Why Old-Fashioned Pound Cake Is The Simplest Of Them All

Almost everyone has a memory of enjoying a slice of pound cake on its own, topped with fruit or ice cream, or even as part of a fancier dessert. The classic pound cake might have been born in a British kitchen, but it occupies a secure place in America's collection of classic desserts, not just because it is simple, tasty, and versatile, but possibly also because it has been around since the dawn of the republic. 

In her book "American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer," author Anne Byrn says America's early baked desserts, which were made in home kitchens across the colonies, consisted of yeasty cakes, fruitcakes, as well as pound cakes. As refined sugar was expensive then, those cakes were mostly sweetened with honey, maple syrup, or molasses. And while Byrn says pound cake was made across the colonies, it was especially known in Virginia, where the first pound cake recipe appeared in 1754. While this type of dessert used to take all day to make, luckily for us, it only takes a few hours to create today. 

Pound cake recipes have changed with the times

Culinary science and technological innovations have meant making a classic pound cake today has become more simple and more straightforward than it was a few centuries ago. Per What's Cooking America, the original pound cake recipe has gone through iterations so that the pastry is not only lighter, it also results in fewer servings. Many pound cake recipes now call for sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt, which MasterClass says is one way to create a more moist, flavorful cake. However, there's an even easier method to use with ingredients you probably already have on hand. 

Most classic pound cake recipes require just six ingredients — butter, sugar, eggs, flour, salt, and vanilla flavoring. Martha Stewart recommends putting all of these basic ingredients into an electric mixer and then putting your cake mix into a pan and letting it bake for an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Southern Living notes that this simplistic version is more prone to crumbling than others, but it's also incredibly delicious if toasted in butter and it suggests adding some cold ice cream on top. Regardless of its age, pound cake has managed to retain its universal appeal.