This classic plain Pound Cake is the simplest cake you’ll ever make. I’ve stripped the traditional recipe back to basics to make an easy loaf cake that is plain in name but not in nature. Pound cake is a staple in the southern states of America and now I know why!
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“Pound cake” is something that has always been in my periphery. But as something that is made often on US shows on Food Network. Something that The Pioneer Woman whips up or Ina Garten uses a store bought version of as a recipe base.
So as my obsession with both simple classic bakes and American food is strong, it was inevitable that I would one day master this traditional cake. And I think I have!
For another of my American bake obsessions, check out my Classic French Silk Pie recipe.
This recipe is for the simplest of pound cakes. I use the all in one method to end up with a denser sponge. I’ve used butter rather than a margarine because the flavour is prominent and the heavier fat creates the desired texture. And I’ve baked it in a loaf tin for that classic look and easy slicing.
And importantly, my recipe is for a half pound cake! If you want to make a full pound cake, you will need to make 2 loaves or use a good size bundt tin instead.
What is Pound Cake?
In its simplest form, a pound cake is a plain sponge cake made with equal one pound quantities of butter, sugar, eggs and flour.
Whilst it inevitably began life in Northern Europe, it was strongly embraced in North America with the first printed recipe appearing there in the late 18th century.
Over the years the recipe has been thoroughly tinkered with and during my research I was barely able to find one recipe which stayed true to its equal quantity 4 ingredient origins.
I did however come across lemon pound cakes, orange pound cakes, cream cheese pound cakes and every other flavour adaptation you could think of. The ingredients are very often supplemented with milk, sour cream or other ingredients and they’re rarely added in equal quantities.
Largely the cakes do remain baked in a loaf tin and for the most part, undecorated. Others are baked in a ring or bundt tin and some involve glazes and even frostings.
To those of us familiar with traditional British bakes, an equal quantity sponge cake is not unfamiliar…
What is the difference between Pound Cake and Victoria Sponge?
The difference between these two cakes is actually very minimal. The ingredients and quantities are basically the same. But a Victoria sponge does tend to be made much lighter by using the creaming method.
And of course it is baked in round tins and sandwiched with jam. And buttercream if you’re a heathen like me. My Victoria Sandwich Cake recipe has much more information about the traditional recipe and how and why I’ve tweaked it.
What is the difference between Pound Cake and Madeira Cake?
Madeira cake is a plain loaf or round cake that is quite dense in texture. It is not made with equal quantity ingredients but with significantly more flour. The two cakes are however in my mind at least, very similar.
Many Madeira cake recipes I’ve found also include lemon as a significant flavouring. This isn’t something I recall from the store bought versions that I used to eat covered in evaporated milk. But nevertheless does appear traditional.
What is the difference between Pound Cake and Butter Cake?
That will be the butter. Butter cake is another common simple cake which is popular in North America. It did start life as a pound cake. But unsurprisingly the amount of butter used in it increased to intensify the buttery flavour.
How to Serve Simple Pound Cake
This is where the simplicity of the pound cake comes into its own. Being a plain sponge, it works as a vehicle to almost any fruit, flavour and application.
I love to pile on fresh strawberries or a quick strawberry compote and lashings of whipped cream. Being British, to me this involves simply whipping double/heavy cream.
The US version of whipped cream involves sugar and often vanilla flavouring. We would call this a chantilly cream in the UK. Both would be excellent toppings. And I am partial to some synthetic “squirty cream” from a can too!
Any fruits and any flavour ice cream would also jazz up a slice of pound cake. Think fresh figs and vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of honey. Or chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce (go hard or go home!)
Pound cake makes an excellent base for trifles and various layered desserts and even ice cream sundaes. This is a perfect time to use homemade fruit curds too. Try my Peach Curd or Plum Curd for a smooth fruity hit.
It can also be sliced and fried in butter before serving for extra decadence and flavour.
