The very first cake in All Cakes Considered is called “The Man Catcher,” a sour cream pound cake. Melissa Gray, the author of ACC, says, “I call this cake the Man Catcher because, really, no man can resist it. Oh, he might be able to resist YOU, but not this cake: it’s really good, but it’s no Love Potion No. 9.”
People always joke that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And I am definitely one to shower the guy I’m dating in baked goods. But when I think about things to bake for someone I am dating, I don’t think of pound cake. In fact, I don’t even think about pound cake when I am considering making any cakes, for any reason. I have no idea why. I had never made one before this cake, and I am not entirely certain that I’d eaten one, either. If I had, it obviously wasn’t a standout for me. But there are three more pound cakes in this book, so I’m going to have to get used to them.
Pound cake is called pound cake because that was how much of the main ingredients you are (traditionally) supposed to put into the cake: 1 pound each of flour, sugar, butter and eggs. I did a little bit of research and discovered: 1 pound of flour = approximately 3.75 cups. 1 pound of sugar = approximately 2.25 cups. 1 pound butter = approximately 2 cups. 1 pound eggs =approximately 9 eggs? (Most of what I saw said 8-10 eggs. I think the variation is due to different egg sizes).
Looking at those numbers makes me think that this should be called pound cake because eating it will make you gain a few. This recipe didn’t follow that ratio exactly. Here is how it worked out: 3 cups flour, 3 cups sugar, 1 cup butter, 5 large eggs. So that’s almost a pound of flour, more than a pound of sugar, half a pound of butter, and approximately half a pound of eggs.
There is also a cup of sour cream in there, which is almost half of a pound, so the cake basically did have a pound of dairy in there.
Confession: I didn’t have enough butter. I had one stick, and 3 tablespoons. I didn’t want to go to the market for more (and didn’t have time!) so I used Earth Balance for the last 5 tablespoons. Earth Balance is a dairy free butter substitute that isn’t margarine. No trans fat! We have it because my sister is severely lactose intolerant.
There were two other substitutions: The recipe calls for lemon and orange extracts, which I don’t have, and I’m pretty sure I won’t ever use again. Therefore, I looked for substitutes. Instead of lemon extract, I used lemon juice. I used a little less than the 1 teaspoon that the recipe calls for. As for the orange extract, the only thing I could use was orange zest. If you have read some previous blog posts, you know that I am not a big fan of zests. But I had to do it. So I made some use of one of the oranges that was in the kitchen. I ate the orange while the cake was in the oven (it was good).
Melissa Gray tells you exactly what to do for every step of this recipe. And I do mean that- the recipe is nine pages long, excluding full-page photos and a brief interlude about pans (it’s 13 pages if you include those). And in the spirit of this project, I followed every single direction, exactly as Melissa Gray said- all nine pages of them.
While it was baking I made a lemon glaze for drizzling over the cake. It was simple: powdered sugar, milk and lemon juice.
I brought the cake to work in my awesome basket- a gift from my mom, who found it at a swap meet a few months ago. It has a stand in it so I can carry two pies, but it is also perfect for cake transport.
Cake day happened to coincide with co-worker Bill’s birthday, so I thought it was a perfect excuse to bring a cake to work. I sent out an email that was way too difficult for me to write telling everyone- oddly enough, I had trouble saying, “Hey coworkers, I’m doing this cake thing, so you guys are going to be getting a lot of cake in the future.”
Cake day also coincided with my brother’s birthday, but he is in China so I couldn’t bake him a birthday cake. He will be back in the States in May, so he’ll get his birthday cake then (yes! excuse to make a cake!).
As for the cake’s success, it wasn’t a knockout. More than one person said it was good, but it wasn’t really the bang I wanted to start the Cake Project with. I was hoping for something a little more… memorable.
Not that it wasnt tasty. Here’s what I had to say when I ate it (I took notes. Yes, I know that’s kind of weird, but I knew I was going to be posting about it here):
“Ok, ok, not bad. Crispy brown crust/edges, fluffy yellow inside. The inside is moist, which is great. I can only taste the hints of lemon and orange in the cake but they’re not overpowering. Normally I hate anything with zests because I feel like I’m eating orange/lemon peel… but this isn’t bad. Maybe I should give zests another chance?
The lemon glaze is more strongly flavored- brings out more of the lemon flavor in the cake.”
MG describes how the cake looked when her grandmother made it: “medium brown crust. The inside was always bright yellow, springy, and moist.” So I think I got that down, even if the cake wasn’t phenomenal.
I work for a company that is a part of a business incubator, so there are a lot of other businesses in our building. Cake Day fell on Guest Baker day (yes, I have been guest baker- Chocolate Kahlua Pecan pies), so the Man Catcher had a bit of competition. The guest baker brought in a Kahlua cake and a Tiramisu cake, and they looked pretty awesome. I didn’t get to taste either of them, but I heard they were good (and were certainly devoured- both were gone very quickly).
As I packed up at the end of the day, the Man Catcher was only half eaten. I made it available to everyone in the building and it was gone when I came back to work, but I don’t think it was the best cake and I am guessing I will not be making it again.
I asked some of the men I work with if it really was a “Man Catcher” and Bill, the birthday boy, said, “If I wasn’t married and had things to do tonight, I’d take that cake out to dinner.”
I’ll take that.
Final note: I forgot to take many photos. I’ll do better next time.