10 Steps To The Perfect Pound Cake

Steps for pound cake perfection.

McLeod Farms’ Fresh Peach Pound Cake
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Pound cake is a Southern baking favorite, available in a seemingly endless variety. Whether you want a light berry dessert for a summer picnic or a rich spice cake to kickstart fall, there is a pound cake recipe for everyone.

Pound cake, typically made in a Bundt mold or loaf pan, shares the core ingredients of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. Whether covered in powdered sugar, glazed, or iced, pound cake is a staple dessert every baker should know how to make. Our Test Kitchen breaks down some critical steps to distinguish between a baking disaster and pound cake perfection.

1. Prepare the recipe as directed, and use name-brand ingredients.

Store brands of sugar are often more finely ground than name brands, yielding more sugar per cup, which can cause the cake to fall. Store brands of butter may contain more liquid fat and flour more hard wheat, making the cake heavy.

2. Measure accurately.

Be sure to use dry measuring cups for flour and sugar. Spoon flour into the cups and lightly level with the straight edge of a small offset spatula or knife. Extra sugar or leavening causes a cake to fall—extra flour makes it dry.

3. For maximum volume, have ingredients at room temperature.

We like to pre-measure our ingredients and assemble them in the order listed. If interrupted, we're less likely to make a mistake.

4. Beat softened butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

This process can take anywhere from one to seven minutes, depending on the power of your mixer. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until light and fluffy. These steps are essential because they whip air into the cake batter so it will rise during baking.

5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until the yolk disappears.

Overbeating the eggs may cause the batter to overflow the sides of the pan when baked or create a fragile crust that crumbles and separates from the cake as it cools.

6. Add dry ingredients, then liquid, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

To prevent the batter from curdling, always add the dry ingredients, then alternate by adding the liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with dry. Mix just until blended after each addition. Overmixing the batter once adding the flour creates a tough, rubbery cake.

Million Dollar Pound Cake
Photography: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

7. Use the correct type of cake pan.

Pound cake recipes calling for a tube pan won't always fit in a Bundt pan. (Tube pans have straight, high sides, while Bundt pans are more shallow and fluted.) Although both may measure 10 inches in diameter, each holds a different amount of batter. We also found that some 10-inch tube pans hold 12 cups of the batter while others hold 14 or 16 cups. The same pound cake recipe rises and bakes differently in each pan. When unsure of the size, use a cup measure to fill the cake pan with water.

8. Grease cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco.

Always dust with flour—a slippery surface keeps the batter from rising to its full volume.

9. Place the cake pan in the center of the oven.

Keep the door closed until the minimum baking time has elapsed. If the cake requires more baking, gently close the oven door as soon as possible after testing to prevent jarring and heat loss—both can cause a cake to fall if not done.

10. Let it cool away from drafts.

After removing it from the oven, place the pound cake, right side up, in the pan on a wire rack, and let it cool for 10 minutes away from drafts. This cool time allows the cake to become firm enough to remove from the pan without breaking apart. Cooling too long in the pan will cause the cake to be damp and stick to the pan. Remove the pound cake from the pan to the wire rack, and let it cool completely.

Ready to put these tips to the test? Try these 22 Perfect Pound Cakes.

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