This post is sponsored by Imperial Sugar! I’ve used Imperial Sugar for years and I am thrilled to be partnering with them. Thank you for supporting the partners that keep the bake offs coming!
I really have all the pound cake enthusiasts on Instagram to thank for this quest to find the best pound cake recipe. To me, pound cake has never been the most exciting–but so many of you told me that you love it because:
- it’s so simple, unfussy but delicious
- the perfect blank canvas to dress up with all the toppings or riff upon
- a classic that’s less basic and more indulgent than vanilla cake
- an easy cake fit for any occasion
- freezes well for when you need to bring something in a pinch
But you also wanted a pound cake bake off because:
- it’s hard to find a good recipe
- it’s easy to do badly/blandly
- recipes are never as soft/moist as they should be
And so! I’m happy to say that after testing 12 different recipes, we’ve definitely found some pound cakes that are soft, moist and delicious. I think they’ll live up to your pound cake hopes and dreams–let’s get into it!
- 50 total tasters
- All 12 recipes were baked the day of tasting (except for Sara Lee, which was defrosted)
- All cakes were baked in greased and floured loaf pans
- All tasters ranked each pound cake on a scale from 0-10 for overall flavor, texture, and as a whole
- All ingredients were measured by weight according to the King Arthur website
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- King Arthur unbleached cake flour
- Costco unsalted butter
- Daisy sour cream
- Crisco shortening
- Philadelphia cream cheese
- Kirkland vanilla extract
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Diamond kosher salt
- Imperial granulated, brown and powdered sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
What is Pound Cake?
Traditionally, pound cake is a very simple recipe–a pound each of butter, flour, sugar and eggs in a 1:1:1:1 ratio. The traditional rendition doesn’t contain leavener as it relies on creaming butter and sugar to whip enough air into the batter to leaven the cake. These days, it’s most commonly baked in either a bundt or loaf pan.
Although this seems like a super basic formula, there are literally thousands of riffs on the classic pound cake. Whether you’re trying to achieve a super moist or buttery or dense or eggy or airy or crusty or soft-topped cake, we’ll talk about how to achieve all these features in the next section. One of my favorite quotes ever about pound cake by Shauna Sever below.
Now, I know what you’re thinking–um, pound cake? Snore. But! Before you click-click away from this post to find something that involves chocolate or cream cheese and is generally more food porny, let me make a case here. First, you can never really try enough pound cake recipes. Everyone should have a no-fail favorite pound cake in their repertoire. Because with a good pound cake as your foundation, you dessert options are seriously limitless. It’s the chicken of the dessert world.Shauna Sever
The Kitchn’s pound cake test was a very helpful starting point for this bake off! I eliminated all of the recipes they tested except for the winner (and then added 11 other recipes that were compelling to me. See this spreadsheet for a full list of all the recipes I considered before narrowing it down to 12 distinct recipes).
The Kitchn crowned Grandbaby Cakes their winner, and while my tasters technically did not agree, Grandbaby Cakes was still one of my top picks from this bake off. More on the factors that affected these results int he next section!
As always, I would like to point out that I am an enthusiastic home baker (not a professional baker) and despite my best efforts, baker’s error could definitely occur within my baking tests and affect a recipe’s score by no fault of the recipe developer. These baking tests are done purely for fun and I honestly do think that any one of these recipes could be someone’s ideal pound cake despite the rankings below! Except maybe the classic pound cake–I do think most of these recipes have made large improvements over the classic formula.
- Dairy (cream cheese or sour cream): As you can see from the yellow sections in the above chart, a clear theme in this bake off was that recipes with added acidic dairy like cream cheese or sour cream tended to be more popular. Although these aren’t traditional pound cake ingredients, using sour cream or cream cheese in a pound cake provides a much-needed boost of moisture and flavor. The acid also contributes to a fine crumb because it tenderizes the gluten in the flour. So if you’re looking for a softer, moister pound cake, definitely look for a pound cake that uses either of these ingredients!
- Milk type: I tested a variety of cakes that used milk, buttermilk, powdered milk and heavy cream. Ultimately, I think the recipes that used powdered milk (Call Me PMC) and buttermilk (Shirley Corriher) and milk (Baking Sense) had too many other competing factors to really determine whether the small amount of dairy made a difference (though I do think the buttermilk helped Shirley stand out flavor-wise). However, I do think the heavy cream made a notable difference in each recipe that used it (Reddit, Divas Can Cook). The added fat makes for a moister crumb and adds a richer flavor that cakes made with only butter lacked.
