Ah springtime! Season of magnolia blossoms, standardized tests, and — between recitals, orientations, half-time fundraising, end-of-the-year whatevers — seemingly a bake sale every week. I can’t tell you how many times in the past month a reminder has popped up on my iPhone saying something like “Bake Sale/Lacrosse” or “Recital/Bring Cookies” and all I have to say is…what is wrong with me that I am completely shocked by this every time? When did my brain cede total memory control to my digitized calendar?
No, for real. Even if I weren’t totally blindsided by the 11th-hour reminders, I doubt I would go to the trouble of shopping and baking something way ahead of time. I usually have enough basics in the baking pantry — flour, butter, sugar, some kind of wildcard like chocolate chips or almost-rotten fruit — so that I can scrounge something together if I’m under the gun. Is what I end up with the kind of thing you’d find at Bouchon? Uh, no. But will a bunch of sweaty, post-game forwards pay fifty cents to try it? Yes. Unless it’s sitting next to the fruit roll-up offerings, of course. (What is it with those things?)
Before I proceed, I will address the fact that, yes, of course I could — and have many times — just pick up a dozen cupcakes at Stew Leonards or the local bakery, or a container of cookies at the supermarket. Store-bought goods do not offend my culinary or nutritional sensibilities — especially when those store-bought goods include chocolate-frosted doughnuts from Entenmanns. But they do offend my logical sensibilities. If someone is going to shell out $9.99 for a dozen donuts, each of which sell for maybe fifty cents…Why don’t they just hand the organizer a ten-spot, save everyone time, money, and sugar intake, and call it a day?
I know, I’m not a whole lot of fun.
Anyway, if you do find yourself in the 11th-hour position and you are so inclined to make something from scratch, might I suggest this pound cake? I’ve made it in various forms over the years, ever since spying the original in Bon Appetit. (I initially fell for the recipe because it allowed me to use up my almost-expired yogurt. But now I go right for the sour cream.) It exhibits the two main hallmarks of a keeper recipe for parents, being both flexible and forgiving. If you don’t have sour cream, you can use plain yogurt, Greek yogurt, creme fraiche (or a mix of two, which I did for the version you’re looking at here). If you are baking for kids who wouldn’t necessarily miss the hint of lemon and handful of…hmmmm, what’s in the fridge.…blueberries!…go ahead and leave ‘em out. When I brought the cake for the post-recital party this past weekend it was still warm, which was lovely, but not something I necessarily advise. The only reason mine was served that way was because I was taking the thing out of the oven on my way out the door.
Lemon (or not Lemon) Pound Cake with Blueberries (or Anyberries)
1 pat butter for greasing pan (or cooking spray)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest (or not)
3/4 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries or raspberries or blackberries (or chocolate chips if you’ve omitted the lemon)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease your loaf pan or pans. I used two of these 8-by-2-by-2.5″ paper loaf pans (I love having them on hand for this kind of baking because they travel well and you don’t have to “decant” the cake in order for it to look presentable) but you could also use one standard 8 1/2-by-4 1/2 inch loaf pan.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix together sugar and lemon zest with a fork until well distributed. Add sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract; whisk to blend. Fold in dry ingredients. Once it has come together, fold in blueberries. You don’t want to overmix. Pour batter into pan or pans. If using small pans, bake for 30-35 minutes until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean. If using a single standard loaf pan, bake for 50–55 minutes. Let cake cool completely before slicing — if you have time.
P.S. Andy’s Snickerdoodles are another great option for this dilemma. I’ll bet you have everything you need for them in your house right this very second.