This is a comprehensive post with step by step instructions on how to make a Classic Pound Cake!
I’ll be sharing tips and techniques, pound cake troubleshooting ideas as well as cheat codes to help you make perfect, moist pound cakes. This classic pound cake is so easy and fool-proof, you can nail it even if you’re a baking novice!
This is a long post, so you can zip straight down to the recipe below if you like. But if you’re looking for tips and tricks to PERFECT your pound cake, then you’re in the right place!
So let’s start at the beginning. Why is it called a pound cake?
Pound cakes first originated in Europe. They’ve been around since as early as the 1700s, and the term traditionally referred to a cake that weighed four pounds. That’s because a classic pound cake consisted of 1 pound of each of the following FOUR ingredients,
As you can notice, a classic pound cake doesn’t rely on any leavening agents to give the cake any lift, or any extra liquid to make the cake moist. The result is a dense cake, that was also somewhat dry (especially when over-baked).
As pound cakes have become more popular throughout history and throughout different parts of the world, different variations of the classic pound cake have emerged, that are lighter and more moist. Each region (or country) has their own version of a classic pound cake, incorporating different ratios of the main ingredients, and sometimes including extra liquid and baking powder too.
A moist pound cake recipe was the first cake that I learned to bake as well! 🙂 For this pound cake troubleshooting post, I baked all kinds of variations of a pound cake. You can see the results below, and I’ll help you troubleshoot some common pound cake mistakes as well!
Tips to follow for the BEST classic pound cake
Start with good ingredients
Well, that’s a given, but it’s especially true with pound cakes. Rather than using generic ingredients, try and use brand name ingredients.
When it comes to sugar, make sure to get cane sugar because it has a finer grain than other white sugars (if it doesn’t say cane sugar, then it’s probably beet sugar). If you can get your hands on pure cane caster sugar (super fine sugar) that’s even better!
With butter, use a GOOD quality butter. Not margarine, not spreadable butter, but classic stick butter. I prefer to use unsalted butter, but you can use salted butter as well. However, due to the higher water content in salted butter, there’s a higher chance for inconsistent results when using salted butter as well.
Use organic, free-range eggs whenever possible. However, avoid using really fresh eggs. Shocker right? I prefer to use eggs that are about 1 week old and here’s why. The egg whites in fresh eggs are tighter and thicker whereas in older eggs, the egg whites are thinner and looser. These older eggs mix into the cake batter more easily and readily, resulting in a pound cake that’s lighter in mouthfeel and crumb texture. Another reason is that fresh eggs are heavier than older eggs – so 8 fresh large eggs would be way heavier than 1 lb, while 8 older large eggs would be closer to 1 lb.
Always WEIGH your ingredients, rather than relying on cups.
I am a HUGE advocate of using an inexpensive kitchen scale for all your baking needs. Baking does need some precision and a cheap weighing scale will ensure consistent baking results every time, which will save you so much more time and money in the long run from failed recipes and wasted ingredients.
For example, when measuring flour with a cup, you can potentially get up to 50% more flour than you intended. OR, if you choose to use cake flour for your classic pound cake instead – 1 cup of cake flour is lighter than AP flour, so you will end up with LESS cake flour than needed for your recipe if you use a cup to measure.
When measuring sugar with a cup, 1 cup of regular sugar will weigh LESS than 1 cup of super fine sugar. So again, this is why a measuring scale would be really handy. Or you could easily end up with a sickly sweet pound cake because of too much sugar.
If you do use cups however, it’s important to fluff up the flour and sugar in the container, and then scoop the flour and sugar into the measuring cup to the point of overflowing. Then, using a flat knife, level off the excess flour/sugar. It would still be difficult to guarantee consistent results this way, however.
If you’re living in the US, then 1 stick of butter = 4 oz / 115 g / or 0.5 cups. But for anywhere else in the world, the best thing would be to measure the butter as well using a measuring scale.
Temperature of ingredients
It’s absolutely important that all the ingredients are at room temperature (70-75°F or 20 – 23°C).
Butter should be softened, but not too softened. Here’s a crude way of checking if your butter is at the right consistency – make an indentation in the butter with your finger. If the butter is too hard to make an indentation, then well, the butter is too hard. 🙂 But if the butter does make an indentation, but it doesn’t keep its shape, and the butter around the indentation loses shape, then the butter is too soft (the butter can also be too oily when it’s this soft). If it’s easy to make an indentation but it also keeps its shape without distorting any of the butter in the surrounding area, then it’s at the correct consistency!