But don’t think for a second that it requires adornment. A simple slice of cake and a cup of tea is quite frankly perfection. I do like it warmed a little though.
Make Pound Cake into a Feast
I truly believe that you can make any dish into a proper feast! Whether thats a feast for one after work on a Tuesday, a casual feast for four on a Friday evening or a feast for 12 for a special occasion!
And finish off with some other small cakes like Sticky Toffee Cupcakes. Simple and perfect, just don’t forget the cups of tea. And maybe glasses of something bubbly!
Don’t forget to head over to my Feast Collection pages to find all of my tips and tricks to help you host a fun and stress-free feast. Plus remember to check out my recipe index to create your own awesome Feast!
Ingredients for All-in-One Loaf Cake
I always use salted butter. The salt brings out the flavour of the butter and of the final bake. And in a simple sponge cake like this, the salt is essential to ensuring that the cake its flavourful and more than a sum of its parts.
If you must insist on keeping unsalted butter in your life, you will need to add salt to the batter. I would recommend a 1/4 tsp of fine sea salt or 1/2 tsp of sea salt flakes for the amounts stated in the recipe.
Whichever butter you use, it must be soft before using. As this is an all-in-one method cake, cold butter will not incorporate properly and will affect the finished bake.
I have tried the recipe using a light margarine. And it made a beautifully light and soft loaf cake. Unsurprisingly it lacked a little of the flavour but the texture was fabulous. It really wasn’t in keeping with what a traditional pound cake should be, so I’ve stuck with butter in the recipe. But if you want to swap, feel free to do it.
I have used caster (superfine) sugar in all of my recipe tests. This is pretty much the standard for baking. But if I didn’t have any, I’d happily substitute in regular/granulated sugar.
Please just make sure it is white sugar that you are using. Any brown sugars will change the texture and taste of the cake. And may well affect the baking times and rise too. Please don’t start me on reducing the sugar in recipes. Have halve a slice instead if you’re that concerned.
I don’t stress too much over egg sizes. I generally use UK large eggs. You can find various international equivalents here in Charlotte’s post all about eggs. Unless you intend to use very large or very small eggs, generally whichever most of us have in our houses will be suitable.
Just like the butter the eggs need to be room temperature. If you live in a country like the US where the egg’s natural protective covering is washed off so you need to keep them in the fridge, take them out in plenty of time.
If you live somewhere like the UK, you should be fine. Unless you do keep them in the fridge, in which case stoppit, you don’t need to!
I’ve found that using self raising flour (self rising) makes the perfect pound cake. If you only have plain (all purpose) flour, you can add baking powder to create your own self raising flour. Charlotte has another helpful guide about how to do this.
I don’t bother sieving or faffing about with the flour in any way – just throw it in the mixing bowl.
There are a million ways to play around with this recipe.
You can simply add a tablespoon of vanilla extract or some lemon or orange zest. Or stir through some dried or soaked fruit or chocolate chips.
You could add a simple water or lemon icing glaze or go for a full on frosting.
You can also turn it into a full chocolate or other flavoured cake. But exercise caution. The addition of melted chocolate or flavourings like cocoa powder will change the texture and bake of the cake. So please do experiment. But know that tinkering might not result in guaranteed success.
My Fiery Ginger Loaf Cake is a lighter version of a pound cake with fierce ginger flavouring and a ginger buttercream topping. For variations, that’s a great place to start.
I wouldn’t recommend using this recipe for cupcakes.
Make it Vegetarian or Vegan
This pound cake recipe is suitable for vegetarians.
To make a vegan pound cake is much trickier. The butter is relatively easy to substitute with a vegan equivalent but the eggs are harder. Using a liquid egg replacer will be the best alternative. But I haven’t tested this approach.
Make it Allergy Friendly
This recipe is free from nuts.
Gluten Free: Replacing the flour with a good gluten free flour blend will work. But please remember that you will need to add gluten free baking powder too.
