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What makes a pound cake pound cake?

If someone asked you how much the average pound cake weighs, would you say a pound? If that’s the case, you’ve been duped by this oddly called dessert favorite.

The pound cake, a delectable delicacy often baked in a bundt or loaf pan, is a popular treat, particularly in the Southern states. Yet, the term does not stem from the weight of the finished dessert. It’s more of a hint at the ingredient list, a vestige from a period when recipes were mostly handed down verbally.

Pound cake initially appeared in Britain in the early 1700s. Since the typical person could neither read or write at the period, recipes that could be quickly disseminated by word of mouth were the most popular. Pound cake also required inexpensive materials that most families could afford, which contributed to its appeal. The oldest recipes for pound cake call for a pound each of sugar, eggs, butter and flour; two variations of these types of pound cakes can be found in Amelia Simmons’ famous 1796 book, American Cookery. Assuming that both recipes asked for one pound of components, a genuine pound cake would weigh about four pounds overall.

The modest pound cake’s construction has grown to include several variants on the initial premise. Most recipes do not ask for a pound of eggs, flour, sugar, or butter. Some people use oil to make a moister pound cake, while others use sour cream to add tang. In fact, even in the 18th century, if you wanted pound cake, you didn’t have to prepare a four-pound cake. Since the cake suggested equal proportions, chefs in 1700 could use a quarter pound of each ingredient and still produce a pound cake. (In that case, a pound cake would weigh the same as its name).

Of course, contemporary pound cakes may be done up in ways that the dessert’s creators could never have imagined. If you’re fond of pound cake and looking for a new way to serve it, try making stuffed pound cake by filling the cake’s center with a thick, sweet mixture (like this cookies-and-cream cheese). You may also use a seasonal icing, such as pumpkin, or add buttermilk for a tangy taste boost. The logic behind pound cake’s name might not be as intuitive in the present day, but the dessert itself will always be a popular favorite.