In the winter, I remove the butter from the fridge and keep it outside overnight. But in the summer, this could make the butter too soft. So instead, in the summer, I prefer to cut the butter into table spoon sized pieces and then leave them out to soften for about 30 minutes or so. If the butter gets too soft, then you can simply stick it back in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes to let them chill just a little bit.
Room temperature butter creams and whips easily. This is important because the butter will incorporate air during creaming/whipping which is essential for a light pound cake. If it’s too cold/hard, or too soft/melted, then it cannot hold air while being whipped.
Eggs should also be kept outside overnight, so that they are all at room temperature. This will help the eggs retain air as well, while being mixed.
Flour and sugar should also be at room temperature. I usually store flour and sugar at room temperature anyway, but if you store flour in the fridge, remember to remove it from the fridge the night before.
Mixing the ingredients for a classic moist pound cake
Since a classic pound cake does not rely on baking powder or baking soda for the cake to rise, the process of mixing the ingredients is crucial. That’s because this classic pound cake relies heavily on the air that is being incorporated during the mixing of butter and sugar, which further gets trapped by the gluten and eggs during baking. There are only FOUR STEPS for a classic pound cake – butter, adding sugar, adding eggs, and adding flour. Each step is equally important. Make sure EACH INGREDIENT HAS BEEN WEIGHED and prepared (and sifted), BEFORE you start making the pound cake.
All the ingredients measured before I begin.
I prefer to use a stand mixer over a hand mixer for convenience. You need to cream the butter and sugar together for a few minutes to incorporate the air, and trust me, your hands will thank you if you use a stand mixer instead of a hand mixer.
The butter needs to be mixed for a few minutes (about 3 – 7 minutes, depending on the room temp. and the butter temp.) by itself first. Use the standard mixer attachment in your mixer to do this (not the whip or the dough hook), and this will ensure the incorporation of air in the butter, making it light, fluffy and creamy. Another mistake to avoid is running the stand mixer at high speed to speed up the process. DO NOT DO THIS! The high speed can knock the air out really fast. So run the mixer at medium speed to let the air in slowly but surely!
When the butter is fluffy, then the sugar is added. Make sure not to dump all the sugar in at once. The weight of the sugar can cause the butter to deflate, which is NOT good. So add the sugar in a thin, steady stream, while the stand mixer is running. This will help cream the butter and sugar together, evenly, adding more air, rather than knocking out the air.
The butter and sugar are creamed together for a few minutes as well. This is for two reasons – one, to incorporate more air and two, to dissolve the sugar. This is why I prefer to use caster sugar which dissolves much faster. The sugar may not need to be completely dissolved before the addition of the eggs, but they definitely should be completely dissolved after you add the eggs. If you’re using regular cane sugar, you can whiz the sugar separately in a food processor for a few seconds to make it finer, if you like.
Butter + sugar creamed together
The next important step is the addition of eggs. The same principle as earlier of not weighing down the batter by adding all the eggs in at once, applies here too. There are TWO ways to achieve this,
- Lightly whisk all the eggs in a jug, and then add the eggs slowly in a stream, with a few breaks in between.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing each one well before adding the next.
Both techniques work, but for convenience, I usually go with the second method. I always crack an egg into a small bowl first, and add it while the stand mixer is running. I mix in the eggs for about 20 – 30 seconds, until the yolk has disappeared, and then I add the next egg.
Eggs being added to the cake batter
It’s important to not let the eggs over-beat in the batter as well. If you over-beat the eggs, the cake WILL COLLAPSE AFTER BAKING!
Some recipes call for more egg yolks, instead of using whole eggs only. YOU CAN SUBSTITUTE TWO WHOLE EGGS, with FOUR YOLKS IF YOU PREFER. This will result in a cake that is richer in taste and more moist. The cake will have a richer yellow color as well.
But remember that egg whites add lift to the cake, while egg yolks add richness. The reason why some prefer to add egg yolks is because egg whites, while adding volume and lift to the cake, can also dry out the cake.
CHEAT NOTE – Instead of two of the whole eggs in the recipe, add four egg yolks to get a more moist and richer tasting pound cake.
CHEAT NOTE – I would also add 1 tsp of baking powder IF I substitute 2 eggs with FOUR EGG YOLKS.
All the eggs added and mixed into the cake batter
Make sure the flour is sifted before you add it to the cake. It’s even better if you can sift it AGAIN when you’re adding it to the cake, but that’s not necessary. This is to reduce the likelihood of flour lumps forming when mixing the flour.
