Judging by the millions of blog posts titled “perfect pound cake” and “the best pound cake in the world,” food lovers have strong opinions about the cakes coming out of their ovens. But, there is no one recipe for a perfect pound cake. As it turns out, there are several. Sometimes the “best recipe” for a pound cake (or, really, anything), is going to be the one that uses the exact amount of eggs you have left. It might be the recipe that doesn’t use sour cream or cream cheese because, oops, you don’t have it. You could have sworn you bought more.
We’ve all been there. We forgot the key ingredient for our favorite recipe. So, we find something else. Sometimes, that alternative ends up being the new favorite. Otherwise, it’s another recipe in our arsenal we use to mix things up a little. Kitchen bakers gone wiiiild, or something.
I’m sharing all things pound loaf cake, so you can bake a pound cake with total success, but feel free to jump to the section you need below. I sometimes use affiliate links. Making a purchase through the link doesn’t cost you any extra, but does help cover the costs of this website. Consider it a “thank you.”
Pound Cake Fun Facts
Homegrown and down-home, yeah that’s the oneVan Halen, Poundcake, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, 1991.
Still cookin’ with that old time, long lost recipe, yeah woo
She’s down-home and down-home, oh, that’s my woman
- March 4 is National Pound Cake Day.
- In Bogota, Columbia, more than 180 bakers crafted the world’s largest pound cake at 664-yards long (according to IndiaTVNews).
- Van Halen’s opening track “Poundcake” from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991) hit #1 on U.S. Billboard Album Rock Tracks Chart and #74 in the UK Singles Chart.
- The term “pound cake” derives from the original recipe: A pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour.
What is Pound Cake?
Pound cake is a quick dessert that can go well beyond the basic plain pound cake recipe you know and love. While a pound loaf cake screams, “Summer!” to some, I encourage you to turn to pound cake any old time. When time is short, it’s fast to throw together. Sure, baking pound cake in loaf pans usually has a bake time from 45 minutes to an hour, but that’s the fussiest part of the whole thing.
Buttery, not dry (I never use the “m” word. *cringe*), with a subtle sweetness describes many a pound cake. I’ve turned to pound cakes for easy lunch box treats, as a welcome after dinner dessert, and impressive share with the neighbors fare. Solid, yet soft, pound cakes are good travelers too (and they’ll never fight you for control of the music).
Learn about the history of pound cake at the link if you want to know where and when it was invented. Traditionally, pound cake is made with a pound EACH of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs.
Let’s break that down a second.
- A pound of eggs is roughly equal to eight eggs.
- A pound of sugar is equal to two cups.
- A pound of flour equals 3 1/3 cups.
- A pound of butter equals two cups. Two cups of butter equal eight sticks.
You can see why people have tweaked the original idea of pound cake to fit the way we consume ingredients (and cake) today. We like variety and futzing around with recipes to make them our own. Am I right or am I right?
The recipes of today offer up a pound cake still sturdy enough to hold up to fruit toppings like strawberries, or pecan praline and whipped cream. Serve pound cake with a drizzle of glaze, a sprinkling of powdered sugar, or plain. Pound cake doesn’t have to have a topping at all. It’s good as is. Even when a pound loaf cake recipe shares a glaze, it doesn’t necessarily have to have a glaze to be good. Cake without frosting, well, what’s the point? Pound cake without glaze? Still delicious.
And that’s one of the things I love most about it: Versatility.
A loaf pound cake recipe makes a smaller amount of pound cake compared to Bundt cake pans which will let you feed more people. Since these cakes are fast to throw together, loaf or Bundt are a great addition to any holiday dessert buffet, family gathering, or community pitch-in.
How To Make Pound Cake
You won’t believe how easy it is to make a pound cake loaf. They seem kind of fancy. I think that’s why people buy frozen pound cakes. They don’t realize how simple they are to make, but they want something that feels special. Here are the things you need so you can make your own.
Use dry measuring cups for flour and sugar.
Use liquid measuring cups for milk and buttermilk.
