All about pound cake!

Almond_pound_cake,_angled_profileBecause March 4 is National Pound Cake Day, this seemed like a great week to feature the longtime favorite dessert.

Perhaps it should be called Four-Pound Cake. The dessert is just like its name sounds — a buttery cake that is traditionally made with a pound of each of its four main ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, and sugar.

Even though they may sometimes be made with smaller quantities of the key ingredients, you can call any cake made with that 1 to 1 to 1 to 1 ratio of butter, egg, sugar and flour a pound cake. From there, the “rules” for pound cake vary. Some are baked in big Bundt pans, others in smaller loaf pans. Some pound cakes are served with an icing or sweet glaze, some have nuts, chocolate, or fruits inside, and still others are just straight-ahead “naked” pound cakes — with no added ingredients or embellishments.

Tried and true. People have been baking pound cake for hundreds of years, the recipe dating back to the early eightteenth century. There was even a pound cake recipe in the very first American cookbook, American Cookery, published in 1796.

Variations on a theme. The tried-and-true pound cake recipe has as many variations and embellishments as there are bakers making the cake. The addition of a little lemon or orange juice changes the flavor and texture of the cake. Substituting a bit of corn meal for flour, or sour cream for the butter, makes a more savory (and less sweet) cake. Subbing olive oil for some or all of the butter will make a more moist cake. Including a little baking soda or powder for added leavening makes a less dense cake.

Pound cake “internationale.” Madeira cake is the British equivalent of pound cake, made with a bit of fruit at the bottom. The name is misleading: it doesn’t contain Madeira wine, but is often served with liqueur or tea. French pound cake is called quatre-quarts (“four quarters”), with equal weights of each of the four principal ingredients. Mexican pound cake is called panqué, and is much like American pound cake, but with added nuts (panqué con nueces) or raisins (panqué con pasas). In Venezuela and Colombia, it is called ponqué, and takes the form of a wine-drenched cake with a cream or sugar coating.

Ready to take on a pound cake project for yourself? Here are some fun ones from the AllSpice recipe database:

Photo credit: Kimberly VardemanFlickr: Almond Pound Cake
Bundt cake: Crumb, by Joanne Fong on Flickr.