- Baking powder: Although traditional pound cake doesn’t call for baking powder, nearly every other recipe calls for it as a leavener. Although we want our pound cake to be dense and close-textured, I think baking powder generally helps enhance the texture of pound cake by making it just slightly fluffier, less chewy, and less heavily dense.
- Eggs: Egg yolks are typically added for extra richness–additional egg yolks ranged from 1 (Sohla) to 2 (Shirley) to 4 (Baking Sense). I think the additional egg yolks also added extra moisture which helped these recipes stand out compared to other pound cakes with relatively drier textures. But let’s also talk about beating eggs! Smitten Kitchen used the interesting technique of whipped egg whites that get folded into the batter. This did lighten the cake’s texture, but only just in comparison to the OG pound cake. Lastly, I discovered from this bake off that overbeating eggs will lead to a fragile, crackly crust that is super delicious but hard to slice–I made this mistake with the Grandbaby Cakes recipe.
- Fat type: While all recipes of course used butter, there were a few that incorporated some oil and shortening. Shirley’s recipe was the most distinctive for its use of butter, oil and shortening (and received comments accordingly about its interesting flavor); Grandbaby cakes added a couple tablespoons of oil or shortening in addition to butter, and Divas used half butter, half butter-flavored shortening. Ultimately, I don’t think any of these fat combinations proved wildly revolutionary compared to the traditional formula of all butter. I do think adding a bit of oil can benefit the texture of pound cake (Grandbaby Cakes and Shirley’s were praised for their soft texture), but you can still achieve a plush texture (see Sohla’s) without it.
- Sugar type: While the grand majority of recipes used regular granulated sugar, Midwest Nice used exclusively powdered sugar. I suspected that the extra starch in the powdered sugar might contribute to a more fine and pillowy texture, but this wasn’t the case–the texture was actually fairly dense and stodgy. This could be due to baker’s error (perhaps over-baking led to the crumb drying out). Perhaps the combination of cake flour and powdered sugar somehow led to a more dense result but my conclusion is: no need to branch out from granulated sugar!
- Flour type: I went in with the theory that the pound cakes made with cake flour would far outshine those made with all-purpose. However, there was no discernable pattern that recipes that used cake flour (Midwest Nice, Baking Sense, Call Me PMC, Sally’s Baking Addiction and Grandbaby Cakes) were preferred (too many other confounding factors). Ultimately while I think cake flour can help with a more tender crumb, acidic dairy seemed to be a far more important factor terms of tenderizing the gluten and creating a softer crumb.
- Cold oven: There’s lots to read about the theory behind cold oven pound cakes (i.e. pound cakes that are baked from a cold, un-preheated oven). Ultimately, I only tested one cold oven pound cake (Reddit) and I think there were too many confounding factors to say whether this truly made a difference in the texture. (My hunch is that it didn’t make a significant difference.)
Analysis of the Best Pound Cake Recipes
Cookies and Cups: the classic pound cake recipe–simple, but a little lacking in flavor and texture
This is our control recipe. With a pound of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, this is the classic definition of pound cake. No added leaveners, no vanilla, nothing extra! This follows the typical formula of creamed butter and sugar before adding the eggs and flour.
Absolutely no shade to the Cookies and Cups blog–this just happened to be the first blog I saw that had a straightforward rendition of a classic pound cake recipe. Compared to the others, the classic pound cake formula leaves plenty to be desired–Eileen of Baking Sense calls it “fairly dense, a little chewy [with] a slightly flat taste.” I have to agree–without any salt or vanilla to add dimension, this pound cake was on the blander side and texturally seemed to develop a tougher crumb faster. While it had a nice golden crust and sturdy cakey texture, I think there were many other recipes that had just a few more ingredients that yielded a much more desirable cake.
- It smells like a corn muffin. It’s very plain, not necessarily in a bad way. It’s just not doing anything special for me. It’s a little dry.
- Kind of eggy flavor, custardy, very dry, kind of tough, not at all squishy
- Pretty lackluster across the board and much drier than the others!
- Weird mouthfeel and eating experience that’s hard to describe but I don’t like the way it falls apart in my mouth.
- Yrgh, sadly, it’s another pound cake that made me be like, “this is a waste of Erika’s time.” It’s bland. It has a nice texture. It’s fairly moist. I’m missing some sweetness and richness and flavor to it; creamed together butter and sugar plain is better than this.
