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How-To

How to Make Pound Cake

A classic cake that should be in every baker’s recipe box.

Fine Cooking Issue 110
Photos: Scott Phillips
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It’s velvety. it’s dense. it’s rich with butter and eggs. Pound cake has been a baker’s staple since colonial times, when making it meant merely combining and baking a pound each of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs (hence, its name).

Centuries later, that’s essentially the recipe we have here, with a few tweaks: The ingredient amounts are reduced by half to fit today’s standard loaf pans; vanilla is added to complement the cake’s sweet, buttery flavor; and superfine sugar is used because it ensures better volume in the batter.

Despite these adjustments, the attributes of this cake are still the same: It’s moist, flavorful, and dense (like the original, it uses no leavening) and has the signature dome and center crack (caused by steam release during baking) of all good pound cakes. It’s delicious—and clearly a cake with staying power.

 

Need to Know

Prepare your pan Use a light-colored 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-3/4-inch loaf pan (one that isn’t nonstick). Dark finishes often produce overbrowned results, and any other size pan will affect the shape, baking time, and texture of this cake. Butter the pan thoroughly, taking care to reach well into the corners and seams and all the way up the sides. After greasing, line the bottom of the pan with parchment. An easy way to cut it to size: Trace the bottom of the pan onto the parchment and then cut out the rectangle.

Use slightly firm butter If your butter is too warm or too cold, the batter won’t aerate properly. Let the butter sit at room temperature as you gather your other ingredients. Before using, press it firmly with your thumb; if your thumb meets some resistance and leaves a slight indentation, the butter’s ready to use.

Beat well, but don’t overmix This pound cake doesn’t call for leavening, so it’s essential to properly combine the butter and sugar. Beating the butter and then adding the sugar a little at a time will aerate the batter, making it fluffy and ensuring that the cake will rise. But when adding the dry ingredients to the batter, don’t overmix, or your cake will be tough.

Cook’s Tip

Avoid the center When testing the cake for doneness, insert the tester alongside the center crack, not into it. The center crack will often appear moist, even though the rest of the cake is perfectly baked. If the tester comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven. The moist area may still remain, but don’t worry: The cake is done.

Tool Kit

Have these kitchen essentials on hand before you start the recipe:

• Dry measuring cups and spoons
• Sifter (for flour)
• 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-3/4-inch metal loaf pan
• Pastry brush
• Parchment
• Medium bowls
• Whisk
• Electric stand mixer
• Rubber spatula
• Large soupspoon
• Thin wooden skewer
• Aluminum foil
• Wire cooling rack
• Small to medium mesh strainer
• Serrated knife
• Plastic wrap

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