The Secret Ingredient Ina Garten Uses For Perfect Pound Cake Crust

The textural gold standard for pound cake is simple: buttery and tender interior, crunchy and borderline crackling exterior. The first part is easy enough to accomplish with a rich combination of ingredients, like cream cheese and butter. But the second part, that irresistibly crisp crust, can be harder to nail. 

Enter Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa and all-around brilliant baker. Garten has the perfect pro tip for those looking to make a pound cake that ticks all the right boxes. Her secret to crunchy success? A generous dusting of turbinado or demerara sugar to line your pound cake pan. Containing trace molasses, turbinado and demerara sugars are minimally refined and come as coarse brown crystals. In baking, they offer a hint of caramelized flavor to your recipes, straddling the line between plain granulated sugar and brown sugar in regard to flavor and texture. 

Still, in this case, you're not using the sugar as a sweetener to your cake, you're using it to create a golden exterior. How? As the pan heats in the oven, the individual granules of turbinado sugar melt and form a lacework pattern around the cake crust, becoming divinely crunchy while the interior stays moist and tender. 

The caramelizing power of turbinado sugar

To bring this trick to your favorite pound cake recipe, begin by spraying your pan (a 12- to 10-cup tube or Bundt pan or two loaf pans all work) with a coat of vegetable oil or baking spray with flour. Alternatively, you can melt a tablespoon of shortening or butter, and brush it onto the interior of the pan with a pastry brush. Either way, this initial greasing is essential to creating a cake that has a caramelized exterior and can release easily from the pan. Otherwise, you're creating a caramel crust that will glue your cake to the pan.

Next, sprinkle in roughly 1/4 cup of demerara sugar or turbinado sugar, turning and rotating your pans so that the sugar is evenly distributed along the pan's surface. From there, you'll proceed as normal, adding in the batter and baking as directed. The result is a pound cake that packs the sugared crust of your dreams. As an added bonus, you can take this hack and apply it to other long-baking cakes, like your favorite banana bread or rum cake. Because everything tastes better with a turbinado sugar crust.