- like taste – very buttery, crust is good, texture is a little sandy.
- This was just fine? Texture was too crumbly for my liking and it was not moist. Flavor was just “okay”
Call Me PMC: a coarse-crumbed, slightly bland pound cake that doesn’t quite match up to Sara Lee
I was excited to try this “Copycat Sara Lee” recipe–with cake flour and powdered milk, I expected a light, feathery crumb that would stand up to the original.
However, after trying the original Sara Lee pound cake for the first time in years, I realized it would be very difficult for any home baker to achieve the same kind of spongy, ethereally light and finely-crumbed texture with a typical pound cake recipe. Unfortunately, we didn’t find this pound cake to live up to its name–it was very similar crumb-wise to most of the other recipes that we tried (aka a much coarser crumb than Sara Lee). I found the texture to be a bit dry and crumbly. While there was a nice eggy flavor and light sweetness, it was overall a bit bland.
- Characteristic pound cake flavor, vanilla forward
- Is this cornbread? Or pound cake? It’s nice, but a bit too cornbready for me (dry, crumbly and lacking flavor)
- A little dry, crumbly and dense though the flavor was nicely buttery and sweet with adequate salt
- Hint of salty and sweet in each bite
- Nice crumb but a little dry
- Bready, drier and more crumbly
- Angel food cake vibes, not so much flavor or sweetness and texture is fairly dry
Midwest Nice: a fairly dry and tough-crumbed pound cake with a gorgeously crisp crust
When I was first planning this bake off, I had allotted 9 recipe slots and I had cut this recipe. But I was so curious to see what using all powdered sugar (instead of granulated) and cake flour would do to a pound cake crumb that I eventually expanded the bake off to 12 recipes. This recipe basically follows the classic pound cake formula but with the above modifications plus salt and vanilla.
While I thought this pound cake had a really nice, crispy crust and great notes of butter and vanilla, I unfortunately found the crumb to be quite dry, fairly dense and a tiny bit tough. Although the cornstarch in powdered sugar and the low gluten content of cake flour tends to lead to a more tender cake crumb, I’d venture to describe this crumb as almost stodgy. It’s possible that I overbaked this cake–some of the textural stodginess could absolutely be my fault and I’m curious to try it again. I’d also be curious to try it with some sour cream or yogurt to see if the acid could help tenderize the crumb and add some more flavor dimension.
- This was, in my opinion, the best one. It had a good flavorful, buttery crust and a soft pillowy texture that wasn’t too moist or too crumbly. Almost shortbread like crust, very nice buttery flavor
- Really good! The crust was flavorful and provided a nice contrast to the cake. The texture was great, not too dry, not too moist, and had a nice bite
- VERY low on sweetness, barely any flavor, kinda tough consistency. Looks beautiful though, with lots of rise! Beauty pageant pound cake with nothing inside 🙁
- Flavor was okay but the crumb was too dry and dense for me. The sides and bottom baked up too crispy for my liking. It would definitely need a topping (added moisture) for me to eat this one again
- I expected the crust to be crispier, but it was a little soft. It was a bit dry, flavor was kind of boring.
- Hard pass on texture. Flavors are on point and meet expectations for butter, vanilla, and sugar. But not enough to serve this brick-like texture.
Smitten Kitchen: a lemon-scented pound cake with a slightly airy, spongy crumb that still remains dense with a crisp crust
A slight variation on the classic pound cake, this recipe comes from James Beard via Smitten Kitchen with a few tweaks: more sifting, added baking powder, some lemon zest and Cognac (I used the vanilla extract option instead for consistency) and principally, whipped egg whites. Although I do detest whipping egg whites, I was very curious if this would make a significant difference in the texture. (Note: Deb mentioned she has an even better pound cake version coming in her upcoming book so everyone get excited to try that one!!)
In the end, I felt this pound cake mostly stood out for the light lemon flavor. Texturally, this cake felt similarly dry to the classic pound cake with a slightly airier crumb–the crust also felt like it had a more crisp bite. Though I probably won’t go to the trouble of whipping egg whites for pound cake in the future, if you’re looking for a slightly spongier, lighter-feeling alternative to the classic pound cake, this would be a winner!
