Tips for Making the Perfect Pound Cakes

Rich, buttery pound is a staple of the South and has been a specialty of all the Southern women in my family. My Grannie Parks is famous throughout Greenwood County, South Carolina for her black walnut pound cake. It’s a family, friends, and church favorite and truly is to die for. My Mawmaw Connell makes a mouth-watering lemon pound cake with citrus glaze, and my own mother makes a first-rate Cold Oven Pound Cake, which she tops with the best butter cream icing known to man.

Pound cake has traditionally been a cake made with a pound of butter (2 cups), a pound of sugar (3 cups), a pound of eggs (8-9), and a pound of flour (4 cups) blended in that order. Over the years, the exact amounts involved have varied slightly, but the outcome remains the same: a wonderfully dense and buttery cake with a deliciously golden crunch of a crust. Not only is it downright delectable, but it’s also an extremely versatile dessert, coming in just about any flavor combination you can fancy.

A pound cake’s firm texture makes it ideally suited for gift giving. If it is covered tightly, it will remain fresh for several days on the counter or can be frozen for up to 2 months with good results. A good Southern pound cake is traditionally topped with a powdered sugar glaze (flavored or not), but you can also serve it plain, with a dusting of dry powered sugar, with whipped cream or ice cream, or with a fresh fruit topping.

So now we know; pound cake is glorious! But don’t let its reputation intimidate you; a pound cake is quite simple to make. If you’ve ever baked anything from scratch, then you are fully qualified. And even if this is your first time in the kitchen without a pre-packaged mix, you are in safe hands. Just follow these 3 easy tips to avoid the most common slip-ups that might result in what Southern cooks call a “sad” cake.

Three Essential Tips to a Great Southern Pound Cake

1. Make sure you allow your butter and eggs to come to room temperature. This will allow more air to be beaten into your batter, producing a lighter, fluffier cake.

2. BEAT, BEAT, and BEAT some more. You want to beat your butter with an electric mixer for at least 2 minutes before you add the sugar. After adding the sugar, make sure to cream these two ingredients for at least 5-10 minutes, depending on the grade of mixer you are using. If you are using a hand held mixer, choose the longer time. Creaming the butter and sugar is the most important step in the baking process. It takes some effort, but it’s the only way to achieve the smooth texture desired.

3. After adding the flour, alternately with any additional liquid (milk or cream) beat at a medium speed only until the flour is incorporated smoothly into the batter. If you overly agitate the mix at this point, your cake will turn out tough instead of tender.

Here are three of our best-loved family pound cake recipes. I hope you will enjoy these old-fashioned favorites as much as we have!

Grannie’s Famous Black Walnut Pound Cake

2 sticks butter (at room temp.)
cup Crisco
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs (at room temp.)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. Black Walnut flavoring
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chopped black walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 10 inch tube pan. Cream butter, Crisco, and sugar until light and fluffy. (about 5-10 minutes) Add eggs, one at a time. Make sure to scrape down the bowl as you go. Add flavorings. Sift together dry ingredients and add these alternately with the milk. Mix in dry ingredients on medium speed just until well-blended. Stir in nuts. Pour batter into pan and place on center rack. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Let cake cool for 15 minutes before releasing from pan and turning on to a serving plate.

Mom’s Cold Oven Pound Cake
(Begin with a cold oven, not pre-heated!)

1 cups butter (at room temp.)
cup Crisco
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs (at room temp.)
1 cup whole milk
tsp. baking powder
tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour

Citrus Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon or orange rind
3 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

Butter and flour a 10 inch tube pan. Cream butter, Crisco, and sugar until light and fluffy. (about 5-10 minutes) Add eggs, one at a time. Make sure to scrape down the bowl as you go. Add flavorings. Sift together dry ingredients and add these alternately with the milk. Mix in dry ingredients on medium speed just until well-blended. Pour batter into pan and place on center rack in a cold oven. Set the oven to 325 degrees, and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Let cake cool for 15 minutes before releasing from pan and turning on to a serving plate. Drizzle glaze evenly over cake and let sit for another 20 minutes until set.

Cherry Nut Cold Oven Pound Cake
(Begin with a cold oven, not pre-heated!)

1 cup butter (at room temp.)
cup Crisco
3 cups sugar
6 eggs (at room temp.)
tsp. almond flavoring
tsp. vanilla flavoring
10 oz. jar chopped cherries
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
tsp. baking powder
cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

Cherry Nut Frosting

stick butter
3 oz. cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
10 oz. jar chopped cherries
1 tsp. almond flavoring
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
shredded coconut
cup chopped pecans

Butter and flour a 10 inch tube pan. Cream butter, Crisco, and sugar until light and fluffy. (about 5-10 minutes) Add eggs, one at a time. Make sure to scrape down the bowl as you go. Add flavorings. Sift together dry ingredients and add these alternately with the milk. Mix in dry ingredients on medium speed just until well-blended. Stir in chopped cherries and nuts. Pour batter into pan and place on center rack in a cold oven. Set the oven to 325 degrees, and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Let cake cool for 15 minutes before releasing from pan and turning on to a serving plate. Once the cake is cool to the touch, frost the cake.