This week's cake is from the "Baby Cakes" chapter, encompassing cupcakes and other single-serving or smaller-than-full-size cakelets. The Mini Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes are designed for gift-giving, with the photograph showing the cakes in disposable paper pans. However, I have quite a variety of loaf pans, and found my "half-size" loaf pans were right for the main cakes (the recipe makes 2), plus a smaller size that would handle the remaining batter that otherwise would become two cupcakes.
The only difficult part of this cake should have been scraping the vamilla seeds into the sugar, especially as my vanilla beans are a little past their prime and are shriveled. I managed, though, and proceeded through the recipe, mixing the seeds and sugar in my mini-processor, stirring the dry ingredients, adding butter and part of the egg mixture, then the rest of the eggs in two parts. Simple! But when I used the scale to put the major part of the batter into the two larger loaf pans....there was none left for my little loaf pan. I pondered this briefly, decided that perhaps there had been a typo in the weight of the batter, pondered on the fact that the level of batter in the two pans looked just about right, and put the two larger loaf pans in the oven.
At the point in the baking time when you can reach in and make a slice in the tops of the loaves to get an attractive crack, the loaves looked terrible. Completely flat-topped. Barely off-white, not starting to brown at all. When I tried to make a cut with my (slightly dull, admittedly) single-edged razor blade, the texture was almost rubbery. No miraculous transformation occurred in the last of the cooking time, and I ended up with two barely brown loaves, only slightly domed or browned, and with a dry surface. Bricks. Whatever.
It took somewhat longer for me to decide what went wrong: I must have weighed out way too little sugar, probably 50 grams, not 150. As I was clearly baking with my brain turned off, the small volume of sugar didn't trigger any alarm bells at all, and so I got bricks. Once I had a probably cause, though, it was a quick decision to try again the next night, with brain engaged this time. (It helped that it is an easy cake, and a half-size recipe that didn't take many ingredients.) Result: enough batter for two half-loaf pans and a mini pan. Pretty brown cakes with nicely domed tops. All it took was the right amount of sugar.
The finishing touch for the pound cakes was a brushing of a vanilla-cognac flavored syrup, then wrapping the cakes up for a day to let the flavors meld. I actually did this for both the low-sugar and the correct cakes, but a single taste was enough to have me pitch the low-sugar cakes in the trash.
Tasting the good cakes was much more pleasurable. It's a nicely flavored pound cake, buttery, and with a good texture. I don't think the cognac syrup added much for me, but I'm a lover of the basic pound cake taste and feel it should need no adornment. The vanilla flavor alone is plenty in this one.