- I think the reason I liked this one so much is the lemon flavor. Maybe this is just because normal pound cake doesn’t have much flavor aside from sweetness so having lemon flavor is exciting
- Night light fluffy texture. I would eat it again, but not in the traditional sense of a pound cake. This was super spongey and lacked the dense, velvety texture that I love about a pound cake. This was also really lemon-forward which I didn’t hate, but don’t want in my pound cake.
- Texture here is very dry but the cake isn’t at all crumbly. I expect pound cake to taste like butter and sugar, so the lingering taste of something else is perfectly fine but not what I’m looking for in a pound cake.
- This feels like there’s lemon in it but I’m also getting a peppery or thyme note (or I could be going crazy from trying to distinguish pound cakes, who knows).
- Loved the lemon flavor! Other than that it was quite dry and didn’t really taste like a pound cake
- Bouncy, slightly rubbery texture, a bit dry
- Had a nice zest flavor. The earth-y crust flavor contrasted with the pound cake a bit too starkly, so it may have made the cake cloying, and didn’t add a nice texture contrast either (crumbly without crunch).
Grandbaby Cakes: a deliciously buttery, eggy pound cake with a fine, perfectly even and cottony crumb
This was one of three pound cakes to use cream cheese–Jocelyn’s recipe stood out for her use of a little bit of oil or shortening in addition to (a lot of) butter. She also uses cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. Note the crust that looks like it’s kind of detaching from the rest of the cake in the photo? I think this was baker’s error due to me overwhipping the eggs, which tends to lead to a fragile crust (thanks to creating a “stealthy meringue”).
This was far and away one of my favorite pound cakes, and I’m not sure why it didn’t get the credit from the rest of the group (I don’t *think* the baker’s error really influenced this trend based on the taster comments, but hard to say). There was a prominent buttery/eggy/vanilla-y flavor, but my favorite part was the crumb. Perfectly even and light, the texture is drier than Divas Can Cook or Sohla, but I almost preferred it as it felt more classic. It was very fine and cottony in a way that reminded me of Sara Lee more closely than any of the other pound cakes.
- I loved the flavor of this one, almost borderline too sweet but I want another bite. Texture was a bit lighter and not as heavy or dense as I personally would look for, but a really solid pound cake.
- This is bringing some FLAVOR. Browned butter? Super moist, barely any crumb, and nice crust. A pound cake for the other pound cakes to aspire to!
- Fine and light crumb, slightly dry. Feels both light and dense at the same time. The sweetness is the only flavor that comes through.
- Tangy, does it have sour cream? The initial tanginess gives way to a sweeter aftertaste, maybe due to the contrast of the 2 flavors? Most complex flavor profile so far, a nice refreshed take on something that is traditionally so dense and sweet. The texture was also almost a bit fluffy, which was an unexpected, but pleasant surprise.
- Very good texture and robust flavor, nice balance of salt. Although it had a dense crumb it was still plenty moist. No complaints.
- Not my fave flavor so far. Tastes a bit artificial/store bought but not the good kind of store bought. A bit of an aftertaste too.
- A bizarrely spongey texture? Which feels counterintuitive for pound cake which I expect to be dense and heavy. Taste wasn’t different from most other samples in any kind of notable way.
Sara Lee: the airy, spongy, storebought classic. But is it really classic pound cake?
Our storebought control variable! I don’t usually include storebought variables in the bake offs (see the sprinkle cake bake off for the only other bake off that included a boxed mix), but there seemed to be such a craze over the Sara Lee pound cake that I decided to include it.
And I’m glad I did! It’s been years since I’ve tried this cake and it is SO crazy spongy and soft with an exceptionally microscopic crumb. The flavor is very artificial vanilla-esque and it’s soft and moist and lightly sweet in a way that reminds me more of chiffon or sponge cake, not at all like traditional pound cake. Tasters generally agreed–if this was the benchmark pound cake, it would make us all question WHAT IS POUND CAKE?!
- Spongy texture was good even though wasn’t super moist, felt like not enough buttery flavor. Very eggy, more like chiffon cake or Japanese honey cake
- I think this is the Sara Lee copycat. It definitely has a distinct flavor and light, airy texture. If you like the Sara Lee flavor, this nails it!
- This is a pound cake? The look and taste of this was 100% sponge cake to me. Superbly fine crumb, but such a bouncy texture. I actually really liked eating this but I wouldn’t quality it as a pound cake.
