Pound cake is a very traditional (and old) recipe that I think doesn’t get the attention it deserves. These cakes are dense and soft, and easy to make. A good pound cake will be buttery, and just the right amount of sweet. The recipe in this post is a pound cake with a touch of lemon, lightly sweet whipped cream and a dreamy strawberry rhubarb compote to give it some tartness. A pound cake like this really feels summery to me. And honestly, I just really needed cake this week. Anyone else?
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A Brief Pound Cake History
Historians tend to agree that the pound cake first came about in Northern Europe in the early 1700s (specifically England).The recipe gets its name from the weights of the 4 main ingredients. 1 lb each of butter, flour, sugar and eggs. Even then there seem to be plenty of additional ingredients added for flavour depending on the baker. Now most recipes include slightly different amounts and normally have vanilla or lemons or alcohol. The earliest recipe I could find was from 1747, and goes like this:
“To Make A Pound Cake: Take a Pound of Butter, beat it in an earthen Pan, with your Hand one Way, till it is like a fine thick Cream; then have ready twelve Eggs, but half the Whites, beat them well, and beat them up with the Butter, a Pound of Flour beat in it, and a Pound of Sugar, and a few Carraways; beat it all well together for an Hour with your Hand, or a great wooden Spoon. Butter a Pan, and put it in and bake it an Hour in a quick Oven. For Change, you may put in a Pound of Currants cleaned wash’d and pick’d.”—The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse, facsimile 1747 London reprint [Prospect Books:Devon] 1995 ( p. 139)
A Recipe with many Variations
The above book has actually been reprinted multiple times, so for anyone interested in reading more old recipes you can buy it on Amazon here. Pound cake recipes show up throughout early American history, and gain slight changes over the years. More modern recipes sometimes include leavening agents to help make the cake a bit lighter. While others swap out the butter for cream cheese or sour cream to help keep the cake moist. Through the last few hundred years, pound cake seems to be something that we all love so much, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.
My Pound Cake Lesson
I learned to make pound cake while at school, being taught by French chefs, so it was pretty traditional. And I’ve used that recipe ever since, because I love it. Side note, a pound cake in French is called “quartre-quarts” or four quarters, in reference to the four ingredients. This pound cake is very dense, and because of this needs a good amount of whipping to get air into the batter. As well as whipping, I always soak my cakes in simple syrup after they’re baked to help keep them moist. You can also soak them in rum, brandy or in the Mexican style, with wine.
It’s a Very Decadent Cake
While making this cake, I wanted something decadent and a bit silly (it’s very tall) so I baked the cakes in two 8” round pans, and then stacked them. This was fun and delicious and looked beautiful, but was hard to cut. If you don’t want the challenge of cutting your pound cake, I recommend making two single layer cakes, or one large rectangular cake. Basically, whipped cream isn’t super strong, and has a bit of trouble holding up the second layer without squishing out the sides. Not the end of the world, since it ends up just coating the whole cake in “icing” but for looks it could be classier and less silly.
The compote recipe to go on top of the pound cake, is super yummy. The recipe makes slightly more than you need, so don’t worry if you can’t use it all. It makes a delicious jam, or a spread for cheese platters. It’s also pretty yummy on top of grilled pork. Store any excess in the fridge in a sealed jar.
If you’re craving more rhubarb recipes, check out this Rhubarb Cider Jam or this Pork Tenderloin with Stewed Apples & Rhubarb. Or if Pound Cake isn’t quite the dessert you’re looking for, how about some decadent Sourdough Brownies.
Lemon Pound Cake
- 1 lb Salted Butter at room temperature. 454g
- 1 lb Sugar 454g
- 1 lb Eggs This is about 10-12 eggs. As you're weight is getting close to 1lb, crack your last eggs into a bowl and beat them lightly to break them up, so that you can use partial eggs if needed.
- 1 lb All Purpose Flour 454g. AP Flour is better than cake flour here, because it is stronger and can hold up the weight of this cake.
- Zest of 1 Lemon
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
- 3 cups Rhubarb cut into chunks
- 4 cups Strawberries halved or quartered
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp Cornstarch Dissolved in 2 tbsp cold water to create a slurry
- 2 cups Whipping Cream
- 1 cup Icing Sugar Sifted
- 2 cups Water
- 1 cup Sugar
- Heat your oven to 375F. Line 2 8" round cake tins with parchment, set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- One at a time, add the eggs, and beat each one in thoroughly after adding. Add the vanilla and lemon zest.
- Finally add the flour and carefully incorporate with a spatula or wooden spoon. Carefully, because you don't want flour getting everywhere, but you want to keep as much of the air in the batter as possible.
- Divide the batter between both pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown, and springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack completely before topping.
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
- Prepare the compote while the cake is baking.
- Combine the strawberries, rhubarb, and sugar in a pot over medium low heat. Stir regularly until the fruit has broken down and released it's liquid.
- Gently simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Next, add the cornstarch slurry and continue to simmer gently until the compote has thickened up. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
- If you want a quite tall, and a bit silly cake like the one I made then by all means stack your two cakes. If you are looking for something a little easier to deal with, simply top both your rounds and live an easier life.
- Make your whipped cream by whipping the cream to soft peaks. Add the sifted icing sugar and continue to whip until firm peaks form. Set aside in the fridge until you're ready to use.
- Make the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a pot over medium low heat, until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
- Cut the tops off your cake rounds to flatten them. Place your first cake onto the plate you will serve it on. Very generously brush the cut top of the cake with simple syrup. Don't be afraid to really go to town with the syrup.
- Next spread half the whipped cream onto the top of the cake. I don't spread it down the sides because I like the "naked cake" look.
- Now top the whipped cream with about 3/4-1cup of the compote. The cake can be served as is, or you can top the other half in the same way, and gently place it on top of the first half. Chill the cake(s) in the fridge for a couple hours, loosely covered with plastic wrap.
- Serve with a big glass of lemonade and enjoy!