Use actual measuring spoons (NOT a spoon from your silverware drawer. Don’t do that!) for smaller measurements like extracts, baking powder, and salt.
Use a loaf pan. You may need a small (8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″) or medium (9″ x 5″ x 2 3/4″) loaf pan. Recipes vary. If you use the wrong size pan, your loaf may be too tall or too short. Some pound cakes call for a 12-cup Bundt pan or a tube pan. A tube pan has higher, straighter sides than a Bundt pan and may hold a different amount of batter.
For maximum volume, and the best rise, set butter out at room temperature about an hour before you begin. Set your milk or buttermilk and eggs out for thirty minutes to bring to room temperature (or give milk or buttermilk a quick warm-up in a saucepan or a brief nuke in the microwave). Place eggs in warm water (not HOT!) for ten minutes or so if you don’t leave them out beforehand. You don’t want to cook the egg white. Room temperature ingredients are easier to combine.
What Do You Need to Make Pound Cake?
Some baked goods, like ebelskivers or angel food cake, need a special pan. A loaf of pound cake doesn’t require special tools. Baking pound cake in loaf pans would require a loaf pan, of course, but some recipes call for a Bundt pan. Your recipe will list your recipe’s requirements.
Generally speaking, pound cake ingredients include:
Milk, Buttermilk, Sour Cream, or Cream Cheese
Room temperature dairy items like sour cream, cream cheese, and eggs (your recipe will tell you what you need) should be set out thirty minutes to one hour before you begin for best results.
Use large eggs for your pound cakes, unless your recipe states otherwise. Extra-large eggs are interchangeable with large eggs (mind = blown). Quick-warm eggs in a small bowl of warm water for ten(ish) minutes to bring them up to room temp.
What flour you use will depend on your recipe, but most recipes for a pound loaf cake will require all-purpose or cake flour. Any recipe calling for “flour” means all-purpose flour.
Butter is the essential ingredient of pound cake. Can you use margarine instead of butter? Yes, you could switch out the butter for margarine, but you may affect the flavor and texture because, let’s face it: butter is better.
Granulated sugar goes into a pound cake. Coarse sugar, raw sugar (Demerara sugar), and whatever other fancy chunky sugar you have in your pantry is for sprinkling on top (if desired), I don’t use sugar alternatives so I cannot comment on substitutions for baking pound cake, or any sweet treat, with them (sorry!).
Baking Powder or Baking Soda
Or not. It depends on the recipe. Once you add these leaveners, it’s a mad rush to get your cake mixed, and in the oven. You don’t want to lose the power of leavening!
Your recipe will likely start with the ingredients above and then have a couple of additions, like a spice and an extract, to mix up the flavors.
How Does Pound Cake Rise?
You won’t find baking powder or baking soda in a traditional pound cake recipe. But today? It turns out the addition of baking soda or baking powder is not a bad idea. Leaveners may not be the only worthwhile addition either.
“On my recent quest for the perfect pound cake, I looked through the recipes that I’ve amassed over years of owning a bakery and teaching baking.Carolyn Weil, A Touch of Dairy Makes Pound Cakes Moist and Fine-Grained, Fine Cooking 44.
I pulled out the ones I remembered as being exceptionally good, and I soon noticed a pattern: all of my favorite pound cake recipes broke from the traditional formula and contained some leavening (baking powder or baking soda) and an additional dairy product—buttermilk, sour cream, or cream cheese.
The addition of both of these types of ingredients seems to make a slightly moister, lighter textured cake that still has that fine-crumbed “sliceability” and mellow butter flavor of the traditional version.”
So, how do pound cakes rise without baking powder or baking soda in traditional recipes?
Short answer: Air. Longer answer: When you beat together the butter and sugar, you are incorporating air into the batter. After you add in eggs, you are incorporating air into the batter yet again.
