Just take a recipe and change everything, you’ll be fine

Fortune favors the bold   -Virgil

Last week, I linked to this luscious-looking pound cake  from Bon Appetit on my Facebook page The next day, my friend Q came up to me at church and asked if I had made it, since she saw my link.  So then I felt like I had too, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

I went to T.J.’s for the coconut shards and also bought pretzel slims while I was there, even though I expressly forbade them to sell them to me.  They are gone now, that was hours ago, so on to the cake. I have always loved the word “pound” when applied to cake – it’s just so honest.  The cake weighs a few pounds, you will gain maybe a few pounds (perhaps “pounds cake” is even more to the point). The name actually comes from the pound each of sugar, eggs, flour, and butter in the traditional recipe.  As long as this ratio is preserved, it’s a pound cake.  But I said, to heck with all that.


Barring the occasional cookie-monster like shoveling of chocolate-dipped pretzel slims, I do not consider myself a sugar hound.  Yes, I love cake, yes, I make desserts now and again (and again and again).  But I always reduce the sugar by at least a fourth and usually a third.  I don’t know why every recipe I come upon calls for so very much sugar.  I have looked at recipes that claim to be “not too sweet” and still call for gobs of sugar.

Once, I fed a piece of my chocolate cake to a man who was painting my living room. He was a wounded, sensitive type, and the cake was not wasted on him. He paused and regarded his slice, saying that he had never had cake like that.  It was just a bit sweet and he said, “it’s not manipulating me, demanding that I like it.  It’s just letting me like it.”  This is why you give sweets to people who come to work for you, for the insights. It must for the insights, because it does nothing for the productivity.

I might not be the best person to advise others about cooking and baking because I change the recipe every single time. I set out to make this cake and realized right away that I was not going to use the called-for amount of sugar – 1 1/2 cups!  And furthermore, I was not going to use buttermilk, but only because I don’t have any, not because I was making a statement.  But ignore the buttermilk issue for now (I used plain yogurt cut with a bit of milk because it’s still tangy and creamy and it comes from a creature that moos) and let us focus on sugar reduction.

I was determined to reduce the sugar by a third and then, at the last minute, I reduced it by half. I did this because I am only going to live once, and in all likelihood, that life has already been shortened by the amount of cake I eat.  I also decreased the salt by a quarter teaspoon because I could tell they were asking for too much salt.  I made Edna Lewis’ pound cake once and yes, I know she’s a saint, but it was salty, and the world didn’t need another salty pound cake. What’s going on in that BA test kitchen?  Too much wine tasting, that’s what.


Well, fortune may not always favor the bold, but it did this time.  This was a great cake.  I loved it.  My children loved it (“Can we have another piece of that brownie?”).  My neighbor is going to love it because I am going to place the remainder of it on her front porch; once I do that I am not about to sneak over and snatch it back, be I ever so tempted.

“This wasn’t food – it was what food became if it had been good, and had gone to food heaven.”  Terry Pratchett, from The Wee Free Men


P.S.  I used Hershey’s Extra Dark cocoa – check out that deep color!


2 thoughts on “Just take a recipe and change everything, you’ll be fine

  1. Love the extra dark cocoa. You’re such a baking rebel. PS – my doorstep is only 25 miles away the next time you need to offload. 🙂

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