March 4th is the perfect day to give in to that craving you have been having for pound cake. After all, if you can’t have pound cake on National Pound Cake Day, when can you have it? Pound cake is one of the most versatile cakes. It deserves to have its own day and be celebrated.
If you don’t know, traditional pound cakes were named for the ratio of ingredients that are in the cake. One pound of flour, one pound of sugar, one pound of eggs and one pound of sugar. Simple and easy to remember. This recipe makes a rich, delicious, heavy cake.
Pound cake has been around since the early 17th century. It originated in Northern Europe and the original recipe made a cake large enough to feed a crowd. Recipes today have been modified to make a smaller cake, but still have the same ratio. The pound cake was originally for people that were unable to read. As all measurements were for a pound each of the four ingredients, it was simple enough that reading was not required to accomplish making this cake.
There are many variations today of the delicious dessert. There is a sour cream pound cake, a vanilla flavored pound cake, or an almond flavored pound cake. In the 1900’s, baking soda or baking powder began to be added to introduce airiness to the dense cake. Previously, it was only the air mixed into the batter by beating it. Sometimes dried fruits are added to give flavor for the cake. Other times, butter is replaced by vegetable or cooking oil to retain some moisture within.
Pound cake is so popular that other countries have the same recipe, but call it by other names. In France, the cake is called “quarte-quarts” or “four quarters” referring to a quarter being a pound.
In the Caribbean, rum and bananas are added for a popular Christmas eve treat.
In Venezuela and Columbia, the cake is called “ponque” which is a close pronunciation to “pound,” and is soaked with wine and covered with a cream and sugar coating.
The Mexican version is much like the American version, but is called “panque.”
The German called their version of the pound cake Eischwerteig mit Fett, which translates loosely to “egg-weight dough with fat.” The ingredients are measured in “egg weights” but it ends up being approximately the same ratio as our popular traditional dessert.
Here is a recipe for the traditional pound cake:
1 pound sugar (2 cups)
1 pound butter
1 pound flour (3-1/2 cups)
1 pound eggs (9 large)
1 to 2 tablespoons vanilla or 1/2 to 1 tablespoon almond
Preheat the oven to 300°. You will need one bundt pan and one bread loaf pan. If you don’t have a bundt pan, then you will need two or three bread loaf pans.
First, cream butter well, then gradually add the sugar. Mix them together until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat after each. Add in the flour gradually and beat well until smooth. Pour the batter into your prepared pans. Bake for approximately one hour and 15 minutes.
One of the secrets to making a perfect pound cake is bringing all ingredients to room temperature before starting. Make sure the butter and eggs are warmed to room temperature so you create a batter that will not let you down.
A fluted bundt pan is the most popular style of pan to bake the pound cake in as there is more surface area touching the metal to create that golden-brown crust that pound cakes are known for. A bread loaf pan can also be a popular choice.
Before baking your pound cake, check your oven to make sure it is calibrated correctly, which is highly recommended. Placing a thermometer in the oven before heating it will help you check to make sure that 350 degrees really is 350 degrees. A few degrees off can really change the texture and outcome of your cake.
The versatility of pound cakes is part of what makes them so popular. They are delicious plain, but the addition of chocolate, caramel sauce or many different types of fruit can change the pound cake into many different types of dessert.
By adding a flavored liquor into the batter, the texture and flavor of the cake can be changed into something totally different. Amaretto, an Italian-flavored liquor, is a favorite as it enhances the heavy texture and flavor of the cake. Served with a strong coffee with rich cream, it doesn’t get any more decadent than that!
Pound cake can either be dressed up with a thick, creamy frosting or simplified with a plain drizzle of icing. Either way, the pound cake adapts to the occasion.
Pound cakes are popular as a wedding cake, birthday cake or just any day cake. It’s no wonder the pound cake deserves its own day on March 4th. Make sure to celebrate with a pound cake of your own.