When you combine baking powder or baking soda with wet ingredients, you get a chemical reaction, and get a little rise. Remember how baking powder containers read, “double-acting?” Once that pound cake is set in the oven, the heat causes the baking powder (when used) to react again. Without a leavening ingredient, the simple act of creaming ingredients cause the cake to rise. Of course, this is a dense cake. It’s not supposed to rise like, say, an angel food cake.
Your pound cake batter, like any other baked good, needs to be in a pan with room for it to rise and reach its full potential.
How to Store Pound Cake
Are you wondering how long your pretty pound cake will last? Yes, pound cake goes bad, but not in the way your dairy items or raw meat goes bad. When pound cake is off, it will feel dry, it may crumble more, and it could grow mold.
No matter what method you choose, after you’ve let it cool in the pan as the recipe directed, and you pop it out, it is Very Important to wait until your pound cake is completely cool before you store it. Otherwise, you risk it becoming sticky, stale, or worse, a moldy mess.
It seems as though my pound cakes are consistently good on day two, but not every recipe tastes as good (or the texture suffers) on day three. If you have a big event and NEED to know, test the recipe you are planning on using well before the big day. See how the conditions in your own home (humidity, heat, etc.) affect your storage.
How Long Can You Refrigerate Pound Cake?
People have a lot of opinions about putting a pound cake in a fridge. Here’s one more. I feel as though a fridge would dry out a pound cake. There is an exception to that rule. If your cake has cream cheese or other dairy filing or topping, then yes, put that pound cake in the fridge.
If you aren’t using a perishable filling or anything like that, then test your recipe. Better yet, make two pound cakes. Refrigerate one, store the other on the counter, and see what you like the most. Your location changes everything.
How Long Will Pound Cake Last in the Freezer?
I don’t freeze cakes but for those of you do, you’ll be happy to know you can freeze homemade pound cake with success.
Properly stored, it will maintain best quality for about 4 to 6 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.Food Storage. How Long Can You Keep Pound Cake, Freshly Baked, Homemade or Bakery, StillTasty, Accessed September 7, 2021.
Professional cake bakers, and otherwise, also sometimes freeze pound cake.
“I think you can freeze a pound cake very well, if it’s wrapped properly. I would suggest wrapping 2-3 times in plastic wrap and foil and stick it in a plastic grocery bag and tie it up. I don’t ice pound cakes with anything other than a glaze, made with powdered sugar and a couple tablespoons of milk or lemon juice. I wouldn’t do that until after it’s out the freezer and completely thawed.”Reader Comment, Freezing a Pound Cake, Cake Central, 2010, Accessed September 7, 2021.
How to Serve Pound Cake
Grab your prettiest platter. After all, what’s the point of having those fancy pants platters and plates if you don’t use them?
Slice your pound cake using an electric knife. I swear, those are the best inventions in the WORLD. You know how when you cut into homemade bread that it kind of tears? Electric knives don’t do that. I use mine on anything and everything.
Or, grab a thin-bladed knife. A chef’s knife can work too. Cake knives feature a longer blade for clean slicing. Did you know this?
Break out your best dessert dishes. Then, add in one, two, or more of the ideas below to up your pound cake game.
What is Pound Cake Good With?
- Sliced strawberries.
- Top with toasted pecans, almonds, or walnuts.
- Top with ice cream and drizzle with chocolate, strawberry, or butterscotch syrup.
- Top with lemon curd.
- Drizzle with violet or peach balsamic vinegar.
- Spread with Nutella and whipped cream.
- Make a batch of homemade whipped cream (recipe immediately below). Trust me, it is so fast and easy to make your own. We’re talking mere MINUTES here. The flavor is worlds above the canned stuff.
Recipe for Whipped Cream
Homemade Whipped Cream
- Electric Mixer or Handheld Mixer or Wire Whisk (fluffier results with electric mixer, followed by handheld mixer, and then whisk)
- Metal Mixing Bowl
- 8 Ounces Heavy Whipping Cream (heavy cream and whipping cream are interchangeable. Heavy whipping cream has slightly more fat and grocery store (not local) lasts for up to a month in the fridge thanks to its high fat content and ultra pasteurization, so says Bon Appetit)
- 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (Remember, the less the ingredients, the more real vanilla matters)
- Place metal mixing bowl in the freezer for five minutes or in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. It will help the cream whip faster (but it still works if you don't).
