Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ginger Yogurt Pound Cake With a Jam Glaze

I grew up eating Sara Lee and Entenmann's pound cakes from boxes so I learned very late in life the origins of the term 'pound cake.'   Historically,  pound cakes were said to be made with a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of eggs, and a pound of butter. Since they contained no leavening, the original cakes must have been pretty dense. Most modern recipes have a slightly different ingredient ratio in deference to modern tastes and to make them less doorstop-like. But Martha Stewart has tried 'the original' and made it work, and the comments for that recipe are pretty positive.

For a long time, I smugly thought that I knew everything about pound cake, until I recently came across the factoid that French pound cakes rarely have the classic ratio at all and are often make with whole milk yogurt. A friend of mine loves pound cake and I'm obsessed with Fage whole milk yogurt, so of course I had to make a 'French' pound cake.

Apparently, making such yogurt cakes in France is something that everyone knows how to do, kind of like how everyone knows the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe in the U.S. Yogurt cake is one of those things 'you should know' as a basic adult life skill, just like roasting a chicken.

Of course, when it comes to defining what 'everyone should know' in food terms, things get controversial.  When I used to frequent food websites, one of the nastiest knock 'em down fights I witnessed was a post praising Entenmann's pound cake, which prompted many to respond: "DON'T YOU KNOW HOW TO MAKE A HOMEMADE POUND CAKE? IT IS SO EASY."

I've been guilty of rolling my eyes and 'wtf-ing,' but not in regards to cooking. 

Some of the prose that hits my desk is so cringe-worthy, filled with so many random capital letters and apostrophes I'm just itching to post it...but professionalism dictates I cannot.  So instead I post stuff like this on Facebook. 

When I come off my metaphorical (as opposed to my literal) high horse (and I'm in a much better mood when I'm on a literal horse, although my seat is still better on the metaphorical one)...I remind myself that no matter how much grammar has degenerated, not just amongst kids but also amongst adults...I have to give myself a poor score on lots of basic types of informational literacy.

How much do I remember of basic math--I mean, math beyond what I need to balance my checkbook and read a graph in the newspaper or the distance on a map?  Can you hear the crickets chirping as I try to recall geometric proofs? I'm sure I'm 'innumerate' to some degree like some people are illiterate...and I doubt I'm alone.

I fare better on other tests of 'basic  knowledge,' such as knowledge of art, music, and theater, and even the natural world and science. (I'm not saying everyone has to be Dr. Wizard, but you should be able to relate to animals in some basic fashion, without poking them or scaring them, and understand when you should take an antibiotic and when you shouldn't).  But I'm not fluent in any language other than English, which is kinda sad, given I have an advanced degree from a pretty prestigious university.

Everyday, in fact, I'm reminded of what I don't know.  I'm just lucky our society often confuses being very verbal with intelligence.  

Looking back, people from a hundred years ago seem far more competent then ourselves.  Can you ride a horse easily as a means of transportation; write extensively in longhand; sew a functional item of clothing; zip through a Dickens novel; plow a field; make candles; play a piano; read Latin and Greek; and do long sums in your head?  I know not every  late19th-early 20th century person could all do this stuff, but I feel pretty confident saying that most of them were probably more self-sufficient than us 21st century folk.  And better able to amuse themselves in the dark. I was getting used to 'life unplugged' when Sandy hit, but I relapsed once again into my Internet addiction pretty quickly.

So, I'm going to try to stop being quite so critical of people's grammar, because there are so many things I don't know how to do. Before I started blogging, I don't think I had ever made a pound cake either.

It's impossible to know EVERYTHING, after all. The times are long gone when it was said that Aristotle knew all that was worth knowing of the known world.

 Although I do have to share with you JUST ONE email I was sent from an editor, when I submitted a recipe to a local publication with a fairly wide distribution.  They informed me that they didn't want to put it into the print version but would include it online and the response looked like this:

sounds yummy!  thanks for your resposnse and I will see that we post your recipe on line.
Thanks so much and feel free to share more with use , We're all one big XXXX family!
XXX XXXX (Editor)

Okay, so maybe there are SOME things you should know.  Like the fact that 'online' is one word, and how to make a yogurt poundcake.

Ginger Yogurt (French) Pound Cake With a Jam Glaze

--adapted from Bon Appetit, makes one loaf--


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted melted butter, cooled
1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large beaten eggs

1/4 cup plum (strawberry or blueberry would also work) jam for glaze
1 teaspoon water


1. Grease a 8x4 or 9x5 loaf pan.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt together.

3. Combine the butter, yogurt, sugar, and eggs.  Incorporate wet and dry. 

4. Pour batter into loaf pan.  Bake for 55-65 minutes, until a toothpick can be extracted clean.

5. Cool completely. 

6. Heat the jam on medium low until thoroughly combined with water and able to be poured over cake.  Glaze cake, spreading with a knife, and let glaze 'set.'  (It will still be sticky, but will adhere to the cake).


  1. My favorite spelling mistake came from another lawyer. He was a Stanford grad and had gone to law school at Boalt, so he clearly had to have some brains, but he had written in a declaration for a custody case that, "when the children are in her care the mother often behaves erratically with them." Except he spelled "erratically," "erotically." Which would have made it a whole different case had it not been corrected.

    I don't know if people's spelling and grammar skills have degenerated or if we're just more aware of it now because anyone can post anything online. The comments to Yahoo News stories in particular will make one turn to strong drink. At the same time, I have little patience with people who say they know the difference between it's and its and your and you're because they always act like it's the equivalent of splitting the atom. One person even left a comment on my blog saying she was one of the "12 people in the world" who knows the difference. Really now, one of the 12 people in the world. I was sorely tempted to respond, "OMG YOUR SO SMART ITS ALLSOME!!!11!"

  2. @flurrious--'erotically v. erratically' is just brilliant, and given the context, I think that it should make the Oatmeal's No.11 of 'spelling errors that are very, very important not to make.' He's lucky his estranged wife wasn't tempted to use that for her gain.

    The person who made the "12 people in the world" comment confirms my belief that even if someone knows basic grammar, that is no assurance they know basic math. Or have common sense.

  3. I am all for a lightened up (or less dense) version of pound cake and this seems spot on! The ginger inclusion is key.

    Oh boy, I can be a grammatical nazi when I want to. I know I totally ruin grammar on my blog but I like to think that's only because i actually know how to use it in real life. It's amazing how few people do, though.

  4. I know that I'm going to make nine zillion typos, after posting about grammar! It is hard on a blog, which is updated so frequently and doesn't have the second eyes of an editor. But there is a difference between someone who makes a typo and someone who obviously doesn't know the difference between its and it's.