A pound cake’s beauty is its simplicity. It isn’t as showy as a tall, frosted layer cake or as dramatic as a fruit-crowned upside-down cake or as cute as a cupcake. But this humble, comforting treat rises to nearly every setting, occasion, and crowd, whether served on a paper plate or on grandmother’s heirloom china. We’ve all tasted dense, bread-like versions of pound cake that have lived up to its weighty name, which was coined in the 1700s for the ingredients—1 pound each of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. Over time, cooks have tweaked the ratio of ingredients to make the cake lighter in texture as well as smaller in size. In March 1966, we featured our first-ever pound cake recipe, the One-Two-Three-Four Pound Cake, and since then, they’ve appeared in countless forms and flavors. This spring, the SL Test Kitchen set out to perfect this Southern classic by retesting them all, from the Buttermilk Pound Cake to the seven-ingredient Million Dollar Pound Cake, devoting hours—and untold pounds of butter—to fine-tuning this recipe. Taste and see how this one stacks up against all the rest.
3 cups superfine or granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 300ºF with oven rack in center of oven. Grease and flour a 10-inch (14-cup) Bundt pan.
Beat sugar, butter, and cream cheese with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment on medium-high speed until very fluffy and pale in color, 5 to 7 minutes. Add eggs,1 at a time, beating on low speed just until yellow disappears after each addition. Add egg yolks, half-and-half, and vanilla, and beat on low speed just until blended.
Stir together flour and salt in medium bowl; gradually add to butter mixture in 3 batches, beating on low speed just until blended after each addition, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Remove bowl from stand, and scrape batter from paddle. Using a spatula, stir batter once by hand, scraping sides and bottom to incorporate any unmixed batter. Spoon batter into prepared pan, and gently tap pan on counter to release any large air bubbles.
Bake in preheated oven until cake is golden and a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove cake from pan, and cool completely on wire rack before slicing and serving, about 2 hours.
Leave the eggs, butter, and cream cheese out at room temperature for about an hour before mixing. This is important, because adding cold eggs to softened butter and cream cheese will create a lumpy batter.
Creaming the butter, sugar, and cream cheese is key, because it will give the batter its volume. Using an electric stand mixer, beat the ingredients for 5 to 7 minutes on medium-high speed until mixture is light, fluffy, and almost white in color. Gradually add in the flour, and avoid over-mixing, which will deflate the batter and make the cake dense and tough.