Exploring Pound Cake

Updated on November 29, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

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 | Source

"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 an easy to make, even for those who were illiterate and could not read a recipe. The original 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 to Go with the Brief List of Ingredients

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).

And, Since There Are So Few...

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.



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.



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.



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.



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


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 this slices.

Chocolate Pound Cake


Linda and Christina are 2CookinMamas.com 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.

Pillsbury Bake-Off Banana Crunch Cake

In February 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.


  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 package Pillsbury coconut pecan frosting mix
  • 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:


  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • Instead of one package of Pillsbury coconut pecan frosting mix use

    • 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.

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

  • 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?

    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


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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Liza, you can't go wrong with the basic pound cake. If the cake by itself isn't decadent enough, you can always top it with ice cream, or fresh berries, drizzles of chocolate and/or caramel sauce. The only limit is your imagination. Have fun with it.

      It was so kind of you to take the time to comment. Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by.

    • lizmalay profile image


      5 months ago from USA

      I have yet made a pound cake. Holidays are over but, after reading this article has inspired me to bake one. I think I'm towards the basic pound cake this time. Thank you for sharing the article, Linda.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you, Patricia. Pound cakes are really quite simple to make and oh, so rewarding. May your wish come true.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      2 years ago from North Central Florida

      Yummmm I am drooling. I am sharing this with my family so maybe someone will bake for me.

      Angels are on the way to you today ps

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Tofu-basted rum. Now that's a new one (LOL). Good for you for having the will to do something as intense as vegan for a month. If you are happy with the results (and still holding onto your sanity on Day #30), then it was all worth it.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      Oh, no, it's the month of October. I'm vegan until Halloween. No chocolate for me, but Thanksgiving turkey is calling my name with gravy. I've lost so much weight it's crazy. I rarely think about food unless I'm reading your hubs! Now I need to go find out if rum is vegan. OMG. Maybe I'll drown my tofu in that and make it taste good. Can't do the tofu but lots of other vegan stuff I'm finding is completely acceptable! Who knew?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Kari - I'm thinking about what you could do to replace the coconut in that recipe. I wonder if half finely chopped almonds and half rolled oats would work?

      As for what we did before baking powder? The Aztecs used potash (which is potassium chloride). The other technique was to beat the goodness gracious out of the eggs before folding in the dry ingredients.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      Now you've done it! I'm craving some pound cake. I already have strawberries, lol. I'd love to try the coconut pecan cake, but my son-in-law is allergic to coconut. What did people do before baking powder was invented. Thanks for the recipes and history. :)

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, my mom used to make that cake as well. With maraschino cherries in the center of each pineapple ring.

      I have always preferred a pound cake over a "light-as-air" cake. Pound cakes just seem so much moister and I don't even need the frosting. (The banana cake is a perfect example of that).

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      Being from the US where the cakes were generally light, I was surprised to experience the heaviness of the UK cakes. Your article explains why it happened and now it seems to be a tradition.

      That being said, I love pound cake but can't recall the last time I made one.

      That chocolate one looks fantastic.

      When we were young my mother would use a pound cake recipe as the base for pineapple upside down cake. She'd bake it in a large cast iron skillet.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      And rum is vegan, right? I'm sorry to taunt you with these recipes, but keep them bookmarked for the end of the month.

      No, wait, MONT? Do you mean you will be vegan on Thanksgiving Day??

      Next week I think I'll have an article on tofu--just for you!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      It all looks and sounds so, so good. I'm eating a rice cake right now, part of my Vegan for a Month Challenge, but I bet I will be dreaming about these! My mother and grandmother love pound cake, served with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. I love to sneak a little rum into a good pound cake. Rum seems to make everything a bit better.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks this is great. I am going to do some. I want that kind of salty sweet taste.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you, Bill. For a while today I will have both of my daughters here with me. This will be a good day!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love the Richard Simmons quote. Put some chocolate frosting on it and color me happy. :)

      Wishing for you the best Wednesday possible, my friend.


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