Pound Cake: Traditional or with Poppy Seeds

Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon Pound Cake

by Cat, May 2012 (Photo, right, from Tish Boyle’s blog (1); be sure to try her recipe for Lemon Pound Cake with Wild Blueberry Sauce (or with Montana Huckleberry Sauce) (1))

Includes: 1. Traditional, Classic Pound Cake; 2. Poppy Seed Pound Cake Variation

See also: 1. Aerating Eggs & Sugar, such as for egg-leavened cakes; 2. Cakes & Torte’s Menu

Pound cake is an egg-leavened cake, related to Sponge Cake and Genoise. It’s name comes from some old hand-me-down recipes that called for a pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. They are typically baked in a loaf pan, like the Lemon Pound Cake pictured above, or a Bundt (tube) cake pan.

It is very dense and rich, yet surprisingly light.

Traditional, Classic Pound Cake

This recipe is adapted from FineCooking.com and The Art of Fine Baking, by Paula Peck. (I prefer the mixing method of the latter source). Modern recipes have refined the original ‘pound’ recipe a bit, adding lemon or vanilla, and fine-tuning the amount of each of the main ingredients to produce a smaller, lighter cake with a fine crumb.

This cake uses no moisture except what is in the eggs and vanilla extract, so coming up with a way to presoak the flour is a challenge. For that reason, I recommend using Organic unbleached white flour and no whole grain flour (or very little).

The cake also depends on the chemistry of sugar working with the butter and eggs for proper texture, so I don’t recommend total substitution of the sugar with something else; see Sweet substitutes for sugar (in my Aerating Eggs & Sugar, such as for egg-leavened cakes post), for my recommended substitutions.using stevia for more than ¼ of the sweet (mix of ¾ cup sugar and ¼ tsp stevia extract powder for each cup of sugar in the recipe). However, my preference for reducing sugar in egg-leavened recipes is to use part sweet dairy whey (see the Aerating post for details), as in my version of the recipe below.

The temperature of the butter is important for the batter to aerate properly – it should be neither hard nor melted. Remove from fridge and let it sit at room temperature while you gather ingredients. Then test by pressing your thumb firmly against its surface: it should offer some resistance to your pressure, and your thumb should leave just a slight indentation.

Serves 6 – 8.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature but not melted; plus 1 Tbsp soft butter
  • 1 ¾ cup flour, sifted
  • ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar (or mix of ¾ cup plus 1 Tbsp superfine sugar & 7 Tbsp sweet dairy whey)
  • unrefined powdered sugar, such as Rapadura brand or Make Your Own (for dusting; optional)


  • 8.5” x 4.5” x 2.75” loaf pan, or tube pan of equivalent volume
  • 2 medium bowls
  • 2 large bowls (including stand mixer bowl)
  • bain-marie (see Intro, above)
  • egg whip
  • hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with egg whip and later with paddle
  • wooden spoon
  • rubber or silicon spatula

Method using electric mixer:

(see Aerating Eggs & Sugar, such as for egg-leavened cakes for example of alternate method using hand-operated mixer or whisk)

  1. Preheat oven with rack in center position. Set oven to 325°F if using loaf pan, or 350°F if using a tube pan. Coat the loaf pan with the 1 Tbsp soft butter, then line the bottom with parchment cut to fit the bottom.
  2. Let eggs and butter warm to room temperature (in the shells). You won’t need the butter until later in the method.
  3. Crack eggs into top of bain-marie (see Intro, above) and whisk just enough to break them up and combine.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk flour and salt together in medium bowl. Combine sugar(s) in other medium bowl.
  5. Add sugar(s) to eggs, whisking to mix (by hand or with stand mixer on medium-high speed). Heat water in lower part of bain-marie to just barely simmering (use a simmer plate). Set top of bain-marie containing the egg/sugar mix over the warm water and let warm about 10 minutes, until the eggs are just lukewarm, stirring every once in a while so they don’t begin to cook. This heating helps them to beat up really fluffy in the next step.
  6. Now whip warmed egg/sugar mixture until cool, thickened, lightened in color and tripled in volume (3 – 4 minutes with mixer; more if by hand).
  7. If using stand mixer, clean its bowl thoroughly and fit with paddle attachment, transfer mixture to the stand’s bowl for beating, then transfer to another large bowl and set aside, so the stand’s cleaned bowl can be used to cream the butter & flour.
  8. Add flour/salt mixture to butter in clean large bowl (or cleaned stand-mixer bowl); cream together until smooth and creamy (medium-low speed of mixer, or by hand with wooden spoon), about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and cream again until combined, about 1 minute more.
  9. Add about ¼ of the beaten eggs to the butter/flour mix and quickly stir together. Then dump this mixture over remaining beaten eggs, and fold gently until combined. Do not over-mix. Using your clean, bare hand is best for this but you could use a spatula.
  10. Spoon or pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top with spatula or back of a large soup spoon. Bank pan on counter two times to remove air pockets. Place in oven and bake until the top is golden-brown, the sides begin to pull away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted slightly off center into the cake (not the crack) comes out clean. This take about 80 minutes at 325°F if using a loaf pan. A tube pan will take less time, about 50 – 60 minutes at 350°F. If it is browning too much on top, make a tent of aluminum foil and rest it loosely on top of the cake (if the cake is above the top of the pan, lightly oil the foil).
  11. Transfer to a wire rack for cooling at least 20 minutes before removing from pan.
  12. To serve, dust top with confectioners sugar, if desired. Slice cake in ½” slices or small wedges and serve with lemon curd or with fruit and whipped cream as for shortcake.

Variation: Poppy-seed Pound Cake

Make as above but add 2 tsp poppy seeds to butter-flour mixture when creaming together


  1. Tish Boyle’s Blog, recipe for lemon pound cake with wild blueberry sauce (tishboyle.blogspot.com/2011/02/lemon-pound-cake-with-wild-blueberry.html
  2. FineCooking.com recipe (finecooking.com/recipes/classic-pound-cake.aspx)
  3. The Art of Fine Baking, by Paula Peck (see Beloved Cookbooks)

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