Crave: Pound cake is an easy, classic dessert with a rich history
photo by: Lori Dunn/Mother Earth News PhotoLori Dunn/Mother Earth News
In England back in the 1700s, most cakes were simply breads sweetened with whatever was available. Then along came the pound cake. Since most of the population was unable to read, the recipe for pound cake was an easy one to pass on verbally: 1 pound of flour, 1 pound of butter, 1 pound of sugar and 1 pound of eggs.
The first known written recipe for pound cake appeared in the 1740s. One of the earliest, in 1747, appeared in “The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse. It included 12 eggs and a few caraway seeds, was beaten for an hour by hand or with a “great wooden spoon,” and was then baked for an hour in a quick oven. It also added this note, “For Change, you may put in a Pound of Currants cleaned wash’d and pick’d.”
As you can imagine, this created a fairly large cake, and cooks being cooks, the recipe was tweaked as time rolled by, both for size and for taste. A leavening agent was added when those were invented in the 19th century, and cookbooks started to include the ingredients in more precise measurements: 2 cups sugar, at least 6 eggs, 31⁄2 cups flour, and 4 sticks butter, or in smaller measurements. As long as the four main ingredients are added in a 1:1:1:1 ratio, the cake will turn out terrific.
In the 1800s, recipes show the additions of brandy, wine, lemon peel, nutmeg, currants, candied peel, citron, sweet almonds or mace, and a couple substitute confectioner’s sugar for granulated sugar. Modern-day cooks have tweaked it even further with salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla or almond extract, sour cream and/or milk, and we bake it in a low oven for more than an hour.
It makes a dense, moist cake that’s perfect anytime. Serve it with coffee or hot cocoa, at breakfast or for a lunch dessert topped with fresh berries and/or cream, put an icing on it and slice it thin for dinner dessert, or just grab a plain slice for a midnight snack. It’ll satisfy your sweet tooth no matter what.
Old-Fashioned Pound Cake
Denise Hix, Red Boiling Springs, Tenn, would like the recipe for a pound cake that included 12 eggs, flour, sugar, milk, salt and butter.
Darla Tankersley, Hillsboro, Texas, sends a version that may be close.
1 pound butter
1 pound sugar
12 eggs, separated
1 pound flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons almond flavoring
1. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream together butter and sugar. Add yolks slowly, beating after each addition.
3. Add flour, baking powder, well-beaten egg whites and almond flavoring.
4. Pour in greased pan. Bake for 1 hour.
Original Pound Cake
Mary Case, Pauls Valley, Okla., sends a cake recipe with a bit of a different flavor and adds an icing recipe.
1 pound butter (no margarine)
1 pound sugar (2 cups)
1 pound eggs (12 large)
1 pound flour (4 cups before sifting)
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon butter
1 box confectioner’s sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Cream or evaporated milk (if not soft enough)
1. For the cake: Heat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour cake pan; set aside.
2. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
3. Add flour, a little at a time. Add salt, lemon juice and rind.
4. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 90 minutes.
5. For the icing: Cream together butter, confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice and rind. To reach desired consistency, add a few teaspoons cream.
Old-Fashioned Pound Cake
Sally Czerniak, Owen, Wis., sends another version.
1 pound butter
31⁄2 cups sugar
4 cups sifted flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 eggs, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1. Heat oven to 325°F.
2. Beat butter, gradually adding sugar; cream together until light and fluffy.
3. Combine flour and baking powder; add 3 tablespoons flour mixture to creamed ingredients and beat well. Add 2 eggs and beat well.
4. Add remaining flour and remaining eggs alternately until all have been incorporated.
Add flavorings and combine.
5. Pour batter into 2 greased 10-inch tube cake pans, and bake for 1 hour. Yields 40 servings.