In the baking industry where preheating the oven reigns supreme, the concept of cold oven pound cakes dares to challenge tradition. Surprisingly, certain cake recipes defy expectations and achieve unparalleled heights when baked in an oven that gradually warms up.
Renowned pastry chef and cookbook author Cheryl Day, recognized for her expertise in creating budget-friendly delights, sheds light on the origins of this unconventional technique. She reveals that cold oven pound cake recipes were originally crafted as a clever marketing ploy by gas stove manufacturers. During the early 20th century, these recipes emerged in advertising campaigns, enticing homemakers to embrace the innovative gas stoves and bid farewell to their wood-fired ovens.
Day, the mastermind behind the beloved Back in the Day bakery, confesses that their cold oven pound cake has become a fan favorite. Diverging from the dense and compact nature of traditional pound cakes, Day's cold oven rendition emerges with a delightful lightness, a near-fluffy texture, and an extraordinary quarter-inch thick crust that tantalizes taste buds with whispers of caramel and brown butter.
But what is the secret behind the cold oven's magical ability to yield a sublime pound cake? The cake from the cold oven resembles a sweet, buttery cloud enrobed in a delicate, flavorful, and exquisitely crisp crust. In contrast, the cake from the preheated oven appears an inch shorter, is as dense as clay infused with butterfat, and devoid of the distinctive crust.
The key to this remarkable cake lies in the low and slow baking approach, granting the leavening agents ample time to work their magic. While many cake recipes call for a baking temperature of 350°F, this exceptional creation thrives at a cooler 325°F.
The method of combining ingredients further contributes to the cake's majestic rise. Dr. Stuart Farrimond, a respected authority on culinary science and author of The Science of Cooking, emphasizes the significance of the "creaming of butter" stage, which promotes the cake's ascent even in the absence of baking powder. The prolonged cooking time allows air bubbles to inflate gradually, resulting in a superior elevation. As these bubbles expand, the baking powder undergoes a second chemical reaction within the warm embrace of the oven, complementing the initial reaction when wet and dry ingredients unite. Timing plays a crucial role since, at approximately 155 to 180°F, the gluten in the flour starts to set. By initiating the baking process at a lower temperature, the cake enjoys extended rising time before reaching this critical stage.
The extraordinary depth and flavor of the crust on Day's creation can be attributed to both the Maillard reaction and the caramelization of sugars within the batter. However, the prolonged cooking time and low starting temperature further intensify the richness of the crust. Dr. Farrimond enlightens us, explaining that browning typically commences around 266°F and transitions to burning as the surface temperature reaches 355°F to 375°F. By embracing the lower temperature and extended duration, the cake's surface luxuriates in the temperature range of 266°F to 375°F, resulting in a sumptuously thick and magnificently flavored crust.
In addition to its captivating cold oven allure, Day's cake recipe allows for delightful flexibility: “I've experimented with half-and-half when milk is scarce, and the result is equally divine. You can even substitute dairy-free alternatives for milk and butter while achieving exceptional outcomes.”
The best part? This cake boasts remarkable shelf life, remaining moist and tender when stored at room temperature for up to five days.
Discovering the wonders of the cold oven pound cake will undoubtedly challenge your baking beliefs. Embrace the magic of cold oven baking, venture into uncharted territory, and allow your taste buds to be the ultimate judge of the extraordinary flavors that await. Unleash the full potential of your pound cake experience and savor each heavenly bite.