Sift the flour
If you’re able to incorporate the flour with a baking spatula – DO IT! Folding in the flour by hand (spoon), will make sure that you don’t overwork the gluten in the flour.
If you do use your stand mixer, use the lowest speed on the stand mixer, and use it for the smallest amount of time.
If the gluten is over-worked, you will end up with a tougher and dense pound cake, NOT good. Another way to avoid this is to use cake flour instead of AP flour.
Folding the flour into the cake batter
CHEAT NOTE – CAKE FLOUR can be substituted for AP flour because it’ll give a lighter texture to your pound cake. This will make your cake rise more in the oven too.
CHEAT NOTE – If you’re worried that your cake wasn’t beaten enough, you CAN add just the smallest amount of baking powder to make sure your pound cake rises properly. I ONLY do this if I use a hand mixer to mix my pound cake batter, because I know that then there’s a chance that I may not have incorporated enough air.
Smooth cake batter, with all the flour incorporated and not overworked
Baking the Cake
ACCURATE OVEN TEMPERATURE is important. It’ll be great if you know that your oven is properly calibrated. You can do this by placing an oven temp. reader in your oven, and then comparing the temp. displayed on your oven with that of the reader. If by chance your oven is not calibrated, you can adjust the baking temp. based on how your pound cake turns out on the first attempt.
If the cake is too dry, then the oven is too hot, and you may need to lower the temp. OR remove the cake from the oven earlier. If the cake is not done by 70 minutes, then the oven temp. needs to be increased, or the cake needs to bake longer.
Also make sure to PREHEAT THE OVEN for a good 10 – 15 minutes before putting your cake in. This way a stable oven temp. is guaranteed.
Your baking pans can have an effect on the baking times as well. If you use glass cake pans or dark metal pans, the baking time will shorten. If you’re using a light baking pan, then this recipe will be accurate, because I used a light baking pan as well.
I used two 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pans for this classic pound cake recipe. You can adapt this to make the cake in two 9.5 x 5.5 inch loaf pans, but be mindful to check on the cake earlier, as it will bake faster.
The final result is an incredibly buttery, soft, classic pound cake! The crumb is tight and together, but not dense or gummy – it’s buttery and soft and just so addictively delicious!
Classic Pound Cake serving ideas
You can enjoy this classic pound cake in SO MANY different ways! Serve it as is, or top it with various additions to make simple but delicious desserts. Check out these creative ways to serve this classic moist pound cake.
- Berries and cream (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or any other type of berry)
- Banana and butterscotch sauce – this would taste like bananas foster, but with cake!
- Chocolate sauce or hazelnut chocolate spread! Who doesn’t love cake and chocolate (or Nutella) together?
- Whipped cream and nuts or praline – to enhance the nutty flavor even more, you can flavor your cake with nut flavoring as well (almond, toasted coconut, pistachios, or peanuts)
- Lemon glaze or lemon curd – a refreshing and tangy twist to your buttery pound cake! Either cover the cake with lemon glaze or pour it over cake slices. Alternatively, you can serve it with lemon curd or any kind of citrus curd.
- Whipped cream and Kahlua – THIS IS MY FAVORITE! It tastes like tiramisu! A shot of kahlua (or any other sweet liqueur that you like) poured over a cake slice, and then topped with whipped cream or ice cream. An irresistible option for the adults!
Other options not pictured here,
- Grill the pound cake slices (especially if you have stale pound cake), and serve them warm with grilled fruits and ice cream.
- Cut the cake into cubes and add them in trifles!
- Cut into cubes, then lightly toast them, and add them into fruit salads – they’ll be like dessert croutons!
- Make ice cream sandwiches with the pound cake.
Making a classic pound cake is a rewarding experience! 🙂 I hope this lengthy post helped you understand how a classic moist pound cake comes together and why each step is important. It’ll help you master the art of making classic pound cakes and then add your own personal touch to make the recipe even more versatile!
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Classic Pound Cake
Makes two 8.5 x 4.5 inch cakes.
All cup measurements are in US cups, and are approximations. Weight measurements are more accurate.
- 1 lb unsalted butter softened at room temperature (4 sticks of butter)
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1 lb cane sugar or caster sugar (about 2 ¼ cups)
- 8 large eggs 1 lb of eggs, with shell on
- 14 oz AP flour or cake flour roughly 3 ¼ cups AP flour
- 2 tsp good quality vanilla extract you can add almond extract, or any other flavor extract you prefer
Butter two 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pans, and dust the inside of the pans with flour to coat. Shake off excess flour. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 325°F/170°C.
