Classic Pound Cake
The trick here is that there is none: it’s a traditional “pound” cake made with equal parts butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Back in the day of easy grocery runs and well-stocked kitchens, I tested dozens of pound cakes, most of which included the modern additions of milk, cream, cream cheese or sour cream. In a blind tasting test, this tried-and-true recipe regularly outperformed the competition.
Most baked products taste best right out of the oven, but pound cake improves with age. Its buttery egginess intensifies in flavor, and its fine-crumb texture smooths out. It’s the sort of cake that slices easily, so you get to enjoy a thin sliver or thick wedge anytime. Sturdy and firm, it packs up nicely for front-door dropoffs, hospital deliveries and mailed packages.
Pound cakes are an excellent way to communicate how much you miss someone, to thank those who serve society, or to cheer up a buddy who is depressed.
The only change I’ve made to the basic recipe is to increase the salt. I use a lot of vanilla because it perfumes the cake without overpowering, but if you’re not a fan of vanilla, you can try other extracts, such as almond, rum, coffee, lemon, orange or a combination.
The approach is dead simple: you can’t go wrong, but you may strive for perfection. Begin by getting your butter and eggs to room temperature; components that are the same temperature bond together better. The butter should not be soft or greasy, but it should be malleable enough to indent when pressed.
This fine-textured cake should be dense but also light, a paradox that makes sense once you take a bite. You achieve it by beating the butter and sugar to their airiest possible state. The mixture will be almost white and fluffy. Unless you want a workout, I suggest using an electric mixer.
While beating, you then slowly pour in the eggs bit by bit, letting each addition fully blend into the mix before adding the next. If you hurry it, the batter will separate and split into clumps. Stop mixing as soon as all of the egg has been included. Overbeating the batter after the eggs have been added causes tunneling, which is the appearance of holes running through otherwise picture-perfect cakes. Lastly, the flour should be gently mixed in on low speed or by hand to avoid harshness in the end result.
This mixture works well in a loaf pan, however the sides tend to be drier than the middle. Using a Bundt or other tube pan allows for more uniform baking. Be sure to thoroughly oil and flour the pan you’re using. It’s OK if the cake becomes stuck. Just save whatever pieces came out whole (and eat the stuck scraps), trim off their raggedy edges and wrap them up to gift. The true delight of this cake comes from sharing it with others.