Skip to main content

Exploring Pound Cake: Fun Facts and 3 Tasty Recipes

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Butter + sugar + flour + eggs + love = pound cake

Butter + sugar + flour + eggs + love = pound cake

"What's in a Name?"

Yes, I know that Shakespeare was not talking about pound cake, but I'm sure that's only because it had not yet been invented. Juliet loved Romeo, but she might have loved our featured dessert even more. When something contains a pound of butter and a pound of sugar—what's not to love?

I could be hit by a Sara Lee truck tomorrow. Which is not a bad way of going: 'Richard Simmons Found on a Freeway in Pound Cake and Fudge, With a Smile on His Face.'

— Richard Simmons

When Was Pound Cake Invented?

Most food scholars believe that the original pound cake was created in 16th-century England. It was easy to make, even for those who were illiterate and could not read a recipe. The original cake got its name because it contained these ingredients:

  • 1 pound of sugar
  • 1 pound of flour
  • 1 pound of butter
  • 1 pound of eggs

That's it. Easy peasy

A Brief Timeline

  • 1796: The cookbook American Cookery: or, The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Puff-pastes, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and all kinds of Cakes, from the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake (whew, that’s a mouthful) by Amelia Simmons was published. It contained two recipes for pound cake.
  • 1881: What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking by Abby Fisher was published. This is a milestone book because it is thought to be the first cookbook written by an African-American. Mrs. Fisher was born a slave, and after the Civil War relocated to San Francisco. There she began a business of making and selling pickles and preserves. She could not read or write, but it is said that friends wrote down her recipes for her and helped her get the book published. That book also contained two pound cake recipes.
  • 1900: Cake baking was revolutionized with the invention (and widespread distribution) of baking powder. Batters made with baking powder are lighter (and they don't require such vigorous physical exertion by the baker).

4 Basic Components of Pound Cake

With such a brief shopping list, you need to choose your ingredients carefully, but best doesn't always mean most expensive. Here's what you need to keep in mind.



1. Sugar

Even something as simple as granulated sugar can vary from brand to brand. Generic brands of sugar are often more finely ground than name brands resulting in more sugar per cup, so stick with the names you know you can trust.

  • Measure accurately.
  • Dip your dry measuring cup into the sugar container, fill, and then level with the flat side of a table knife.


2. Flour

Many cake recipes suggest that one use "cake flour." Cake flour is made of soft wheat, is ground more than all-purpose flour and has a lower amount of gluten, all characteristics that are helpful when baking a delicate cake. However, a pound cake is dense and needs the sturdiness of all-purpose flour.

So, use all-purpose flour, but again, I recommend that you shy away from generic brands. They often contain a higher amount of hard wheat. Stick with known name brands.

How you measure your flour is also vitally important.

Don't scoop and level. Filling a dry measuring cup by that method can result in adding almost 25 percent more flour to your batter than intended. I do the following:

  • Place a large square of waxed paper on your work surface.
  • Place your dry measuring cup in the center of the paper.
  • Using a flour sifter or fine mesh sieve, sift flour over the cup.
  • Once the cup is full to the rim (the mound of flour will be higher in the center), scrape off the excess with a flat knife, bench scraper, or icing spatula.


3. Butter

European-style butters are pricey. There is no question that their rich flavor is worth every penny, but not in a pound cake. Part of the luxurious flavor comes from a higher fat content. That higher ratio of fat to water is just enough to alter the chemistry of your cake. And alter it not in a good way. So here are my recommendations:

  • Use sweet-cream unsalted butter
  • Don't use "light butter," whipped butter, spreads or margarine.
  • Don't store butter in the door of the refrigerator. Keep any "partial" sticks sealed in a ziplock bag or plastic container. If storing for longer than 2 months, keep butter in the freezer.
  • Butter for your pound cake must be at room temperature.


4. Eggs

Always use Grade A large eggs. They must be at room temperature. And please do add them one at a time. It might seem silly to do so, but it matters. Working the eggs in slowly ensures that more air is incorporated into the batter. More air equals more lift.

