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Really, Shouldn't it be Called Four-Pound Cake?

†What is a TRUE pound cake? My mother's recipe, taught to me when I was a child, consisted of 12 eggs, separated, a pound each of sifted flour, sugar, and butter, plus a dash of salt, and 2 teaspoons of flavoring (your choice). There was no baking powder, soda, or milk included. This made a dense, rich, finely textured cake. Over the years I've tried other recipes, calling for different ratios of eggs to butter to sugar to flour. Some included baking soda and/or baking powder and/or milk. The results have also varied. Some result in very light, finely textured cakes; some not so light, and some not so finely textured. Please clarify for me what it is that makes it a pound cake — is it the recipe, the appearance, or the taste?

†Face it, the minute a recipe comes out, someone wants to change it. In this case, it may have taken a couple of centuries, but no one was going to leave the pound cake alone — not even if the name tells you exactly how to make it!

You are right in the implications of your tirade — a pound cake was always made with a pound each of eggs, butter, sugar, and flour. The texture is dense if the eggs are added whole and much lighter if the egg whites are beaten separately and then folded into the rest of the batter. Either way, you wind up with a rich, buttery cake that is a perfect background for additional flavorings.

Nowadays, many people think that the original recipe produces a cake that is too dry and heavy and/or too rich, so they have set about repairing these deficiencies. If they add baking powder or soda, eggs arenít the only leavening agent, and the quantity of eggs can be reduced. If they add milk, which helps strengthen the cake's structure, again, you can reduce the number of eggs, and, at the same time, add moisture. Many recipes we have seen follow today's popular "high-ratio" cake formula, which includes more sugar and shortening, for added sweetness and moistness.

The only quibble we have with your mother's recipe is that she must have used small eggs. Large eggs (the default in any modern recipe that doesn't specify egg size) run nine to a pound.

Here are a couple of recipes — one for the Traditional Pound Cake of the ages, the other for a more modern High-Ratio Pound Cake version. It doesn't use milk or additional leavening agents, but does fiddle around with the ratio of major ingredients.


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Related Articles:
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Preventing Rubbery Cakes
Fixing an Underbaked/Underdone Cake
Role of Salt in a Cake
Related Recipes:
Traditional Pound Cake Recipe
Modern-Day High-Ratio Pound Cake Recipe

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