Q. I have a recipe for sour cream pound cake that is flavorful, but always falls once the cake leaves the oven. Is there any way I can make this cake look marvelous? SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE 3 cups sugar 1/2 pound butter, softened 6 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3 cups plain flour sifted, then measured 1 cup sour cream

A. The proportions aren't too far off in this recipe. Follow these three suggestions. If they don't work, then reduce the sugar to 2 1/2 cups and increase the flour to 3 1/2 cups.

Use cake flour, not all-purpose. Cake flour's starch granules absorb water and thicken the batter at lower temperatures than do the granules of pastry or all-purpose flours. This will keep the cake from rising too high in the latter stages, which makes the batter too light and prone to collapsing.

Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 10 minutes: Place the softened butter in the smaller mixing bowl of your mixer. Gradually add the sugar. The reason? If you beat, not blend, the butter, the incorporated air bubbles are large. They remain so in the batter and expand still further. This weakens the batter's structure; it collapses when removed from the oven.

Use room-temperature eggs and avoid beating the batter. Blend two eggs into creamed butter and sugar. Then add a half cup of the sifted flour. Blend in another two eggs and add another half cup of sifted flour. Add the last two eggs, the extracts, soda and sour cream. Blend thoroughly, then scrape the sides and botton of the mixing bowl. And the remaining flour and blend about 30 seconds -- until the batter is smooth. At no time should you turn the mixer to high speed, as rapid agitation causes large air bubbles.