Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's buggin' you?

I was having a rough day when I got to work on Friday.  I was trying to leave it at home, but as soon as someone asked me if I was okay, I realized that maybe that was easier said than done.  I was missing my mom, a lot.  Long-time readers of my blog may recall that my mom died three years ago, in March.  While the date on the calendar has some significance, what really sticks with me is the fact that it was on Good Friday.  And of course, that date changes from year to year.  Even though I knew it was coming, it still surprised me a bit how emotional I was feeling.  (It shouldn't have, when I think about how stressful this year has been so far.)

I always think about Mom on the night before Easter as I'm filling baskets for the girls.  She was the one who taught me to count everything that I put into the baskets, down to the last jelly bean.  Why, you ask?  Because siblings are competitive, and will immediately notice any differences in who got what.  In fact, one of the first things Gillian did Sunday morning was pull everything out of her basket and count it.  I don't think she actually compared it to what Brianna had (she was just proud of her counting skills), but you can bet B would have said something if she thought G had more of anything. =)

Just in case the candy wasn't enough sugar for the day, I wanted to make something yummy for dessert on Easter.  I've been searching for a good vanilla pound cake since I got my latest batch of vanilla beans.  I've made several recipes and always end up with the same thing--cakes with good flavor but a dry mouthfeel.  To find new recipes to try, I've been using a nifty new tool that I discovered thanks to Jessica of cookbookhabit.  It's called Eat Your Books, and basically provides you with a comprehensive index for the cookbooks already on your shelves.  It doesn't give you the recipes, just helps you figure out where to look.  When I searched for "vanilla pound cake" I got 23 results from my 98 cookbooks.  A few were obviously recipes that utilize pound cake as an ingredient, and some were for other flavor variations that included vanilla in the ingredient list.  But I got about a dozen recipes for what I was really looking for, a basic vanilla pound cake.  I've already tried a few of them that weren't quite what I was after, and this time decided to check out the recipe in Joanne Chang's Flour.  

What appealed to me about this particular recipe was that it uses melted butter folded in at the end, rather than the creaming method.  I've made a similar recipe in the past, the Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes from  Baking From My Home to Yours.  Both recipes use the same mixing method.  First, you whip together sugar and eggs.  Even though Chang's recipe says to mix the vanilla bean seeds with the melted butter, I took a page from Dorie's book and rubbed them into the sugar before I started mixing.  Once the egg mixture is really light, you gently fold in the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) and then fold in a mixture of melted butter and some heavy cream.  

Part of why I wanted to make a dense cake like pound cake is that I thought it would be perfect in my new pan--I found this adorable bug pan when I was at Costco on Saturday.  It only holds a total of 3 cups, so I put the rest of the batter in one of my mini (2-cup) loaf pans.  The bugs baked for 20 minutes, while the loaf took 30.  (One thing to note--all of my pans were filled a bit too much, so next time I'll probably fill the bugs a bit less & put the extra batter in a 3-cup pan.)

The verdict?  This is an excellent pound cake recipe.  The finished cakes had a nice tight crumb and a great texture--not too dry.  I'm already thinking of different ways to change up the flavor of the batter and other pans to bake it in (I have a couple of mini bundts as well as my madeleine pans--which I think would be good since the cakes had humps on the backs).  The shapes were a big hit with the girls--they had fun debating which one to eat first.  They split the butterfly and the ladybug--both shapes that were symmetrical, so that there wouldn't be fights over who got the bigger piece. =) (another thing I learned from my mom)

I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of Flour.  I've really enjoyed everything I've made from it so far.  If you want to try this particular recipe, you can find it here on Rose Levy Beranbaum's blog.  The vanilla bean variation is at the end of the recipe.  


  1. These look adorable, Di! I've been eyeing the bug pan (as well as the zoo animal one) for a while...so far, I've managed to resist. =) The pound cake sounds perfect...definitely needs to have a strong vanilla flavor but not be dry...I've been really happy with the recipe from Bake! too. And I loved how you honored your mom's memory with your Easter basket traditions. =)

  2. Ciao Di ! I absolutely fell in love with your bugs ! I know how you feel for your mum, a hug .

  3. Aww, Di, I know how hard it is after your mom dies. over 20 years after my mom died I still get the urge to call and tell her something. It gets easier but I don't think it ever goes away.

    These little bugs are adorable! I guess I'm hanging out in the wrong part of my Costco because I've never seen them. I have exactly the same perception of pound cake so I'll have to give this one a try...love everything from Flour so far.

  4. Sorry to hear you've been struggling Di, it's definitely hard. My grandmother passed away almost 3 years ago, and I still get really emotional if I think about it too much.

    I love your little bug cakes, and I'm amazed at how much better Costco seems than my warehouse club (BJ's). They never have baking pans at mine!

  5. These are just so cute. I will have to find the pan so I can make them for LTP.

    I feel the same way on my Grandpa's birthday. He was my favorite and I miss him the most of anyone. Always hard.

  6. Really cute bugs!!! I can so relate to what you wrote: when I make photo calendars or similar things, my oldest one ALWAYS counts who's in the pictures how often! Fortunately, I had anticipated that! ;o)

  7. Hugs to you, Di. Loss is never easy, and you've had plenty of it to deal with.

    I'm pretty sure I counted jellybeans when my girls were small but luckily we've gotten past that stage but I'm sure I'll always count the bigger candy! I'm glad that you found a good pound cake recipe. Isn't Eat Your Books the most useful thing ever??