- THIS looks like Sara Lee’s frozen pound cake. No crumb! AND it tastes like Sara Lee’s too?? Has a little bit of a fruity flavor (fake fruit, like Fruity Pebbles) and a little bit of that angel food flavor. I enjoyed this! Better than the super boring, but not the best. Definitely feels like a commercial or a bakery standard pound cake.
- SO GOOD. If I were to choose one of these to eat again, this would be it, BUT it isn’t pound cake by any definition. More like Japanese cheesecake.
- Cake #11 is very different, like angel food cake? It had a microfoam texture, very soft. It doesn’t remind me of pound cake. Perfume flavor overwhelmed the taste of the cake
Shirley Corriher: a plush, robustly-flavored pound cake that is softer and moister than traditional pound cake
This recipe caught my eye for its use of butter, shortening, AND oil, whole eggs and egg yolks, buttermilk, and optional potato starch. (I used the suggestion of additional flour instead of potato starch since I couldn’t find the starch in stores and figured most would have to use this sub.)
Interestingly, most tasters commented that they felt like this cake possessed a different spice. While there are no spices in this cake, I think the combination of fats plus the tang of the buttermilk and perhaps the extra richness from the egg yolks contributed to a richer, more distinctive flavor than the other pound cakes. I did love the texture of this cake with its beautifully crunchy, golden crust and cakey, more plush interior. Another interesting recipe from Shirley–I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to make this again given all the specific ingredients that it calls for, but I do think the texture and flavor are lovely if you have the ingredients on hand!
- This cake had the most amazing texture. Pretty moist and flavorful although a bit too sweet. Enjoyed the thick caramelized crust. Faint nut flavor which is enjoyable difference
- Oily, but in a beautiful way. Gimme some more of that one. Would most definitely make again!!
- If I didn’t eat the others, I think I would have ranked this pound cake higher. I loved the crispy top. It was also a bit too buttery/oily.
- Sugar-forward. Lacking dimension. But texture was close to what you think of when you picture a jiggly pound cake.
- This one had the best edge: it stayed crispy in my mouth as I bit it after multiple bites and was a pleasant change of pace from the dense texture of the cake. The taste was kind of nutty and airy. It tasted good, but not really like a traditional pound cake.
- Flavor hits before texture is even thought about. Bright and light. Well-balanced inside richness with outside lightness. No particular stand-out in, but this is a stand-out bite!
- My first impression is that it tasted a little bit like canola oil or artificial/store bought. But it kind of grew on me.
Baking Sense: a buttery, slightly coarse-crumbed yet tender and airy pound cake
After baking over 100 pound cakes with tons of ingredient and technique variation, Eileen finally developed her dream, melt-in-your-mouth buttery pound cake. She changed the original pound cake recipe to add baking powder, salt and vanilla, increased the sugar, added egg yolks for richness and milk for moisture. This is also the only pound cake to use a reverse creaming method (similar to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s pound cake)
I loved the buttery, eggy flavor of this cake! The crumb was on the moister side compared to most others and had an interestingly light yet coarse airiness to the crumb. It wasn’t as finely crumbed as Grandbaby Cakes, Divas or Sohla, but it was definitely a lighter, not as dense iteration of pound cake. If you’re looking for an airy but still hearty and slightly velvety pound cake with great flavor, give this a try.
- Very soft, very light, melts in your mouth. Can taste vanilla and eggs, but balanced. Spongy and not too sweet
- Good vanilla flavor and kind of eggy flavor, I like the crisp of the crust and the texture is more moist and a little more spongy than [Midwest Nice].
- Flavor hits all the right notes — sugar, butter, vanilla with none overpowering the others, traditional style. On the drier side but would eat again!
- It smells like a corn muffin. It’s a little dry. I appreciate the crunchiness of the edges–sometimes you want a little crunch with your soft pound cake
- The most “cake” like with a looser crumb than the usual pound cake. I liked the moisture level and thought it good flavor but just not sure if it meets my “pound cake” expectation.
- This is the most buttery of them all. Very warm and comforting flavor. Is a bit fluffy for a pound cake, but it fits with the buttery-ness. The crust tasted like the edges of a nice, crumbly sugar cookie.