- Pour cream into chilled bowl.
- Using a whisk attachment on an electric or handheld mixer, or a hand whisk, whip the cream until it becomes a bit frothy
- Slowly add in the sugar and extract.
What are you into? Experiment with herbs and syrups and see what you come up with. Share your great ideas in the comments below.
Troubleshooting Pound Cakes
Bake long enough and you’ll find out all the different ways in which your pound cake may fail you. Just kidding (sorta). When you run into trouble, remember: Baking is a science. Proportions and temperatures need to be maintained.
So, whether your pound cake has a metallic taste because you used too much baking soda, or you aren’t getting the rise you thought, take a look at common pound cake issues and how to fix them below.
Tough or Rubbery Pound Cakes
We love to “make sure” something is mixed, don’t we? If your pound cake is turning out tough or rubbery and the texture isn’t what you expected, overmixing is often the issue.
Recipes call for adding the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients in stages, beginning and ending with the dry ingredient. Why? It’s a good way to prevent over-mixing your batter. You’re ensuring the ingredients are blended together. When you see a few streaks of flour left, it’s a great time to remove your batter from your stand mixer, and have a brief, little hand-mixing session.
If you aren’t over-mixing your batter, but you are using cold eggs, those fresh-from-the-fridge eggs could be the culprit.
“Cold eggs could re-harden the fat, resulting in curdled batter that might affect the final texture.”Dana Meredith, Here’s Why You Should Always Bake with Room-Temperature Eggs, Taste of Home, March 14, 2019.
If your fridge runs a bit too cold, and you’ve had that curdled mess to deal with, it’s good to know how to fix it. Take the eggs out when you set out your butter, or place the eggs in a bowl of warm water for several minutes. Warm, mind you, not hot. You don’t want to cook them.
A pound cake with sides so tough and crusty you can peel them off is the sign of a pound cake baked in too dark pans (dark pans bake the sides faster than light sided-pans) or over-beaten eggs. Combine eggs into your batter after each egg addition. Yes, it takes less time to combine eggs one at a time than to try to mix them in all at once.
“The fact is, like oil and vinegar, eggs and butter don’t mix naturally. It’s a matter of chemistry: Butter is at least 80 percent fat, while eggs contain large amounts of water. So any time you add more than a single egg to creamed butter, it’s best to do it slowly to give the mixture time to thicken and emulsify.”Adding Eggs One at a Time, Cook’s Illustrated, Accessed September 8, 2021.
Don’t keep beating the mixture after the eggs are incorporated.
Pound Cake Didn’t Rise
Using the wrong pan may result in your pound cake not rising or in an overbaked pound cake. No one wants that.
“Pound cake recipes calling for a tube pan won’t always fit in a Bundt pan. (Tube pans have straight, high sides, while Bundt pans are more shallow and fluted.) Although both may measure 10 inches in diameter, each holds a different amount of batter.”Garrison Pence, What’s the Difference Between a Bundt Pan and a Tube Pan?, LeafTV, Accessed September 8, 2021.
We also found that some 10-inch tube pans hold 12 cups of batter while others hold 14 or 16 cups. The same pound cake recipe rises and bakes differently in each pan.
When unsure of size, use a cup measure to fill the cake pan with water to determine the pan’s capacity.
Baking pan requirements do serve a purpose. Dense batters often call for tube pans so the heat reaches through the middle to ensure a better bake. Some people bake pound cakes in 13×9 pans too. A 13×9 pan holds 14 cups of water, while a typical Bundt pan holds 12, so there’s room for your batter.
Follow the directions and switch out pans when you feel confident you are matching volume for volume.
My Pound Cake is Over-Baked
Spring for an oven thermometer so you know the temperature of your oven (they aren’t expensive). Shell out for an oven re-calibration like every other baking site suggests, or go with your gut, and get to know your oven inside and out.
