In Search of the Perfect Southern Pound Cake
The Southern pound cake. The delightful, scrumptious and downright sinful combination of moist, buttery goodness in every bite. There is yet to be another cake similar to the pound cake, particularly the Southern pound cake. Traditionally, a pound cake consists of a pound each of butter, flour, sugar and eggs (hence why it is called a “pound” cake).
Believed to originate in northern Europe in the early 1700s, the pound cake has taken on different forms based on geography. For example, the British refer to it as a “sponge cake,” which usually consists of equal parts butter, self-rising flour, sugar and eggs, and a hint of vanilla for a richer taste. The French use their ingredients in quarts, rather than pounds, and call the dessert “quatre-quarts.” The Mexican version of the pound cake, called a panque, is similar to the Southern pound cake, but raisins and nuts are commonly used to vary the flavor. No matter where you find it, the pound cake is a particularly rich cake in many countries, yet the Southern version is most popular in terms of flavor. The recipe for Southern pound cake is also one that’s been argued for decades.
Many home cooks and professional chefs believe that different combinations of ingredients and methods make the ideal Southern pound cake. Though Paula Deen, Betty Crocker and other impeccable bakers would argue that their recipe is the best, I searched countless cookbooks and baked several versions in a quest for the hands-down best recipe. Some Southern women will tell you to start with a preheated oven, while others say a cold oven is crucial. Other bakers suggest using butter rather than shortening, and certain added flavors, such as almond, lemon or vanilla, can make or break the cake.
In my quest for the perfect pound cake, it came down to two of the most Southern women I know: my mother and Paula Deen. Paula Deen may swear by the cold oven and room-temperature ingredients, yet my mother claims the opposite. I’m not sure who would win if they went head to head in the kitchen, but I offer up both recipes for you to decide. One thing they agree on: you’re going to need at least a half a pound of butter.
Paula Deen’s Perfect Pound Cake
Cold ingredients must be at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 sticks butter
3 cups cake flour
8 oz. heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 tsp. salt
Cream butter and sugar. Add one egg at a time. Add flour and cream, alternating between the two. Add powder, vanilla and salt. Pour into greased and floured bundt pan. Place in cold oven, and set to 350 degrees. Check cake in one hour for doneness. Remove and let cool.
Vangie Harakas’ Perfect (Sundrop) Pound Cake
Sundrop is a soft drink manufactured in Gastonia, North Carolina, and though it is a lemon-lime drink, Sprite and Mountain Dew cannot compete with its deliciousness. Sundrop makes this a perfect lemon pound cake.
3 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup Crisco
3 cups flour
6 oz. Sundrop
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbps. melted butter
1 oz. Sundrop
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a metal tube pan. Beat sugar, butter and Crisco until light and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and pour in prepared pan. Bake one hour and 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before turning onto plate.
Whisk glaze ingredients and spread over cake.
Photo by UpperPond/jane from Flickr Creative Commons.