Weigh out all the ingredients and keep them close at hand. Sift the flour and set aside in a bowl.
- Optional step - if you're using granulated cane sugar, place the sugar in a food processor and pulse a few times to get a finer sugar texture.
- Remove the mixing bowl from the weighing scale and place it in your stand mixer with the beater attachment attached.
Place the softened butter and salt in the bowl and cream the butter until light, creamy and fluffy (between 3 - 7 minutes), at medium speed (speed 4 - 5 on a kitchen aid mixer). Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure you collect all of the butter.
Add the sugar in a thin, steady stream WHILE the butter is being mixed (you can also add the sugar tablespoon at a time as well). It should take approximately 1 min to incorporate the sugar into the butter. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure that the sugar is evenly mixed.
- Cream the butter and sugar for a further 2 - 3 minutes.
Break an egg into a small bowl, and make sure there are no egg shells. Break the egg yolk, and then pour the egg in a stream into the butter-sugar mix. Mix for about 20 - 30 seconds until the egg has incorporated into the batter, and there are no traces of egg yolk. Repeat with another egg. After 2 eggs have been mixed into the batter, stop the mixer and scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl.
Repeat with the rest of the eggs, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom as you go (I do this after every 2 eggs that I add).
When all the eggs have been added, add the vanilla and mix for a further 30 sec - 1 minute.
Mixing in the flour by hand - You will need a long-handled baking spatula to fold the flour into the batter
Stop the mixer and remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer. Sift about ¼ of the flour over the batter. Fold the flour into the batter, while rotating the bowl after each fold, until the flour is just incorporated. Repeat 3 more times with the remaining flour, so that you carefully incorporate all of the flour while folding it into the batter (rather than vigorous mixing). This will give you a smooth cake batter.
Make sure there are no dry bits of flour in your batter.
Mixing in the flour with a stand mixer
Reduce the speed of the stand mixer to the lowest setting (stir speed in a kitchen aid mixer).
Add ¼ of the sifted flour into the batter, and mix for a few seconds until just incorporated. Repeat with 3 more additions. After the final addition, only mix the batter until you have a smooth batter. Stop immediately.
Baking the pound cakes
Add an equal amount of the batter to the bottom of each loaf pan. Using an offset spatula, spread the batter evenly to the corners of the pan. Add the rest of the batter (equally divided between the two loaf pans) to the two loaf pans. Evenly spread on top to have an even surface. Gently shake the pans (just a little) to make sure the batter is evenly spread (don’t knock the cake pans on the counter!).
Transfer the loaf pans into the oven (ideally in the lower third of the oven, and right in the center of the oven rack). Set the timer for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, rotate the cake pans, and bake for a further 20 minutes.
Check the cake after a total of 60 minutes of bake time to test the done-ness of the cake with a clean toothpick or a cake tester. Insert the cake tester into the cake, and if it comes out clean, then the cake is done. In my oven, these cakes take about 67 - 70 minutes to bake.
Remove the cakes from the oven, and allow them to cool down for about 10 - 15 minutes. Carefully turn thee cakes out onto a cooling wire rack to cool down completely.
- Eat warm, or at room temperature.
How to store Pound Cake
When the cake is at room temperature, it can be wrapped well with plastic wrap, and stored in an airtight container, and be consumed within a week. If the cake isn’t wrapped properly, it can become stale, BUT stale pound cake will taste even better when toasted or grilled.
OR you can wrap the cake in plastic wrap, and foil, and then stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
OPTIONAL STEPS TO ENSURE THAT YOU DIVIDE THE BATTER EVENLY BETWEEN TWO PANS
- Right at the start, BEFORE adding butter into the mixing bowl - place the empty mixing bowl on a weighing scale and note the weight of the bowl (this is optional, but helps to evenly distribute the cake batter between the pans later).
- When the cake batter is made, scrape any batter off of the spatula and remove the spatula from the bowl. Then measure the weight of the bowl + batter, and subtract the weight of the bowl from the value. This is the weight of the batter. Divide this value by two, and this will be how much you should add to each loaf pan (this further helps get PERFECT, evenly baked pound cakes).
Using different sized pans
- If you're using two 9.5 inch x 5.5 inch pans, check on the cakes after 45 - 50 minutes. This is because this cake can cook much faster in these bigger pans.
