When I started baking my goal was to make a good pound cake, well a perfect pound cake. It was Christmas 2009 and we had just moved into our house. I remember walking through Home Depot for what seemed like the millionth time and thinking you know what would be good (famous last words!) – a pound cake. So I called my friend Quinton who made an amazing pound cake and asked for his recipe. He gave me the ingredients, which I have promised to keep secret!, and the steps and I went on and made it. I used my hand mixer and not very much technique. It came out okay. I brought some to work and my colleagues were, shall we say, less than kind about the cake. My version of Quinton’s cake was a bit dry and not as moist and tasty as Quinton’s.
I am not one to be deterred. Telling me that I cannot do something is the surest way to me perfecting that very thing. I am stubborn that way. So I set out to find the absolute perfect pound cake recipe. I learned that pound cake is actually really simple. Traditionally, a pound cake included a pound each of sugar, flour, and butter along with eggs. Hence the name Pound Cake. Flavorings such as brandy, wine, nutmeg, grated lemon peel, and cinnamon were added in the early 1800s.
After months of research, trial, and error. I came across the pound cake recipe from The Fine Art of Confectionary that I still use to this very day. What I love about this recipe is how much time the author spends on technique. She details the processes so well that it is almost a master class in baking. I have incorporated many of these techniques into my own baking.
I follow this recipe step by step with only one change. I’ll add a half cup of sour cream before I fold in the flour to make this a sour cream pound cake, but that is it. This recipe is perfect! I highly suggest reading through it a few times to become familiar with the steps. It’s really important that you beat the butter, sugar, and eggs well and are super gentle with the flour. The recipe and steps from The Fine Art of Confectionary are provided below.
The Perfect Classic Pound Cake
Yields 1 large Bundt (14-cup capacity) or 2 traditional loaves
- 6 large eggs, plus 6 large egg yolks (at room temperature)
- 3 tablespoons good vanilla extract (I suggest Penzey’s Madagascar)
- 3 teaspoons water 4 sticks butter (use unsalted), slightly softened
- 2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups of cake flour
Place your oven rack in the very center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees (F).
Next, prepare your baking pans. If baking in a large Bundt, make certain the pan is heavy weight and non-stick. Even if it is non-stick, lightly coat the pan generously with an oil-flour spray, making certain to reach into any design crevasses.
If baking in traditional 9-by-5-inch loaf pans, make certain the pans are heavy weight. Grease generously the sides and bottom of each pan with shortening, then line the pan with parchment paper. The easiest way here is to cut two sheets of parchment paper, one the size of the pan bottom, the other the length of the perimeter (which is 28 inches long by 5 inches wide). Place the long parchment paper along the interior sides of the pan, pushing the paper into the corners well and extending the bottom edge over part of the pan’s bottom. Add a light touch of shortening to the top of the parchment paper extending onto the pan bottom. Next place the bottom piece in place, pressing down well to seal.
Now to make the batter. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk the 6 eggs well until the whites are completely blended, then add the 6 egg yolks and whisk more until the eggs are smooth. Next, whisk in the vanilla and water until everything is well blended. The more you whisk, the better this will be for the cake. Set aside.
Place the butter into the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed, using the paddle, for about 30 seconds until the butter is perfectly smooth and glossy. With the mixer running at this same speed, begin adding the sugar to the butter by pouring it in SLOWLY and no more than 1/4 cup at a time, allowing the sugar to be blended exceptionally well before adding more. When half of the sugar has been incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl and resume beating. Be prepared to spend 5 minutes simply adding sugar to the butter. When the last of the sugar has been added, beat for two more minutes, scrape down the bowl sides, and beat for one minute more. The blended butter and sugar will be practically white in color, light and fluffy in texture, and absolutely not grainy in the least.
With the mixer still running at a medium-high speed, SLOWLY begin pouring the egg mixture in a very slow, thin stream. This, too, will take several minutes, but don’t rush it at all. When the entire egg mixture has been incorporated, add the salt to the batter and continue to beat for one full minute. Remove the mixer bowl from the stand. Using a sieve or sifter, sift only 1/2 cup of the flour over the batter and fold it in gently with a rubber spatula. Make certain to pull the batter up from the bottom of the bowl and fold it over the flour on the top moving slowly. Repeat folding using only 1/2 cup of flour each time until all the flour has been incorporated.
Scoop up the batter and evenly fill your Bundt pan, or divide the batter evenly between your two prepared loaf pans, gently evening the surface with your spatula. Place into your preheated oven and bake for 70 to 80 minutes. A crack will have formed along the top of each cake. The cake is done when a clean dinner knife (or thin skewer) inserted into the center of the crack in the cake’s middle returns clean.
Remove the pans from the oven and allow to rest on wire racks for 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto the rack, turning them right-side up, and allow to cool to room temperature for about 2 hours. If you baked loaves, leave the parchment paper on the cakes during this cooling process and remove when completely cooled.
The pound cake can be wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap and placed into an airtight container. Store at room temperature up to 7 days.
Adding a glaze
There are only a couple of things that make a pound cake more delicious – a little bit of liquor or a glaze come to mind. To make a perfect glaze for your perfect pound cake you will need to add a bit of butter.
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tbsp half and half
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Combine all ingredients in a measuring cup and stir together until there are no lumps. Add a little more half and half until desired consistency has been reached.
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