Saturday, November 06, 2004

Breton chocolate pound cake

Now that the weather's less oppressive, baking is tempting again and so the oven was fired up for a birthday cake. This cake can be made in the oven of a wood range. It has been baked and works at altitudes of up to 7,500 feet above sea level. It's even better the second day. It can be made without a small, cheap electric hand-mixer, but strong arms are needed. This recipe is from either Woman's Day or Family Circle magazine (can anyone say which?) and was printed either in the late 'sixties or early 'seventies. The bitters aren't strictly necessary but do add a complexity of flavor. The cake can be sliced very thin so it goes a long way. Each slice can even be cut vertically into halves or thirds. The cake needs no chocolate glaze but can be tricked out with it to look very fancy. It's a very easy cake to make. If it's not consumed before it dries out (which it takes a long time to do), it may be served with high-quality vanilla ice cream on top of it. If it's not frosted, dieters fool themselves into thinking they can be consoled by this cake guilt-free, even in this anti-carb age, because it looks harmless. This cake was made for years in a plain old loaf pan until I found a tube pan at the Thrifty Drug in Gallup. The only difference lies in a more or less fancy appearance.

5 squares of unsweetened chocolate
1 and 1/2 cups water (a scant 1 and 1/2 cups; it's been pointed out that the original recipe calls for 1 and 1/3 cups of water--see comments)
2 cups all-purpose floour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 eggs (large)
1 teaspoon aromatic bitters (Angostura)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
chocolate glaze (if desired; recipe follows)

(1) Combine chocolate and water; melt chocolate (in double boiler; or in small saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate melts; or a minute at a time in a glass container in a microwave oven); cool chocolate until lukewarm. (2) Sift or stir together flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or with knives or forks until the texture is crumbly. (3) Add cooled chocolate mixture. Beat at medium speed for 5 minutes. Chill batter in bowl (refrigerate) for at least one hour. (4) Return bowl to mixer. Beat at medium speed for 1 minute. Add eggs one at a time, beating one minute after each addition. Add aromatic bitters and vanilla and beat 2 minutes. Add baking powder and beat 2 minutes more. (5) Pour batter into a greased 8-cup (9-inch) fancy tube pan that has been lightly dusted with dry cocoa. In the absence of a tube pan it's fine to use a 9" x 5" x 3" loaf pan. (6) Bake in a slow oven (300 degrees) for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then loosen around the edges with a knife. Turn the cake out of the pan onto a wire rack and cool it completely. (7) Frost with chocolate glaze and trim with almonds (or halves of pecans or walnuts, for example).

Chocolate glaze for Breton chocolate pound cake:
1 package (4 ounces) sweet cooking chocolate
1 tablespoon of butter
3 tablespoons of water
1 cup confectioners sugar
dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Break chocolate into pieces. Heat with butter and water in medium-size saucepan, stirring constantly, until chocolate melts. (Or do this using a double boiler or do it using a microwave oven.) Remove from heat; beat in sugar and salt until smooth; stir in vanilla extract. Makes about a half cup. Let it drip down from the top of the cake and then decorate if desired with almonds, maraschino cherries, etc.


At 9:51 PM, May 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this recipe which I lost in a fire--we called the magazines generically "Women's Daily Family Circle" so I can't help on the source. I remember that it was a very, very stiff batter and dense--it must come from a time before baking powder and soda were available--one of my best ever cakes

At 4:47 PM, July 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't help with the date either, but thought it was from the early seventies. My clipping is no help.

Your story is very much like ours. It is the family birthday cake. I have tried to find out the magazine and date, but neither magazine has any record of it. The only reason I was googling it was I couldn't find my clipping. We do have multiple copies throughout the family.

Elizabeth Young

At 6:20 PM, July 20, 2007, Blogger Rantor said...

I'm not sure whether I was making it before this time, but I know I was making it in high-altitude New Mexico (residence 1968-1969-1970) because it worked well at over 7,000 feet above sea level and also, specifically, because I'd been baking it in a loaf pan but found the proper tube pan in the housewares department of Thrifty Drug in Gallup. Along the way I've met at least one person who didn't clip it from one of the magazines but found it in a book compilation published by one of them (a "best of" or a set of cake or dessert recipes or the like). My old pan is very misshapen these days but I've seen one like it only as a prop in a food magazine photograph. I don't remember whether I was baking this in 1967-1968.

