Welcome to the Great Poundcake Challenge!
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I recently upgraded my oven set up to include a new double oven (whoop whoop). What better way to break that beautiful machinery in than to bake 6 different pound cake recipes in 7 hours!
- To my instagram followers who entertained my silly polls and recommended a lemon pound cake challenge (and many more ideas!).
- To my husband who always goes along with these random baking challenges.
- Shout out to me for choosing the most wonderful double oven! I am so pleased with my choice!
- The real MVP of this challenge is Baker’s Joy (no this is not a sponsored post) Yes, I am aware that you can butter and flour cake pans to help release the cakes. I’ve also seen recipes on the internet involving flour and crisco to quickly release cakes. In a spirit of just pure efficiency, I spent the $4 on Baker’s Joy and pretty quickly realized it was worth every single penny. All of the cakes slipped right out of their pans. Easy. Peasy.
- Ina Garten’s Perfect Pound Cake
- Cheryl Day’s Cold Oven Pound Cake form Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking
- Edna Lewis’s Pound Cake from The Taste of Country Cooking.
- White Lily’s Cream Cheese Pound Cake
- Jocelyn Delk Adams’ Cream Cheese Poundcake
- Rose Levy- Beranbaum Poundcake from The Cake Bible
- Follow the instructions to the letter.
- Put the same flavoring in all of the recipes: lemon zest, lemon extract and vanilla extract. In the mini tea cake challenge, I realized that I will always pick the lemon version because it’s my favorite.
- No Icing.cIcing covers up dry cakes– so we’re keeping them plain intentionally.
Why did I choose these recipes?
- Edna Lewis’ recipe called for cold butter — which is a departure from any other pound cake recipe I’ve ever seen before. It was an automatic addition to the list.
- The White Lily & Jocelyn Delk Adams poundcakes both called for cream cheese — but the methods were totally different, so I was interested in comparing the two.
- Ina Gartern & Cheryl Day’s recipes were similarly matched — butter only/ milk or heavy cream
- Rose Levy’s The Cake Bible is a staple in my house — so I wanted to try her “perfect pound cake”
The building blocks of a pound cake recipe — are in the name. Originally poundcake had a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of flour. Making the recipe easy to remember.
- Butter: Y’all. The thing about poundcake is that you need SO much butter. I probably used at least 6 lbs of butter for this challenge. For most recipes the butter needed to be room temperature.
- Eggs: I went through around 36 eggs. Across all recipes, the eggs needed to be room temperature.
- Flour: Most recipes called for regular all purpose flour, but there were a couple who used cake flour.
- Milk/buttermilk/ heavy cream
- Raising Agents Most recipes only call for salt. It’s so critical that you don’t forget the salt. This actually might be the most important ingredient in a pound cake.
- Flavoring: Following rule #3 I used the same combination of lemon zest, lemon extract and vanilla extract. Because we love lemon pound cake over here.
The Bakeware Collection
For this challenge I used a variety of 10 & 12 cup Bundt or tube pans and a 9.5 x11 loaf pan.
The Baking Set Up & Strategy
Because every single recipe needed room temperature ingredients — I set out the butter, cream cheese and eggs on the counter a couple hours before I started the challenge.
The baking strategy was to get one cake in the oven at a time — since poundcakes have a long bake time to stagger the oven availability. With my new oven, I was able to get this done in 7 hours which is honestly a record.
The Taste Test
Top Tier: White Lily & Cheryl Day
Mid Tier: Jocelyn Delk Adams & Edna Lewis
Bottom Tier: Ina Garten & Rose Levy Beranbaum
Let’s talk about the bottom tier first.
- Ina Garten: The main complaint with the Ina cake was that it was saltier than the others. I believe the recipe was the only one that called for kosher salt. If we didn’t have 5 other poundcakes to test at the same time I probably wouldn’t have noticed. Also — I know that most chefs dislike Morton’s Kosher salt because it’s too salty — and that the only kosher salt I can find here. So in summary— I don’t think this was a terrible option — just compared to the others wasn’t our favorite.
- Rose Levy- Beranbaum: I distinctly remember thinking “I can’t believe the instructions say to bake this for 40 minutes at 350” three hundred and fifty degrees fahrenheit?!? All of the other poundcakes baked at a max temp of 325. Since the rules said I had to follow the instructions— it killed me inside — but I let that pound cake bake for the entire time and as a surprise to no one it was drier than the dessert.
Now let’s talk Mid Tier:
- Jocelyn Delk Adam’s cake recipe is very similar to the White Lily recipe with a couple of notable differences. 1. Her recipe included oil for moisture and 2. The recipe called for a very long mixing time. At least 10 minutes of whipping air into the eggs. This cake was good — but at the end of the taste test — the White Lily recipe got better results with less effort..
- Edna Lewis. What I loved about this recipe is that it’s written assuming that you don’t have a mixer. But also she goes into explicit detail about why you need to use cold butter, when no other recipe dared to try it. Overall the batter felt lumpy and I wasn’t sure it was going to turn out. Thank goodness I trusted the process. Edna’s cake also has a lower baking temp - 30 minutes at 275 and then the oven temp was raised to 300 for another 30 minutes. The taste of this poundcake transported me to my grandmother’s church in the middle of nowhere South Carolina — when they would have food in the back after church. I could almost smell the kerosene while I was eating it.
- White Lily. The thing about the white lily recipe is that they are upfront that this poundcake needs to bake for a full 90 minutes. This was the longest bake time. And let me tell you the way that poundcake developed the most impeccable crust. This recipe also uses cream cheese along with the butter - but doesn’t require as much mix time— that time gets devoted to the baking. Between the crust and the soft center. It was a great pound cake.
- Cheryl Day. This recipe is the closest to how I make my poundcake. The only difference is that the baking starts in a cold oven. That’s right. You mix the cake batter , put it in the pan, place the pan in the oven and then you turn on the oven to 300 degrees. The bake time on this cake was one of the shorter bakes - 60-70 minutes. I was scared that it wasn’t done — but the cake slipped right out of the pan. The cake was so moist and flavorful — but I wished it had a tiny bit more crust.
The winner of the Great Poundcake Challenge is the poundcake recipe that your (insert important maternal figure) makes (or made). See the thing about a pound cake especially in the south, is that those things are powered by love. Have you ever met a southern woman known for her poundcake? Even if she shows you how to make it and you’re lucky enough for her to write it down for you — it’s never the same. Because the woman making the recipe matters most.