- Liked the density but it seemed a touch dry (just a touch though!). Flavor was solid but nothing super special
Reddit Whipping Cake: a light-crumbed, creamy-tasting pound cake with a crisp crust
Although not technically marketed as a pound cake, this popular Reddit recipe follows the same formula as most pound cakes but adds a carton of whipping cream and vanilla. While this recipe follows the same basic pound cake process, it was the only I tested that uses the “cold oven” technique where you start baking the pound cake in a turned off oven. The theory here is that starting in a cold oven allows the cake to rise without being inhibited by a crust (which can form faster in a warm and dry preheated oven)–thus creating a taller, lighter, fluffier cake.
The result? A beautifully light crumb with a very crisp crust. I found this flavor to be a bit blander compared to other pound cakes like Sally’s Baking Addiction, but I think that could be easily remedied with a pinch of salt. I loved the richness that came through with this cake thanks to the heavy cream. Overall, I would easily let this cake take the place of traditional pound cake as it’s just as easy process-wise, but I think the cream really elevates both the flavor and texture.
- Best one!! The bake was perfect, texture was delightful, if I could change anything it would be to have slightly less sugar. Overall, this is the cake recipe I’ll save to use over and over again.
- Cakey, a little sweeter, sweet aftertaste. Lighter texture and classic flavor
- Floral, sweet flavor, loved the caramelized edges
- Strong, almost overwhelming vanilla flavor with a superfine crumb and melt-in-your-mouth quality
- VERY MOIST. Lovely consistency! Missing a little on the sweetness side for me, but has a strong “left in your mouth” finish flavor; maybe sour cream? My first bite was pretty good moistness, but even a few minutes after eating it, I have excellent pound cake flavor in my mouth!
- Eggy flavor, spongy texture. Slight chew with a hard, crispy sugary shell of a crust. When I think pound cake I think of a more delicate crust. But liked it for the texture contrast!
- It was a bit stodgy. When I bit it, it just compressed and not in the good way. There was a strong vanilla flavor. It was very sweet – I think it would have been better with more salt.
Sally’s Baking Addiction: a pleasingly tender, close-textured pound cake with a great balance of vanilla
Of the three cakes I tested that used cream cheese, Sally’s was the only one that used both cream cheese and sour cream to ensure a moist pound cake. Like Grandbaby Cakes, she also calls for cake flour for a lighter texture. Sally’s recipe is actually quite similar to GBC except that GBC adds 2 tablespoons of oil or shortening, adds an extra 1/4 cup of sugar and omits the sour cream and baking powder–I was curious to see if these changes would make a material difference.
This combination results in a pound cake with a tight, tender bite and crumb that feels like classic pound cake. The crumb feels almost cottony (similar to Sara Lee) but with a denser and more structured texture. Flavor-wise, there was a pleasing balance of both vanilla and egginess. Overall, I can see why this recipe is so popular–it was a definite crowd-pleaser!
- Dense, good vanilla flavor, nice crust. Tastes like a fluffy Madeleine
- Classic pound cake taste and texture
- Very buttery and not too sweet, creamy inside texture
- A bit spongy in texture, flavor has some tang (sour cream?)
- Lacking the nice fattiness I associate with really good pound cake
- Firm, a little bit dry, light sweet flavor
- A little sweet for my liking, light and fluffy
Divas Can Cook: a moist, cakey, even-crumbed pound cake with a rich flavor
Monique has a whopping 17+ recipes for pound cake on her blog–the unabashed queen of pound cake! While they all look amazing, I decided to test this cream cheese-based recipe as she says it’s her favorite. Of the three recipes that used cream cheese in this bake off, Divas’ recipe stood out for its use of cream cheese and heavy whipping cream. All three of the cream cheese recipes (Sally’s, Grandbaby Cakes and Divas) are relatively similar, but Divas’ uses a mix of butter and butter-flavored shortening, slightly more sugar, less egg (probably to compensate for the additional liquid from the heavy cream), and all-purpose flour instead of cake flour. (Note: I did omit the lemon extract.)
Another of my favorite pound cakes, this one was extremely moist, even-crumbed and cakey. I thought it felt very similar to Sohla’s but with more of a creamy, rich flavor–kind of the way you can taste the extra richness in a cream scone. Perhaps not as traditional as a traditionally dry pound cake, but I far preferred the plushness of this. I was impressed that several tasters picked up on the fake buttery flavor–most did not, and this would be easy to remedy by using all butter instead of shortening if you don’t prefer the flavor.
- Ideal texture, pretty moist, nice and sweet and a tiny bit eggy
- Very fluffy, creamy texture and great caramelization on the crust
- Very sweet, very soft and moist, very vanilla y, feels like a vanilla cake
- Does this have fake butter flavor in it? It tastes good but almost like movie theater popcorn. Kind of confusing but good texture?
