Pound cake is simple but elegant; it’s also incredibly rich. We thought tart cranberries and tangy sour cream would provide a welcome contrast to the buttery cake, and the bright cranberries would also contribute a burst of colour for an extra-special dessert.
We wanted this pound cake to have a crumb that wasn’t quite as tight as a classic all-butter pound cake, so we used all-purpose flour instead of cake flour and we thoroughly creamed the butter.
While cranberries should add tartness, fresh cranberries can border on acerbic. To tame the sourness, we tossed coarsely chopped cranberries with confectioners’ sugar before adding them to the batter; this also prevented them from sinking to the bottom of the pan.
Baking the loaf slowly (for almost 2 hours) in a low (300 F) oven ensured that the inside cooked through before the exterior became too brown. If you’re using frozen cranberries, there’s no need to thaw them first. The ideal temperature for the eggs and butter is 60 F. The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inches; if you use a 9-by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness 5 minutes early.
CRANBERRY-SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE
Start to finish: 2 hours 30 minutes
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 14 pieces and softened but still cool
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
4 ounces (1 cup) fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped coarse
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 F. Spray 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with baking spray with flour.
Whisk eggs and vanilla together in 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sift flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and baking powder into bowl. Whisk sour cream and milk together in second bowl.
Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down bowl once. Reduce speed to medium and gradually add granulated sugar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Reduce speed to medium and gradually add egg mixture in slow, steady stream. Scrape down bowl and continue to mix on medium speed until uniform, about 1 minute (batter may look slightly curdled). Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream mixture in 2 additions, scraping down bowl as needed. Give batter final stir by hand. Toss cranberries with confectioners’ sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt in bowl until evenly coated, then gently but thoroughly fold into batter.
Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap pan on counter to release air bubbles. Bake until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, 1 3/4 hours to 1 hour 55 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack, about 2 hours. Serve. (Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost cake at room temperature.)