These are anytime cakes, easy ones you want to whip up and keep on the kitchen counter to enjoy for breakfast, slice for snacks and lunchboxes, or serve with pots of tea. Rich pound cakes may be the most familiar, but plenty of other batters can be baked in the familiar rectangular pans, too. The loaves are also a cinch to dress up with fresh fruit, sauces, curds, compotes, or whipped cream for a plated dessert.
Light on effort, heavy on satisfaction, pound cake owes its name to the traditional ingredients—one pound each of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs—which remain essentially the same today. This batter makes a delicious classic pound cake, and it’s also the base for the variations on the following pages. A couple of tips for success: Leave the butter and eggs out at room temperature for an hour before mixing; if they’re cold, the batter will not be properly smooth. Creaming the butter and sugar thoroughly is crucial, because it gives the batter the necessary volume. Makes two 9-by-5-inch loaves
2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 pound (about 3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 1/4 cups sugar (1 pound)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
Whipped Cream, for serving (optional)
Macerated Berries, for serving (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
2. With an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to medium; beat in vanilla. Add eggs in 4 batches, beating thoroughly after each and scraping down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in 4 batches, beating until just incorporated.
3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Tap pans on counter; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 65 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes. Turn out cakes onto rack to cool completely. Serve with whipped cream and macerated berries, if desired.
Five More Pound Cakes
Vanilla Bean–Ginger Pound Cake
Follow Pound Cake recipe, substituting seeds of 1 vanilla bean (split lengthwise and scraped) for the vanilla extract. Bake and cool as directed. For the ginger glaze: Heat 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk and 1/4 cup sliced fresh ginger in a saucepan over medium heat until milk begins to simmer. Let cool; discard ginger. Stir in 2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Drizzle over cooled cakes. Sprinkle chopped candied ginger on top.
Chocolate-Chip Pound Cake
Follow Pound Cake recipe, folding 2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips into finished batter. Bake and cool as directed. Serve cake with Chocolate–Coffee Liqueur Sauce and vanilla ice cream.
Blueberry–Sour Cream Pound Cake
Follow Pound Cake recipe, substituting 1/2 cup sour cream for 1/2 cup butter. Toss 2 cups fresh blueberries with 2 tablespoons flour; fold into finished batter. Before baking, sprinkle 2 tablespoons sanding sugar over each cake. Bake and cool as directed. Serve with Whipped Cream (lemon variation).
Toasted Coconut Pound Cake
Follow Pound Cake recipe, folding 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut into finished batter. Before baking, sprinkle 1/3 cup additional coconut over each cake; bake, tented with foil, and cool as directed. Serve with mango-lime sauce: Purée 1 chopped pitted mango, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon sugar, and a pinch of salt in a food processor until smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup diced mango and 1 teaspoon lime zest.
Marble Pound Cake
Follow Pound Cake recipe, omitting flour and salt, and dividing batter in half after the eggs are mixed into the batter in step 2. Mix 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt into half the batter; mix 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt into the other half. Scoop batters into prepared pan, 1/2 cup at a time, alternating plain and chocolate. Swirl with a knife. Bake and cool as directed.
Lemon Pound Cakes
Lemon-flavored desserts always top the list of favorites among Martha Stewart Living staffers—and readers, too. This one is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser, with lemon zest mixed in the batter, syrup soaked into the warm cakes, and glaze poured over the top—not to mention the beautiful garnish of candied lemon slices. Makes two 9-by-5-inch loaves
For the cakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
For the candied lemon slices and syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 lemons, sliced 1/8 inch thick or thinner, seeds removed
1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
For the glaze
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 to 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
1. Make the cakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and lemon zest.
2. With an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in vanilla. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of sour cream.
3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes (tent loosely with foil if tops begin to brown too quickly).
4. Meanwhile, make candied lemon slices and syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar and the water; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add lemon slices; simmer very gently over medium-low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until slices are opaque throughout, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat; with a slotted spoon, transfer slices to a sheet of waxed paper. Stir lemon juice into syrup to taste.
5. Remove cakes from oven. While still in pans, use a wooden skewer or toothpick to poke several holes in tops. Set aside ¼ cup lemon syrup; pour remainder over cakes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool completely, about 2 hours. Turn out cakes onto rack; set rack over a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Brush tops and sides of cakes all over with reserved syrup.
6. Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and 4 tablespoons lemon juice; add up to 2 more tablespoons juice until glaze is pourable but thick. Pour over cakes (still on rack), letting it drip down sides. Let set, about 30 minutes. Garnish with candied lemon slices.
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