked in a loaf pan. But if it’s so easy, why do pound cakes so often turn out spongy, rubbery, heavy, and dry rather than fine-crumbed, rich, moist, and buttery?
The particular problem with pound cake is that because of the high number of eggs, most recipes use a finicky mixing and creaming method in which all the ingredients need to be at precisely the right temperature and the batter needs to be mixed for a precise amount of time; otherwise, instead of emulsifying properly, the batter turns into a curdled, broken mess—and there’s no way to save it.
Looking for a simpler, foolproof way to make this everyday cake, we found a less fussy approach to mixing the batter: Rather than using softened butter, which is typically called for, we used hot melted butter, a method often used for quick breads. Melting the butter eliminated all of the issues associated with creaming.
The fast-moving blade of the processor, in conjunction with the hot butter, emulsified the liquid ingredients quickly and consistently before they ever had a chance to curdle. We call our technique “almost nobowl” because we transferred the liquidy mixture to a bowl and sifted in the cake flour by hand and folded it in with a whisk, to be extra-sure no pockets of flour would mar our cake. You could, however, blend in the flour using the food processor, if you wish.
Because of the emulsion, the food processor is particularly well suited to mixing pound cake batter. But it’s great for other snacking cakes that don’t require such a precise emulsion; for example, carrot cake typically requires lots of chopping or shredding by hand. We devised a recipe that uses the food processor to do it all: chop the carrots and nuts, mix the batter, and even make the frosting— everything but bake the cake!
1A FOR BATTER Process sugar, eggs, and any spices or extracts in food processor until mixture is combined.
2 A Wit h processor running. Add hot melted butter in steady streamand and process untile mulsified.
3A Transfer to large bowl. Sift flour mixture over egg mixture in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition until few streaks of flour remain. Continue to whisk batter gently until almost no lumps remain (do not overmix).
1B FOR SHREDDED OR CHOPPED INGREDIENTS Process items like carrots with shredding disk before making batter.
2B Process items like nuts with chopping blade before making batter.
1C FOR FROSTING Process wet ingredients in food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add sugar and process until incorporated and frosting is creamy and glossy.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
Our food processor mixing method produces a superior rich, golden pound cake while making the process as simple and foolproof as possible. The combination of the fastmoving, powerful blade of the processor and the hot melted butter emulsified the liquid ingredients quickly and thoroughly before they had a chance to curdle. Sifting the dry ingredients over the emulsified egg mixture in three additions, and whisking them in after each addition, allowed us to incorporate the dry ingredients easily and ensured that no pockets of flour marred our finished cake. The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8½ by 4½ inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness 5 minutes early. You can use a blender instead of a food processor to mix the batter. To add the butter, remove the center cap of the lid so the butter can be drizzled into the whirling blender with minimal splattering. This batter looks almost like a thick pancake batter and is very fluid.
1½ cups (6 ounces) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
1¼ cups (8¾ ounces) sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and hot
1 Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl.
2 Process sugar, eggs, and vanilla in food processor until combined, about 10 seconds. With processor running, add hot melted butter in steady stream until incorporated. Transfer to large bowl.
3 Sift flour mixture over egg mixture in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition until few streaks of flour remain. Continue to whisk batter gently until almost no lumps remain (do not overmix).
4 Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula. Gently tap pan on counter to settle batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with few crumbs attached, 50 minutes to 1 hour, rotating pan halfway through baking.
5 Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run thin knife around edge of pan, remove cake from pan, and let cool completely on rack, about 2 hours. Serve. (Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost cake at room temperature.)