Every baker’s must-have starter recipe for a sweet and buttery vanilla pound cake! Decadently rich and deliciously moist, the pound cake a must-try for butter cake lovers.
I felt wickedly guilty making this today. As I was weighing out the butter, sugar and eggs, I couldn’t help thinking that there’s tub-loads here, enough to possibly clog my arteries for good, and turn me into a diabetic overnight. Seriously, this is sooo good on so many levels, I don’t know where to begin.
Let me just say, a pound cake is not for the faint-hearted or the health-conscious. But what’s a gal to do, when tucking into a slice, or two (gasp!), of this decadently rich, moist, buttery confection makes me feel insanely happy and inexplicably contented!
I’ll never forget my first taste of pound cake. It came in a chilled loaf box, packaged under the Sara Lee brand. Not only had I never tasted pound cake, but I most certainly never had chilled cake. Somehow, it was the most unusual, but amazingly delicious slice I ever had then. I was very young, so it didn’t take much to impress me, especially when stuff comes in sweet forms… like cake!
Nonetheless, the flavour of pound cake, and the brand behind it, Sara Lee, were indelibly imprinted into my consciousness. In fact, I was so taken by this cake as a little girl, that I used to wonder, who was ‘Sara Lee’? I wanted to write to ‘her’ to say how much I loved this pound cake! And to ask please, could my bake-crazy sister have the recipe so that she could make it for me whenever I wanted some? Aaah yes… the musings of an 8-year old, no less.
So what makes a pound cake so unique? Isn’t it a butter cake? Well, yes…, but with the butter factor ramped up a couple of notches. The original recipe which first appeared in English and American cookbooks in the 18th century, called for one pound each of flour, butter, sugar and eggs. Think of it as having equal parts of each of these ingredients, or a 1:1:1:1 ratio.
By most accounts, the pound cake was the source and inspiration for the American butter cake, having been brought to America from England during the 1700’s. Most recipes today are variations of the original constitution of ingredients, often flavoured with vanilla or lemon, but typically sharing characteristics unique to pound cakes. They are denser, more compact than the average butter cake, extremely moist, and oozing with pure, sweet buttery flavour.
My favourite versions of pound cake are the traditional ones flavoured simply with vanilla, or, when I’m craving for one with subtle hints of a light, tangy flavour, with lemon. What about you? Have yet to make your first pound cake? Well, I’ve got just the perfect starter recipe for you!
Have a go at this recipe for classic pound cake by the late Mrs Leong Yee Soo, one of Singapore’s culinary matriachs of Peranakan or Straits Nonya cuisine, from her cookbook, ‘The Best of Singapore Cooking’. Her cake recipes are truly some of the best I’ve made, and by sharing them here, I can be confident that you’re getting a true, tried and tested recipe. Enjoy your pound cake warm, chilled, or (and this may surprise you somewhat), slightly toasted!
- 227 g butter, unsalted cubed, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 3 drops almond or rose essence
- 6 egg yolks
- 225 g sugar plus 1 tsp sugar
- 6 egg whites
- 170 g plain flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Pre-heat oven to a medium 150 deg C (300 deg F). Place the oven rack in the bottom one-third of your oven. Grease and lightly flour the base and sides of a loaf pan (20 cm x 11.5 cm x 6.5 cm) or cake tin of your choice. Shake off the excess flour.
- In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter till light and fluffy at medium speed (speed 3 on a Kitchen Aid mixer), about 8-10 minutes. Add vanilla and almond (or rose) essences, mix till well blended.
- In a cleaned mixer bowl, using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip egg yolks with sugar on high speed (speed 4 on a Kitchen Aid mixer) until mixture turns pale and thick. Transfer to a separate bowl, wash the mixer bowl and ensure that it is completely dry and grease-free.
- In a cleaned and dry mixer bowl, whisk egg whites with 1 tsp sugar till stiff peaks form.
- Fold the creamed butter into the egg yolk mixture. Sift in the flour and salt, and fold till well combined. Lastly, gently fold the egg whites into the batter till well combined.
- Pour cake batter into a greased loaf pan (or cake tin of your choice), and level the surface. Gently tap the pan a few times on the work surface to eliminate air pockets. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until a metal or bamboo skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges free of batter.
- When done, remove the pan from the oven, let cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve warm, chilled or lightly toasted.