Ingredient of the Month: Flour by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Flour is the soul of baking. The type of flour one chooses will have a profound effect of both taste and texture of all baked goods.

When it comes to cakes, most benefit from using either bleached cake flour or bleached all-purpose flour. These two types of flours will give cakes the most fine and tender texture and most delicious flavor.

How one determines the amount of flour used in a cake will make a huge difference as to the final outcome. If too little flour is used, the cake’s structure will be weak and it will collapse and be dense and pasty. If too much flour, is used the cake will be dry and heavy. The easiest way to be sure of using the correct amount of flour is to use a scale. Flour is made up of such fine particles that when using measuring cups (most of which vary in size from brand to brand) there can be a variance of more than an ounce of flour per cup, depending on whether the flour has been sitting in the bag for a while and how the flour is placed into the cup. When flour is weighed, it is always consistent. For more on flour, and all of my recipes, check out my blog!

The Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

After The Cake Bible was published twenty-two years ago, the Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake became so popular that even Starbucks put it on their menu. It’s perhaps my favorite way to eat pound cake! The fresh light flavor of lemon blends beautifully with the buttery flavor of pound cake. The lemon syrup tenderizes, adds tartness, and helps to keep the cake fresh. Poppy seeds add a delightful crunch. Lemon blossoms and lemon leaves make a lovely and appropriate garnish.

My first choice of flour for this cake is cake flour, because not only is it the most tender, but cake flour is chlorine bleached, which gives it a floral quality of sweetness. (Chlorine is not always used in all-purpose flour, but it is in cake flour. It dissipates during baking.)

  • 3 tablespoons milk (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
  • 3 large eggs (5.25 ounces/150 grams, weighed without shells)
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla (6 grams)
  • 1½ cups sifted cake flour (5.25 ounces/150 grams)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder (3.7 grams)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon (6 grams) loosely packed grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons (1 ounce/28 grams) poppy seeds
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar (2.75 ounces/75 grams)
  • 13 tablespoons unsalted butter (6.5 ounces/184 grams)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 ounces/63 grams)

1. In a medium bowl lightly combine the milk, eggs, and vanilla.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, poppy seeds, and ¼ cup of the sugar and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and half the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.

3. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the remaining egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. The batter will be almost ½ inch from the top of the 4-cup loaf pan. (If your pan is slightly smaller, use any excess batter for cupcakes.) Bake 55 to 65 minutes (35 to 45 minutes in a fluted tube pan) or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover loosely with buttered foil after 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

5. Shortly before the cake is done, prepare the Lemon Syrup: In a small pan over medium heat, stir the lemon juice and remaining sugar until dissolved. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, place the pan on a rack, poke the cake all over with a wire tester, and brush it with ½ the syrup. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a spatula and invert onto a greased wire rack. Poke the bottom of the cake with the wire tester, brush it with some syrup, and reinvert onto a greased wire rack. Brush the sides with the remaining syrup and allow to cool before wrapping airtight. Store 24 hours before eating to give the syrup a chance to distribute evenly. The syrup will keep the cake fresh a few days longer than a cake without syrup.

9 Responses to “Ingredient of the Month: Flour by Rose Levy Beranbaum”
  1. Muritala Tosin says:

    Mrs rose, i have measurement problem especially on scale pls how can help me ma

  2. Outstanding! I always loved your discussions on flour…

  3. the model i recommend of the MyWeigh scale is the KD8000.

  4. Rose Levy Beranbaum says:

    the most affordable top quality scale is MyWeigh. you’ll find it on the web. this will change your baking life–you will adore it!

    to convert recipes that you already make, once you get the scale, measure one cup of flour the way you normally do and see what it weighs. do this three times and take an average of the weight. it will vary depending on the type of flour.

    • BraYan says:

      Hi Jeanette it’s lovely to hear from you again I use Dove’s Farm srontg plain white flour, which I found initially only at Dart’s Farm and Waitrose but can now find at most Tesco and Sainsbury supermarkets. I also use wholemeal flour from Otterton Mill (very near to both myself and your daughter!).I’ve been making the dough with my own hands. It can often turn into quite a sticky business, but I’ve discovered that the loaves turn out best when I resist the urge to pile in more flour. I also weigh rather than measure the water, which seems to help the results to be more reliable too. Another thing I’ve been adding the optional 1/4 cup olive oil in all the bread I’ve made so far. We like the crust this gives and it seems to help prevent the dough from drying out on the top.I haven’t read Andrew Whitley’s book, but it’s one that’s on my wish list. However, my husband isn’t very keen to eat bread with bits in , so I need to find a keen munching audience before I can branch out into different varieties of bread!

    • Hari says:

      You are so awesome for helping me solve this myteyrs.

    • viagra says:

      I have been so bewildered in the past but now it all makes sense!

    • Voi says:

      I love bagels- I had rellay fresh bagels from a bakery once and since then I’ve always wanted to try them at home. Fresh bagels don’t even compare to store bought! Yours are beautiful!

  5. Tavia says:

    Hi Rose! Is there a particular food scale you recommend to measure flour? I love to bake but mostly make cookies. I’d never heard of weighing flour before. I am fascinated by this! Also, how can I convert my favorite cake recipes that don’t include flour weights? So great to find you on this blog.

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