French Butter Pound Cake
Le Quatre Quarts
(Four Quarters Cake )
This French butter “pound” cake must have been a simple cake where each ingredient had the same volume (a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter and a pound of eggs – hence the “four quarters”), but I’ve tested and tweaked this recipe, simplified it to make one foolproof pound cake.
I like this cake because it has a unique preparation: instead of creaming the sugar and butter together like you would for most cake batters, the butter is beaten by itself until it is light and fluffy, the consistency of mayonnaise. There is something immensely gratifying in beating butter. It will be folded into the batter last.
Choose the best quality butter you can afford, obvi. Butter is important.
For a lemon pound cake, add zest and fresh lemon juice and a few drops best–quality lemon extract , if you have it. Sometimes I use all three. When grating the zest, make sure it is super-finely grated and not stingy; I use a Microplaner, then a quick pass of a knife if the strands are too long.
For this cake, I use two 3.5 Quart bowls for my Kitchen Aid Standing Mixer, but if you only have one metal bowl, the recipe is still manageable. Just beat the butter first. Here’s the recipe:
French Butter Cake
6 oz. (1 ½ sticks) best-quality unsalted butter, at room temp
8 oz. sugar (1cup)
6 oz. plain flour (1 cup), sifted. I use King Arthur unbleached flour
Big Pinch of kosher salt
3 large eggs, at room temp (preferably from your own chickens!)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (from your tree!)
Here’s my method:
Preheat oven 350 degrees. (“Bake” yes, “Convection” no)
Prepare the cake tin: 1 ½ qrt. tin, buttered and floured, with a parchment paper liner on the bottom. (Mine is an thrift store find from France, it measures 9 ½” long x 3 ½” wide x 3 “ tall)
1. With the paddle attachment of your standing mixer, beat the butter on medium – high speed until it is the consistency of mayonnaise, pale white and very soft. (If you only have one Kitchen Aid bowl, set the butter aside in another bowl).
2. With the whisk attachment, whip 3 eggs with a big pinch of salt and 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed 3-5 minutes until very light and pale yellow and doubled in volume (a.k.a. the “ribbon stage”)
3. Carefully fold in 6 oz. plain flour (in two stages) with a rubber spatula, trying not to deflate the batter too much.
4. Liaison the whipped butter into the batter, and add the lemon zest and 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (and lemon extract if you have it). In other words, quickly fold in the whipped butter in two stages, making sure it is well incorporated.
5. Pour the batter out into the tin, flatted the top, “bang” the tin once on the counter and
6. Bake the cake 40 minutes @ 350 till risen, golden blond on top and it is firm to the touch. I tend to rotate/spin the cake very gently for an even rise. The top should crack open as the cake rises for the classic pound cake shape, mounded on the top, with straight sides.
Cool on rack before slicing. This is the hard part… the waiting!
Serve the cake sliced plain or with a lemon glaze (lemon juice and 10x fine sugar and a few drops of milk), or with strawberry puree, fresh whipped cream and a berry garnish. A dollop of jam or lemon curd would not be unwelcome.