We Made the Original Old-Fashioned Pound Cake Recipe. Here’s What Happened

What happens when you mix a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour? This writer put an old-fashioned pound cake recipe to the test.

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Who doesn’t love a good, old-fashioned pound cake? Moist and buttery, it’s a simple dessert that never goes out of style. But have you ever wondered where pound cake got its name?

A Brief History of Pound Cake

Word has it that the pound cake originated in Northern Europe in the early 1700s. Baked in a loaf pan, the original recipe called for a pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar, which resulted in an incredibly moist, dense cake.

Over the years, however, the basic recipe has been adapted more ways than one can count. Early European variations from the mid-1800s used cornmeal instead of all-purpose flour to make the treat more affordable. Today, modern adaptations have adjusted the ingredient ratios and added flavorings like lemon, chocolate and vanilla. Just take a look at all these pound cake recipes!

All of these changes have significantly altered the taste and texture of the original recipe and left us wondering: How does modern-day pound cake differ from the old-fashioned version? We decided to put the original recipe to the test.

How to Make Old-Fashioned Pound Cake

ingredients for a pound cake in glass bowls on a white countertopLauren Habermehl for taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 pound sugar
  • 1 pound eggs (when weighed in their shells)
  • 1 pound all-purpose or cake flour

See how this recipe compares to our Copycat Sara Lee Pound Cake and Million-Dollar Pound Cake.

Directions

Step 1: Weigh the ingredients

Using a kitchen scale, weigh out each ingredient into individual bowls and set aside. For the eggs, weigh them while they are still in their shells and leave them uncracked until you are ready to add them to the batter. If you don’t own a kitchen scale, there are lots of affordable options on Amazon or at your local kitchen supply store. These are our favorite kitchen scales.

Step 2: Cream the butter

In a stand mixer with the beater attachment, cream the softened butter until light and fluffy (about 5-6 minutes) at medium speed.

Step 3: Add the sugar

Next, with the mixer on low, gradually add the sugar in a steady stream. Once the sugar has been added, turn the mixer off and take a moment to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl to ensure even blending of the butter and sugar. Turn the mixer back on and continue to cream the butter and sugar together for an additional 3-4 minutes.

Step 4: Mix in eggs

Once the sugar and butter are well blended, begin adding the eggs. Crack each egg, one at a time, and add it to the batter. Take care to mix each egg until no traces of yolk remain before adding the next egg. After every two or three eggs, pause the mixer and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.

Step 5: Fold in the flour

Reduce the mixer to the lowest speed and add 1/4 of the flour. Mix on low until no dry flour remains and then repeat three more times until all of the flour has been incorporated. Mix until you have a smooth batter, then turn off the mixer.

Step 6: Bake!

two loaf pans with cake batter before bakingLauren Habermehl for taste of Home

Divide the batter evenly into two buttered 8.5 x 4.5-inch loaf pans. Smooth the top of each loaf flat with an offset spatula. Place the prepared loaf pans into a preheated 325°F oven, preferably with the racks positioned in the lower third of the oven.

Bake for 60 minutes and then check the doneness of each loaf. The loaves should be golden with a small crack down the center of their domed top and feel firm to the touch when pressed gently. A toothpick should also come out clean when inserted into the loaf.

Editor’s Tip: You can also insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of each loaf. If the thermometer reads 200°, they’re done baking.

Step 7: Let cool, then serve

two loaf pans with pound cake after being bakedLauren Habermehl for taste of Home

Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack. After 15 minutes, carefully remove the cakes from their pans and let cool completely before serving.

To serve the pound cake, slice and top with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Or, cut it into cubes and layer it into a tasty trifle.

The Results

While this recipe gets a 10 out of 10 in both appearance and texture, we felt that the flavor was definitely lacking something. Our detailed thoughts are broken down below:

  • Appearance: This pound cake recipe couldn’t have turned out better. Both cakes had a deep golden color and even, domed top. They also came out with that iconic crack down the middle.
  • Texture: When sliced, the loaves were baked evenly and had a tight, dense crumb structure. And a few bites proved that the cake was moist, spongy and light.
  • Flavor: This original recipe does lose some points in the flavor category. The cake has a lovely, slightly sweet flavor from the sugar, but overall the taste of the flour comes through a bit too strong. If made again, we would add a little flavoring to the batter after mixing the eggs. We recommend 1-2 tablespoons of vanilla, but a little almond, orange or lemon extract would also be tasty.

Overall, this old-fashioned recipe gets a 9/10 from us. It’s simple and straightforward, and it yields a beautiful result. This is a recipe we will surely make again—just with a few tweaks.

Tips for Making Old-Fashioned Pound Cake

Classic Pound Cake sliced with a scale to the sideLauren Habermehl for taste of Home

What is the best flour for pound cake?

We tested this recipe with all-purpose flour, and it works well. You may substitute cake flour, which has a lower protein content than AP flour, resulting in a lighter, more tender cake. (Here’s a deeper look at different types of flour.)

You should not use self-rising flour in this recipe. Self-rising flour contains chemical leavening agents, which will make pound cake rise too much, altering the intended texture of the cake and possibly even overflowing your baking pan!

Can I make this pound cake gluten-free?

Pound cake’s dense texture usually adapts to gluten-free very well. You may replace the flour with an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix. Thanks to the volume of the batter, you’ll want a mix that contains xanthan gum or guar gum, binding agents that will make the large cake sturdier.

Again, be sure that your mix doesn’t contain any rising agents—most GF flour mixes do not.

Should all my ingredients be room temperature?

Yes! Butter should be softened to cream properly (here’s how to soften butter quickly). Eggs should be room temperature when they’re beaten in. Cold eggs can make the batter curdle, which will make it heavier and less tender after baking. To bring them up to room temperature quickly, place uncracked eggs in a bowl of hot water for a few moments.

How do I prevent my cake from turning out too hard?

An old-fashioned pound cake is dense, with a tight crumb that’s not unpleasantly claggy. Because the dough is so richly packed with eggs and butter, it’s naturally heavy—it doesn’t even contain any chemical leavening agents, like baking soda or powder, to lighten it. That means all of the lift in the cake comes from creaming the butter with the eggs. Make sure to follow the recipe exactly, beating each egg in thoroughly and scraping the bowl periodically. With such a large quantity of batter, even mixing is crucial.

That said, when adding flour (step 5), be sure to use a light hand to stir it in. Overbeating the batter once the flour is added may overactivate the gluten in the flour, resulting in a tougher cake.

Finally, using a lighter colored loaf pan will help keep the cake from darkening too quickly. Our recipe also calls for baking at a lower temperature for longer; use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven doesn’t run hot. As the baking time nears its end, check the cake every few minutes to ensure you don’t overbake it. As soon as it’s done, remove it from the oven.

How do I keep pound cake moist?

A well-baked pound cake will stay moist for four or five days, if stored properly. Keep pound cake at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap or covered in an airtight container to preserve moisture. Storing the cake in the fridge will dry it out.

Kelsey Rae Dimberg, former Taste of Home senior editor, contributed to this article.

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Lauren Habermehl
Lauren is a recipe developer and food photographer. At Taste of Home, you’ll find her putting famous celebrity recipes to the test, from Dolly Parton’s stampede soup to Stanley Tucci’s six-ingredient pasta casserole. She’s also known for her FoodTok finds and sharing tips for how to re-create Internet-famous 15-hour potatoes, apple pie cinnamon rolls and chamoy pickles. When she’s not trying out a recipe-gone-viral, she’s developing copycat recipes and new twists on comfort food for her food blog, Frydae.