Do baked goods take more or less time in your oven? Adjust recipes to fit what you know. Compare similar recipes before you begin to know if a time seems “off” if it’s something you aren’t familiar with. That goes for fancy pants cookbooks too. Yes, it happens.
I tried a recipe in a well-known cookbook by a well-known author that said to bake two cake layers for 45 minutes. I KNEW that wasn’t correct, so I set it for five minutes less, even though I knew that was still too long. Go with your gut. You can always bake longer, but you can’t backtrack once you’ve reach an over-baked state.
Start testing for doneness at the short end of a given time range (or try 5-10 minutes before the range if you KNOW your oven is HOT). Use a cake tester, or be all classy like me, and go with a toothpick. Is the batter wet? Does it seem gloppy? Does it look done?
If you have a couple of crumbs or no batter sticking to your tester:
Smell that pound cake aroma? You’re on the way to a completed pound cake. Baked goods start smelling good when they are finishing up with their baking. It’s a handy trick to know when your pound cake is getting close to done.
My Pound Cake Cracks on Top
I’ve never thought a cracked pound cake was a bad thing. Online (reputable) sources are mixed in the matter:
What about cracked tops? “Don’t worry about it,” says Saffitz. A cracked dome is an indication of a job well done when creaming: The air pockets that you worked so hard to create are what caused the cake to expand.Rochelle Bilow, Make a Buttery, Moist, Perfect Pound Cake by Avoiding These Common Mistakes, Bon Appetit, February 5, 2015.
But a forum member of Fine Cooking wasn’t such a fan:
Many times when I make pound cakes I get a crusty top with a space between it and the cake. I haven’t figured out what causes it. I have seen this very question asked on other forums and every answer was worthless. The FC article was no help either. I know that this is not an uncommon problem so I am sure someone here has the answer.MEAN_CHEF, Crust on Pound Cake (post #59414), Fine Cooking, April 5, 2001.
That’s all this is: Opinion. What’s your preference? I tend to glaze my pound cakes, so no one can even see a cracked top. Basically, if your pound cakes crack, it’s nothing to worry over.
My Pound Cake Fell or Sunk in the Middle
If your cake lacked the height it usually does or, if this is a first time bake, and the rise missed the mark, several things could have gone wrong. No, a fallen pound cake doesn’t have to do with your oven door slamming either. That myth has been tested and debunked.
Cakes rise as tiny air bubbles in the batter expand in the heat of the oven. To find out if slamming the door shut would interrupt the process enough to spell disaster, we mixed batters for muffins, yellow cake, angel food cake, and cheese soufflé and loaded them into hot ovens. Just before each item reached its maximum height, we opened the oven door all the way and gave it a hard slam.Slamming the Oven Door on Cakes and Baked Goods, Cooks Illustrated, Accessed September 8, 2021.
The sturdy muffins emerged unharmed, as did the yellow cake. Even the notoriously fragile angel food cake and the soufflé survived the vigorous slamming. Why? A properly developed foam—whether powered by baking soda, baking powder, or beaten egg whites—is pretty resilient.
When your pound cake is finished baking, you have to keep it in the pan for 8-10 minutes. Most recipes will gently remind you to let the pound cake sit in the pan, right side up, on a wire rack for 10 minutes. This way, the cake will firm up, so when you flip the pan over, it should slide out in one piece.
Let it cool on a cooling rack NOWHERE near your oven vent. After the 8-10 minutes have passed, pop the cake out of the pan. Let it cool all the way. Don’t forget about it either. If you leave it in the pan, the heat will help it keep on baking. If you let it sit in the pan too long, you also run the risk of major stickage. You cake might feel a little wet. It’s edible, just not ideal.
If your cake sunk in the middle, you over-mixed the batter, overdeveloped the gluten, and the cake couldn’t support the weight of itself — and collapsed.
Other culprits behind a poor pound cake rise?
- Not enough creaming.