- Bundt cake pan - this recipe is enough for 1 large bundt cake. Keep an eye on the cake after 50 minutes of baking time.
CHEAT NOTE – Instead of two of the eggs in the recipe, add four egg yolks to get a more moist and richer tasting pound cake.
CHEAT NOTE – I would add 1 tsp of baking powder IF I substituted 2 eggs with FOUR EGG YOLKS.
CHEAT NOTE – CAKE FLOUR can be substituted for AP flour because it’ll give a lighter texture to your pound cake. But this will make your cake rise more in the oven too.
CHEAT NOTE – If you’re worried that your cake wasn’t beaten enough, you CAN add just the smallest amount of baking powder to make sure your pound cake rises properly. I ONLY do this if I use a hand mixer to mix my pound cake batter, because I know then there’s a chance that I may not have incorporated enough air.
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Pound cake troubleshooting
Why is my cake so dense and heavy?
- Chances are not enough air was incorporated into the butter and sugar. This could be because the creaming time wasn’t long enough, or because the sugar, eggs or flour were incorporated too quickly.
- Solution – cream the butter until fluffy, and then incorporate the sugar in a thin stream. Add the eggs one by one, or in a stream. Add the flour in batches.
- The gluten in the flour was overworked, causing the gluten to make the cake too heavy and too dense.
- Use minimal force to incorporate the flour. Preferably, fold in the flour in batches using a spatula, or use the absolute shortest time with your stand mixer to mix in the flour on the lowest speed.
- Make sure the flour is fully incorporated too – because dry flour streaks can result in a gummy pound cake.
- Use cake flour instead of AP flour.
Why is my pound cake dense and really dry?
- Pound cake is SUPPOSED to be a little dense. But it’s not supposed to feel heavy or dry. If it’s dry, the cake may have been over-baked. The cake can also be too dry if you added too much flour (or not enough butter or sugar).
- You can try lowering the oven temperature.
- Or remove the cake from the oven a little earlier.
- Or follow the recipe exactly – and refrain from adding extra flour or reducing the amount of sugar or butter.
Why does my pound cake have a very tough crust?
- This usually happens because the oven temperature is too high. Then the crust cooks a lot faster than the inside of the cake, creating a tough crust and a soft middle.
- Lower the temperature of the oven and cook the pound cake for longer.
- Using a light colored loaf pan instead of a dark loaf pan also helps.
Why does my pound cake have gummy streaks?
- The butter and sugar were creamed too fast and too much! The cake rises, and then collapses while cooling, causing the cake to have dense, gummy (or gluey) spots.
- DON’T increase the speed of your mixer beyond medium speed. And lower the speed to the lowest setting when adding in the flour (or fold in the flour by hand).
My pound cake crust separated from my cake after baking
- If you over-beat the eggs, the air in the eggs will cause the cake to rise. It will create a crust that will rise higher than the cake (the same way that eggs can create a crust in brownies, they can create a crust in cakes as well). However, since the rest of the cake did not rise as much (since there is no baking powder etc), the crust will fall as the cake cools down, creating a wrinkled cake crust.
- Make sure to only beat the eggs to the point of incorporating the eggs. If you beat each egg for more than a minute each time, you may run into this issue.
My pound cake crust has little spots on it
- These are sugar crystals. As the cake is baking, the unmelted sugar crystals melt with the heat of the oven, causing little spots to appear on the cake crust.
- Use cane sugar that’s a little finer than granulated white sugar.
- Caster sugar is even better (super fine sugar – NOT confectioner’s sugar)
- If you can’t find caster sugar, you can process the sugar for a few seconds (a few pulses) in your food processor to turn them super fine. If you’re using measuring cups, make sure to WEIGH THE SUGAR FIRST before putting it through the food processor.
My pound cake sunk in the middle
- This classic pound cake should not sink in the middle, unless the cake was under-baked or extra liquid was added.
- If you’re using salted butter, try the cake with unsalted butter, and eliminate all other extra liquids (if you added milk for example)
- Bake the cake for longer.
My cake overflowed from the cake pan (8 x 4 inch loaf pan)
- If you over-beat the eggs, or beat the butter and sugar too fast, or added too much baking powder, the cake can rise too much and flow over the edges of the pan.
- Reduce the mixing time and don’t use high speed to mix the ingredients.
- If you prefer to use baking powder, consider using a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, instead of a 8 x 4 inch loaf pan.