Basic pound cake

Basic pound cake

Basic Pound Cake Recipe

I did not need to go far to search for an authentic, back-to-basics pound cake. The best source for all things baked is the Fanny Farmer Baking Book. Here is Marion Cunningham's recipe which does not rely on baking powder or baking soda to leaven the cake. This cake is dense, rich, and is perfection with in-season fruit (berries or peaches are great), ice cream, or a drizzle of ice-cream topping.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.
  3. Combine the flour and salt and set aside (see note above about properly measuring flour)
  4. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the sugar, beating constantly, until the mixture is well blended.
  5. Add the eggs to the batter one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Stir in the vanilla.
  7. Continue beating as you gradually add the flour/salt mixture; continue to beat until the batter is smooth and well-blended.
  8. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a wooden skewer (toothpick) inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan, set on a wire rack, for 5 minutes, then turn out onto the rack to cool completely.
  10. Wrap well to store, and serve in slices.
Pillsbury Bake-Off banana crunch cake

Pillsbury Bake-Off banana crunch cake

Pillsbury Bake-Off Banana Crunch Cake

In February of 1973, Pillsbury sponsored their 24th annual bake-off contest in Beverly Hills, California. The $25,000 Grand Prize winner that year was Mrs. Ronald L. Brooks of Salisbury, Maryland. Her creation, the banana crunch cake, used a package of coconut pecan frosting mix, oats, sour cream, eggs, bananas, and a package of yellow cake mix.

Ingredients (Original Recipe)

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 package Pillsbury coconut pecan frosting mix (no longer available; see below for homemade version)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 large, very ripe bananas (1 1/2 cups thinly sliced)
  • 1 package Pillsbury yellow cake mix

So easy, moist, and flavorful; we loved this cake and I made it for my family many times. I speak in the past tense because one of the main ingredients, the coconut pecan frosting mix, is no longer available. In fact, none of the baking companies make frosting mix anymore—every frosting flavor now comes pre-made, packaged in a plastic container.

But, all is not lost. It is possible to make a substitute for that dried frosting mix. So, let's hit the restart button and start with a new set of ingredients:

Ingredients (With Homemade Coconut Pecan Frosting Mix)

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • Homemade coconut pecan frosting mix:

    • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
    • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 large, very ripe bananas (1 1/2 cups thinly sliced)
  • 1 package Pillsbury yellow cake mix


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
  3. In saucepan, melt butter; stir in frosting mix ingredients and rolled oats until crumbly; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, blend sour cream, eggs, and bananas until smooth. Blend in cake mix; beat 2 minutes at medium speed.
  5. Pour 1/3 of batter (about 2 cups) into prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 of crumb mixture. Repeat twice, ending with crumb mixture.
  6. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Cool upright in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan and turn cake so crumb mixture is on top.
Chocolate pound cake

Chocolate pound cake

Chocolate Pound Cake

Linda and Christina are and created a moist and rich chocolate pound cake. They use unsweetened chocolate in the batter and ganache; black coffee enhances the deep chocolate flavor.

Volume Conversion Calculator

It has been suggested that I include a link to an online conversion calculator for my friends outside of the United States. What a great idea!

If you should need it, the link for converting from cups and teaspoons to liters and milliliters and so on is here.

Questions & Answers

Question: Hi. I love the taste of coconut, but I don't like the texture. Is there anything I could substitute for this pound cake recipe? Coconut extract, perhaps?

Answer: Yes, you can certainly use coconut extract if you don't like the feel of coconut. However, at 1 full cup, the coconut in the Pillsbury banana crunch cake also contributes to the volume. I think you would need to make up for that lack in some way but, since I've not baked the cake without coconut I cannot advise on exactly how to do that. Perhaps some ground nuts, a tad more oatmeal, or finely-grated carrots? Don't try zucchini (although at this time of year it might be tempting). I think it would be far too watery.

© 2017 Linda Lum