Dairy Free: Replace the butter with a dairy free substitute. Try to look for one that is attempting to have a buttery taste as it is an important flavour in the pound cake.
Egg Free: Please see my comments about regarding making a vegan pound cake.
Please note that this recipe may contain other allergens not referred to above and any variations suggested have not been tested unless otherwise stated. For more information regarding any dietary information provided on this website, please refer to my Nutritional Disclaimer.
Equipment Notes for Pound Loaf Cake
I use my trusty stand mixer to make almost all of my cakes nowadays. The regular paddle attachment makes light work of the all-in-one mixing method.
If you don’t have a stand mixer (and I didn’t for many many years), I highly recommend investing in a hand held electric mixer. This will do just as good a job. Please make sure that you use a good sized mixing bowl to ensure the ingredients don’t fly everywhere.
You can beat the mixture by hand but it is quite hard work to get a decently light batter.
A 2lb Loaf Tin is the right size for the given recipe size (225g/8oz/8 slices). The same can be used for a (175g/6oz/6 slice) version. A slightly larger (275g/10oz/10 slice) version will just fit.
A smaller 1lb Loaf Tin will be more suitable for smaller cakes. For larger cakes I would recommend making multiple cakes rather than looking for a larger tin. Remember that the cooking time will change with any of these variations.
A comprehensive list of the equipment used to make this recipe is included in the main recipe card below. Click on any item to see an example. There are no hard and fast rules so many items can be sensibly substituted to achieve the same results.
Pound cake freezes like a dream. So it is ideal for getting ahead. You can also make it, slice it and then freeze the individual slices. Simply leave to defrost and eat/use.
You can also make the cake up to three days in advance. Wrap it will in clingfilm to retain moisture and store in an airtight container.
Leftover Pound Cake
As I’ve mentioned above, this cake freezes like a dream so that is an easy option to consider. Cake like this is also an ideal candidate for being used in Russian Slice. Russian slice is literally designed to use up stale cake so it is highly recommended!
Pound Cake Making Tips
Do make sure to line your loaf tin. I prefer ready made parchment liners. Just make sure they’re the right size for your loaf pan.
If you adjust the quantities of the recipe, remember that the cooking time will need to be adjusted too.
And remember that all ovens are different. Check the cake earlier than the full cooking time. And be prepared for it to take a little longer.
For a lighter sponge, use margarine instead of butter.
Do make sure the cake is cooked all the way through. This is a not a cake that benefits from a gooey middle.
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you try making this recipe – I want to know what you think and if you made any substitutions, how did it turn out?
Still Have Questions?
Simple! Just contact me and I will do my best to help as quickly as I am able. Head over to my Contact Me page, any of my social media channels or post a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll see what I can do.
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Pound Cake (Easy Loaf Cake)
- 225 g Salted Butter
- 225 g Caster Sugar (Superfine Sugar)
- 225 g Self Raising Flour (Self-Rising)
- 4 Eggs
- First ensure that all the ingredients are at room temperature. Especially the butter.
- Turn the oven on to 160c fan | 150c | 300f and line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
- Measure 225g Salted Butter, 225g Caster Sugar and 225g Self Raising Flour directly into a mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl. Crack in 4 Eggs.
- Use an electric whisk or stand mixer to beat the ingredients until they are combined into a smooth mass. Make sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is properly incorporated. Don’t be tempted to keep beating. It might get airy-er but you’ll also make the cake tough.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf tin.
- Smooth the batter and make sure it is reaching the corners etc.
- Bake for circa 55 minutes. As all ovens tend to bake a little differently, I would recommend setting a timer for 40 minutes and start checking at that point. To check if the cake is baked, insert a skewer into the very middle of the cake. If it comes out at all wet, the cake is not ready. This is not a time for gooey cake. Alternatively listen to the cake. If you can hear it sizzling away, it is not yet ready.
- Once baked, leave the cake to cool in the tin on a rack until cool enough to handle. Turn the cake out and allow to cool further. The cake can be served warm if you prefer.