- Too much creaming.
- Bad baking powder or baking soda.
- Not putting the cake into the oven fast enough after mixing.
- Cold eggs.
- Cold butter.
- Not preheating your oven in advance of baking.
Room temp eggs are easier to mix into the batter. So is room temperature butter. If you use cold dairy products, you might overwork your dough, and sabotage your pound cake right from the start.
Why is My Pound Cake Sticking to the Pan?
You’re probably hoping for a simple answer for why your pound cake sticks to your loaf pan or Bundt pan. Turns out, there are several reasons why your pound cake is hard to get out of the pan. Let’s take a look at what could be causing your pound cake loaves to hold fast to the pan.
Here’s how to help keep your pound cake from sticking:
- Use parchment paper along the bottom of the pan.
- Grease your pan well. I prefer a cooking spray like Baker’s Joy or PAM for Baking with Flour (it doesn’t leave residue behind). Grease the sides and the bottom (adding a dab of spray to the bottom of the pan to hold the parchment paper in place).
- Are you shoving too much cake batter into a pan? If you are subbing pan sizes, you have to make sure the volume lines up. Too much batter in a too small pan will result in a cake that won’t bake evenly. The heat of the pan will cook the sides sooner than the top.
- Are you baking your pound cake too long or not enough? Either way may result in a stuck-on pound cake. When you underbake a cake, the bottom might be a little too damp to release. When you overbake a cake, it loves to stick to the sides.
- Don’t let your pound cake cool in the pan all the way. Most recipes state to remove the cake ten minutes after you take it out of the oven. Cool it in the pan and you risk sticking (and overbaking it).
- Dirty or scratched pans nonstick pans make it hard for a greasing agent to do its job. Your pan could be worn out. Don’t be so quick to pitch it. Donate it to Goodwill or a similar place (creative people may have a use for it that won’t involve baking or cooking).
Why Does My Pound Cake Look Unbaked in the Middle?
If the middle of your pound cake looks gooey and wet, what some term “sorry streaks” or “sad streaks,” those gummy, gloppy, gluey ripples through a pound cake stem from a couple different issues. I should note, however, that not everyone sees them as an issue. Some people say, “it’s just the way some pound cakes are.”
But I did a lot of reading. Start with room temperature ingredients and then read the advice below.
Frank explained that’s true, but creaming (beating together sugar, butter, and eggs) has to be done slowly; “no higher than medium speed.”
And once any flour is added, the mixing has to be slower still. Developing the flour’s gluten too much means the cake will rise beautifully in the oven – then sink (a little, or a lot) as soon as you pull it out.
And the sinking cake is what makes dense, moist, gluey streaks.
Lesson learned: beat butter and sugar and eggs at medium speed. Once you add flour, mix gently.
Creaming is to blame.
How do you know if your ingredients are “thoroughly” creamed? Expect to use your stand or electric mixer for at least five minutes—or more. Don’t stop when the mixture looks combined.
“It should be very pale in color; almost white,” Saffitz explains. And yes, you really do need to use butter for pound cake.
The sharp edges of the sugar granules slice through butter, creating air pockets that expand further when baked. Only butter captures and holds these pockets, so there really is no substitute. (Well, except for coconut oil, which performs similarly).
Scrape down the bowl often. If you don’t, you’ll still have gluey, gloppy bits. Remember, room temp ingredients, creaming long enough (each egg takes a minute to incorporate), and scraping down the bowl while creaming so everything ends up combined, but not beating for so long you deflate the mixture.
Pound Cake Perfection
Pound cake is fancy, yet homey. Plain or adorned, it’s a simple cake perfect for after dinner, daytime snacking, and whatever holiday comes next. If you only remember a few things about baking a great pound cake, remember to use room temp ingredients, don’t over- or under-cream your ingredients, and scrape down the bowl well during the process. You can do this.
If you want a few websites to get you started, those will make their way onto Little Indiana Bakes soon. Of course, you can always look into cookbooks with pound cake recipes too.