My husband likes to call my grandmother's old fashioned pound cake the nexus of my baking. He's probably right. Literally all of my cake recipes revolve around pound cake. And if a pound cake doesn't work as the starting point, I'm basically forced back to the drawing board entirely. It is my go to bake for birthday's, celebrations, random Wednesday tea breaks... I learned to bake from my mom, using recipes from both of my grandmothers, so this has been part of my repertoire for decades.
Thrifty Ingredients for the Perfect Pound Cake
Old fashioned pound cake is a cake borne out of thriftiness. By tradition, it is literally meant to be a pound each of flour, sugar, butter and eggs.
Now, my friends can vouch for the fact that I aim never to have less than a pound of butter in my fridge. Whenever the rare occasion has come for me to run out, I have been properly panicked by the shortage. I love butter - butter in bakes, butter on bread - I'm pretty sure that my blood is basically butter at this point. When the pandemic struck, frivolous though it may have been, my main concern was ensuring suitable supply of butter for birthday cakes and relevant bakes throughout.
This recipe goes a bit off those classic pound each measurements, but I personally thing that's for the best! Pound cake is dense enough without holding true to the specific namesake.
For my recipe you'll need:
- Plain (or all-purpose) flour
- Baking soda, baking powder and salt
- Butter - unsalted and ideally softened to room temperature
- Flavourings - for my recipe, these are vanilla extract and lemon extract. This is the classic pound cake as per my grandmother's instruction. I've also made alternatives to this such as my maple praline poundcake by just switching up the flavourings here.
- Buttermilk or soured milk
Making Your Cake
This is a super simple recipe - honestly I've thrown it together in one bowl in the past, mainly through desperation to avoid washing up the mess. It turned out fine, but for the sake of completeness and avoiding unnecessary shortcuts, I'll be a bit more detailed below.
For equipment, you'll want:
- Two medium/large mixing bowls
- 1 jug for your buttermilk
- Measuring cups
- 1 whisk
- 1 mixing spoon
In an ideal world, you would want a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (this would serve in place of one of your mixing bowls (the larger one). Also, this would eliminate your need for a whisk.
Putting it all together
First preheat your oven to 350°F (175C/165C Fan) and prepare your baking tins.
This cake is well suited to just about any shape or size. I regularly make it in a 9" or 10" round tin, but in a pound cake's most traditional roots, it is really a loaf cake. The recipe below will provide enough for two loaves. If you only want a single loaf, the recipe is very easily divided in half, or make the full amount and freeze the second loaf for another day! The cake can last well in the freezer (unfrosted) for months.
In a medium bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set this aside while you focus on the butter and sugar. Cream these together until well combined. If you have access to a stand mixer, this is a great recipe for it - super easy and quick to whip up! But, if not, don't worry - its still easy by hand.
Once your butter and sugar are combined, add your eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then add your flavourings.
Now its time to add your dry ingredients and soured milk in alternating additions. I always start and end with the dry ingredients, so I add a third of the flour to start. Then I add half of the milk, followed by another third of flour, half of milk and finished off with the remaining third flour.
When the batter is well incorporated, pour into your prepared tins and bake for about 70 minutes. Depending on the size of your tin, the time may vary. I'd start checking after about 45 minutes, especially for a loaf tin. Once a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, you know its done!
Ready to Eat!
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin before flipping out onto a wire rack to cool completely. The cake is then ready to eat as is or topped with icing! I always opt for buttercream as my preference, but my dad swears by the unfrosted version. Either way, nothing beats an old fashioned pound cake. It is the perfect breakfast, snack or dessert and works for absolutely any occasion!
FAQ for my Classic Pound Cake
Yes, most definitely! This recipe makes two loaves, so I regularly freeze one for later. Once cool, wrap the cake tightly in a layer of cling film and then a layer of aluminium foil or put in a resealable ziplock bag. This will keep for a couple of months in the freezer without issue.
Absolutely! I have made this recipe in just about every shape of pan imaginable, from cupcake tins to loaf pans, square baking pans and an array of different sized round pans. The timings for baking may change a bit, but it is a very forgiving cake. If you make one large round cake with the full batter, I would recommend reducing the temperature to about 325F so that the top doesn't catch and it bakes more evenly (albeit taking a longer time).
The traditional pound cake is usually vanilla or lemon vanilla, but there is limitless potential! I've made a praline poundcake and also pound cake with Baileys in place of the soured milk. You could use different extracts, add nuts, fruits or any other flavourings.
- 3 cups plain flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1 cup soured milk Made by putting 1 tablespoon distilled vinegar in a measuring cup and filling up to 1 cup with heavy cream.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175C/165C Fan) and prepare your baking tin. This recipe is well suited for a deep 9" or 10" round cake tin or two standard sizes loaf tins (roughly 8½"x4½"x2½").
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs and extracts, beating until incorporated.
- Add flour mixture and soured milk alternating the two and mixing well after each addition.
- Pour the batter into your prepared tin and spread evenly. Place in the centre of your oven and bake for about 70 minutes. Depending on the size of pan, check regularly after 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes before flipping out onto a baking rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled, can be served unfrosted, sprinkled with powdered sugar, glazed or iced with buttercream frosting.