Pound cake is a dessert cake popular in the US — especially in the South — as well as some parts of Europe and Latin America. It is often loaf-shaped and is golden yellow in color, with a rich, buttery flavor and a medium to heavy density. Pound cake derives its name from the fact that it traditionally contains one pound (453.59 grams) of each of its four ingredients: flour, eggs, sugar, and butter. Many variations on this traditional recipe have been developed over time, most of which alter the texture or flavor of the cake. A great many of these variations preserve the practice of using equal measures of the recipe’s main ingredients, however.
The substantial quantities of ingredients called for by a traditional pound cake recipe results in a fairly large cake that may turn stale before it can be fully consumed. In order to avoid waste, many modern bakers choose to make smaller cakes by reducing the quantity of each of these ingredients while maintaining a one-to-one ratio. For instance, rather than using one pound (453.59 grams) of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar, a baker might use half a pound (226.79 grams) of each of these.
Traditional pound cake can grow dry quite quickly. In order to promote a moist texture that resists dryness, certain cooks substitute alternate ingredients for some or all of the cake’s butter. Common substitutions include vegetable oil and sour cream. While vegetable oil can create a very moist cake, many find it lacks the rich, pleasant flavor of butter. Sour cream typically creates a moist cake with a tangy flavor, which some find unpalatable, but others feel is an improvement on the taste of normal pound cake.
Other pound cake recipes call for the addition of various flavoring agents to give the cake’s taste an additional layer of complexity. Two of the most common flavoring extracts used in pound cake are vanilla and almond extracts. Also commonly used are fruit juices and extracts, such as lemon, strawberry, or pineapple flavoring.
European interpretations of the traditional pound cake often call for the addition of finely chopped dried fruits, such as raisins, currants, and glacé cherries, to the cake’s batter. Some recipes also incorporate nuts, which are either baked into the cake or used as part of a topping mixture. Still others call for the inclusion of cocoa powder, which infuses the cake with a chocolate flavor.