At 12:03 AM, July 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It could have been 68-70. It could not have been before that. Mine definitely came from a magazine. I remember it being almost a afterthought at the end of the magazine, like a hidden gem. I cut it out because I like pound cake. Unfortunately, I didn't get any identifying information with it. The back has a Winston cigarette ad.

My receipe is slightly different: 1 1/3 cups of water; 1 tsp of Vanilla, butter or margarine, and slightly different directions. My husband posted it complete with spatters on his blog:

Its great finding someone else who knows the receipe and loves it. I've Googled it before and got nothing.

Elizabeth Young

At 12:16 AM, July 21, 2007, Blogger Rantor said...

Thanks for pointing out the vanilla omission! Vanilla has now been put in. I've made this for so many years that I seldom refer to the batter-bespattered three index cards that hold the cake and the glaze recipe. The vanilla is naturally remembered when the bitters are added. My directions aren't verbatim; the microwave part wasn't there the first time.

At 12:19 AM, July 21, 2007, Blogger Rantor said...

An unglazed version of this cake is pictured in the photograph at Aust9in Metblogs at:
(search Austin metblogs for "Adams vanilla" if the link's too long.

At 12:30 AM, July 21, 2007, Blogger Rantor said...

This is amazing! It's been years since I saw the recipe as printed. I'm all but certain, after looking at the link, that it's the same one. My vision's very poor, and I must have copied the quantity of water wrong! All these years! I do make it with a scant 1 and 1/2 cups and don't measure all that accurately, but still . . . ! I do believe that, whether on the cover or in the front pages of the magazine, there was a photograph of the cake as made and decorated.

At 12:43 AM, July 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you are right about the picture. I don't remember that, but it has been a long time. I figured your instructions weren't exactly as original. I, too, use a microwave for the chocolate. I mentioned the margarine only because it was in the original. There, again, I use butter.

This all got started because I accidently threw away the original this week and decided to Google it. Fortunately, I found my original before the recycling went out. And my daughter's birthday cake is cooling as I type.

Elizabeth J. Young

At 12:53 AM, July 21, 2007, Blogger Rantor said...

I've even seen someone make it garnished with maraschino cherries, using blanched almond halves as sort-of leaves.

At 12:58 AM, July 21, 2007, Blogger Rantor said...

Now I'm thinking about searching old recipe and sewing and embroidery clippings to see whether I can tell from the typeface from which magazine the recipe came.

At 5:25 PM, February 18, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe it. I never had the glaze recipe and am making the cake and thought I'd just google the words Breton Chocolate Pound Cake, and THERE IT WAS! I read the comments and looked on the back of my recipe and sure enough, there was the Winston Ad. I have been making this cake for YEARS! The absolutely BEST chocolate pound cake there is! And now I have the glaze to go with it. Thanks!

At 5:38 PM, February 18, 2009, Blogger Rantor said...

I think it tastes just fine without the glaze, but the glaze does make it prettier. If you know whether this is from Family Circle or Woman's Day, please do say so@

At 12:15 PM, July 16, 2009, Blogger Rantor said...

The recipe is definitely from Family Circle and was reprinted in a Family Circle Cookbook published in the 1970s by Quadrangle. See Rantomat entry for July 16.

At 11:52 PM, March 07, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as I remember the glaze it was nestles sweet milk chocolat morsels and sour cream, very simple I

At 12:02 AM, March 08, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

glaze was i/2 cop sour cream and i package of nestles sweet milk chocolate morsels melted and garnished with slivered almond halves. I bought a fancy bundt tube pan for this cake, rubbed with butter and dusted on the inside with Drostes cocoa I remember refridgerating the batter for 1 hour before placing it in the pan,this helped give the cake a very fine smooth texture early 70's 'family circle", I think

At 3:24 PM, March 10, 2011, Blogger Rantor said...

The glaze as it appears in the blog entry is the one that was printed with the cake recipe as I first saw it. The index cards that have been in our recipe box all these years report the cake and the glaze as one, all in the same Washable Blue Quink fountain-pen ink--the last line of the cake recipe is followed immediately by the first line of the glaze recipe. I've seen people use a white confectioner's glaze. And of course this cake is wonderful with no glaze or frosting at all, which is how we usually make it. It's a great cake: just a quick first step, a rest of an hour or more in the fridge, and another quick step once it's out and into the oven it goes, no-fail even at high altitudes.


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