Pound cake is based on a very easy formula of equal parts butter, sugar, eggs and flour – typically a pound of each, in the old language. The modern, lighter version is often referred to as a butter cake, a style of cake best eaten fresh, due to its high level of fat and protein; made ahead, it tends to become firm.
Day-old pound cake is great in a trifle or any dessert that calls for cake to absorb liquid. It's easy to slice, too, so it can be layered and filled easily, and it makes a fine lining for moulded desserts such as Charlottes.
Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease and line a 6cm-deep, 9cm x 20cm loaf tin with baking paper.
Beat 250gm butter, 250gm caster sugar and scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until pale and creamy (2-3 minutes).
Add 250gm eggs (about 5) one at a time, beating well between each addition. It's a good idea to now add some flour to the mix to help stabilise the eggs and butter and prevent the batter from splitting; 3-4 tbsp should do it. Once eggs are fully incorporated, stop the mixer and gradually add remaining flour, stirring between each addition. Spoon batter into prepared tin, levelling the top. Bake until cake is golden, the top just cracks (see note) and a skewer inserted withdraws clean (50 minutes to 1 hour).
Stand cake in tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar, slice and serve.
Trick it up
- Use a pound cake as the base for a fruitcake and add spices, soaked fruit and roasted nuts.
- Try adding flavours such as finely grated lemon zest and poppy seeds to the batter before baking.
- Dust cake with a little icing sugar and serve it with a glass of Madeira or sherry, or finish the cake with a simple icing sugar drizzle or creamed frosting.
Often, if cakes crack at the top, they are imbalanced (either the mixture is too dry or there is not enough sugar), but a cake cooked in a narrow loaf tin often cracks slightly due to the restricted space, which isn't an issue.