How many food magazines do you subscribe to? How often do you tear out one of those magazine pages, clip a recipe out of a newspaper, or print one from your favorite blog? Even if you have a tablet or other portable device, there are plenty of occasions when you have a recipe on a piece of paper instead of a computer screen and need somewhere to put it in the kitchen. A single sheet of paper can, in some ways, be even harder to work with than a tablet. It single drop of water can easily compromise the paper (where it can probably be wiped off the tablet) and it is hard to prop it up so that you can read it.
As with so many other kitchen problems, this one has a solution. The Recipe Rock is a stand that is designed to give some shape and support to all those free floating recipe pages so you can easily reference them while you’re cooking. The Rock has a slightly curved base that is paired with a strong magnet, which holds your recipe in place without flopping over. It will actually hold up to eight pages at a time, giving you plenty of material to work with. It takes up almost no counter space, measuring just 2.5 x 2.5-inches, and can easily be tucked into a drawer when you’re not using it. It might not be the most eye-catching piece of equipment in your kitchen (although it comes in a few colors), but if you have as many recipes and notes floating around as I do, it is one that will get a lot of use.
The original pound cake got its name from its ingredients. It contained a pound of eggs, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of flour. It was a dense cake, but it had a tender texture that other cakes at the time lacked and it became popular enough that we still have pound cakes around today. There are lots of recipes for pound cakes out there, some adding additional ingredients and some cutting back on some of the original components, and many of them are good recipes. Sometimes, however, it pays to stick close to the original recipe and this one is pretty true to its roots.
This Vanilla Bean Pound Cake is a straightforward pound cake recipe, made with butter, eggs, flour and sugar. I added a little bit of salt to make the vanilla in the cake pop more and a little bit of milk, which prevents the finished cake from feeling too egg-y. As in traditional pound cakes, there is no leavening in this cake, so don’t be alarmed that there is no baking powder or baking soda on the ingredient list. The slight rise that this cake has comes mostly from the inclusion of the eggs in the cake batter. It has a very dense crumb but is so tender that it almost seems to melt in your mouth when you take a bite. It may not look fancy at first glance, but this is one of those cakes that I would choose over an over-frosted layer cake any day of the week!
The cake, although simple, feels very indulgent thanks to its buttery vanilla flavor. Since I used a whole vanilla bean in the cake, it is also loaded with specks of vanilla. This is one recipe where it is definitely worth splurging and using whole vanilla beans, scraping out the seeds and adding them to the batter. If you don’t have any, however, you can still get a good vanilla flavor into the cake by using 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
The cake is baked in a loaf pan and cut in slices to serve. It can be served plain, with a cup of tea or coffee, or it can be dressed up in a number of ways. For instance, you could turn it into the base of a strawberry shortcake and finish a slice with fresh berries and whipped cream. For summer entertaining, you can toast a slice on the grill to give it some extra texture and serve it with a big scoop of ice cream. The cake keeps well when it is stored in an airtight container and it can be baked a day or two before serving, if necessary. This also means that you can nibble away at your cake in small slices over the course of a week if you don’t have any plans to entertain or simply want to keep this cake all to yourself.
Bright and colorful muffin wrappers are fun to work with because they can completely change the look of a cupcake or muffin from something ordinary into something that draws you in – especially if you are baking for a party or celebration. And anyone who has baked for kids knows that they have even greater appreciation for brightly colored baked goods (no matter how elegant the dark brown wrappers that appeared on the cover of that last food magazine looked!). Unfortunately, many muffin papers don’t hold up all that well to baking and the moisture and fat from your muffins or cupcakes often soak into the wrappers, dulling their colors and making them look a lot less appealing. The solution is to look for a grease-proof muffin cup that will keep its color during and after baking.
Wilton’s ColorCups Baking Cups are just such a baking cup. These are lined with foil, which helps the outer paper keep its color even when the cups are filled with something a little oily. I’ve used these cups a number of times and always like them, since they come in a huge variety of colors and are starting to become more and more widely available. The papers are sturdy and have a nice, solid feel to them. Even when they’re of of their packaging, they hold their shape, and the foil layer doesn’t separate from the colorful outer layer of the paper. Most importantly, however, they definitely deliver on their promise of keeping their bright colors after baking. Both plain cupcakes and streusel-topped coffee cake muffins (which have extra butter in their crispy topping) end up with neat looking wrappers when baked in these and they’re definitely a staple in my stash of muffin wrappers.
Layer cakes are usually made with layers of plain, round cakes, stacked up to turn a simple dessert into a dramatic centerpiece. Occasionally, you will see a layer cake that uses square cakes for a slightly unusual look, but round is the standard for layer cakes. Williams Sonoma recently introduced layer cake pans with a little extra flair that will give your cakes a slightly different look. These Celebration Layer Cake Pans have scalloped edges, which make them look a little bit like large flowers before they’re stacked into eye-catching layer cakes. The pans are large and thin – 9 3/4″ wide and just 3/4″ high. The shallow depth makes it easy to ensure that your cake layers will all be the same thickness (instead of trying to eyeball the right amount of cake batter in a deeper pan), and it also makes the layers easy to remove from the nonstick pans. The pans will cool down quickly once the cakes are removed, so you can quickly clean and re-fill them to bake additional layers without needing multiple sets of cake pans to do so.