- Strong butter flavor. Not really into it. But otherwise a nice texture.
- I’m getting strong(er) vanilla? Something else I can’t put my finger on lingers at the end. This sample heavier going down than other samples, and is a little grittier when chewing. This is what I thought a typical pound cake would feel like in terms of both mouthfeel and heaviness going down.
- It tastes slightly artificial. Texture was a bit grainy; crust is very crispy and has so much flavor. It tastes like a canèlle.
- If you cream butter and sugar together and then stick a finger in the bowl to try it, this is what it would taste like. Wayyy too buttery. Like eating a stick of butter.
Sohla El-Wayyly: a plush, moist and even-crumbed pound cake that feels like quintessential pound cake
This recipe (nearly identical to Tartine’s marbled pound cake) fell into a class of its own as it kind of follows the standard recipe for pound cake (with slightly more butter) but adds sour cream and an additional egg yolk. The recipe also calls for a very thorough beating of the butter, sugar, leavener and salt (for a total of 6-8 minutes).
Ultimately, this resulted in a pound cake that had a moist, springy, plush crumb with evenly distributed notes of butter, vanilla and egginess. Another one of my favorites, I can see why this won because it is a delicately, even-crumbed cake with perfect moisture level. It somehow feels like quintessential pound cake but elevated–the soft and relatively pillowy texture is so good, but it still retains enough structure, density and not TOO much moisture to feel like pound cake rather than vanilla cake.
- Perfect version of pound cake. Exactly what it should taste like
- Cake-like, soft, moist and velvety texture. Melt in the mouth buttery.
- It’s super buttery and delicious. It’s super fluffy and moist, and kind of squishy (in a good way).The top bit is very good. Nothing negative to say!
- Texture is amaaazing so pillowy, soft and super moist. Reminiscent of a store bought cake but in a good way.
- When you think classic pound cake, this one hits the spot. Soft fine crumbs with a nice burnt caramel-colored outer skin. For the sweet tooth. Could use a boost of more butter flavor.
- Loved the texture of this one, moist and not crumbly!! Felt like it could be stronger in the flavor department but the texture easily made it something I would be excited to make
- Particularly nice crust on this one, but still dry, which makes me think this isn’t an overbake but a little drier than I would want from the recipe. Not great flavor, not great sweetness. Meh. The reason I don’t eat pound cake for funsies on the reg.
Tips on Making the Best Pound Cake
- Room temperature ingredients: To ensure proper emulsion of all ingredients (and no curdled butter chunks), make sure you’re starting with room temperature butter, eggs, milk, etc. To quickly warm up eggs if they’re straight from the fridge, I like to soak them in hot water for 5-10 minutes.
- Greasing the pan: While all of the recipes I tested called for greasing the pan with butter and a light dusting of flour, you might try using a light dusting of sugar instead of flour for a crisp and sweet crust!
- Metal pans: Sohla notes that because metal loaf pans conduct heat faster than glass pans, they’re preferable for getting a higher rise and golden crust. Slower-heating glass pans can lead to dense and greasy cakes.
- Whipped eggs for a crusty top: Thanks to your feedback, I discovered that some of you really like a crusty top–in fact, some of you said that the crumbles off the top are the best part! In order to get that crusty top, make sure to beat your eggs thoroughly (technically, this would be over-beating the eggs according to most recipes). If you prefer a soft-topped pound cake, only beat the eggs until they’re just incorporated.
- To achieve the perfect crack: If having a perfectly centered crack in the middle of your pound cake is important to you, try this hack by Cloudy Kitchen by piping a line of butter down the center! For a less labor-intensive method, I’ve also been informed that using oil in the same manner will also work (you can probably do this without a piping bag), and Sohla’s method of using a wet butter knife also worked beautifully.
- To make a smaller pound cake: If you’re intimidated by a full-size bundt pound cake recipe, most recipes designed for bundt pans can be halved and baked in a standard loaf pan.
Best classic pound cake: Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best moist pound cake: Sohla El Wayyly, Divas Can Cook, Grandbaby Cakes, Shirley Corriher
Best richly-flavored pound cake: Divas Can Cook, Reddit, Shirley Corriher
Best airy/lighter-textured pound cake: Baking Sense, Smitten Kitchen