Whose circumference is nowhere

Hard Luck Pound Cake

The Hard Luck Pound Cake / New Jersey / June 2009

Last week I went to see the doctor. On the way I heard the radio talking about how if Woody Guthrie were around he wouldn't be writing songs about “the economy” but rather how “times are hard” or these are “hard times.” My doctor asked about business and I said, oh, a bit slow — it's the economy I guess (in my head I thought “hard times”). He said that with the exception of one man (who sold some sort of internet-connection widget), all his patients talked about business being off, losing their jobs, losing their health insurance, etc. Driving home I got it in my head that I needed to make a pound cake (partially attributed, I am sure, to the weakness that comes after getting my blood drawn). I found a recipe for a swirled pound cake —the dark and light mixed together, kind of like life — and made a few “hard times” adjustments. The recipe called for 1 cup of butter; I substituted canola oil for half of the butter (butter is expensive and has more health-problem fat). The recipe called for 2 cups of white sugar; I substituted dark brown sugar for half of the sugar (dark brown sugar seems like the poorer relation to white sugar). The recipe called for 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract; all I had was a drop (I protest buying vanilla extract because it costs so much and I can never taste it in what I bake). The recipe called for a cup of milk and I had none; I substituted a cup of Paulo's Half-and-Half (it was in the refrigerator and is a little hidden richness to add comfort). The cake was wonderful — hard luck doesn't feel so bad with a good piece of cake. (Full recipe after the jump.)

Recipe for Hard Luck Pound Cake

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup Half-and-Half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • a few drops of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder

In a large bowl, with electric mixer at low speed, beat sugars, butter, and oil until blended. Increase speed to high, and beat until light and fluffy. Add flour, cream, baking powder, vanilla, salt, and eggs and beat at medium speed until well mixed. Increase speed to high, and beat batter for 4 more minutes (this is an important step — gets your frustration out and results in a very high cake — air is cheap). Remove about 2 1/2 cups batter to a medium bowl. With a wire whisk or fork, beat cocoa into batter until well blended (Note: beat gently at first or all the cocoa will jump out of the bowl and cover your kitchen). Grease a 10 inch tube pan. Alternately spoon vanilla and chocolate layers into pan. Use a large spoon to cut and twist through batter for a marbled hard luck effect. Bake at 350 degrees F for 75 minutes.


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