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This dense-textured, rich yellow loaf cake originated in England. It was made with one pound each of flour, butter (solid plastic fat), sugar and eggs, plus a flavoring like vanilla or lemon. A myriad of variations has evolved throughout the centuries. It is known as a shortened cake.
Today, the typical American Pound cake's proportions of those four essential ingredients have changed and often include the addition of chemical leaveners, baking powder, and also include baking soda. The cake's richness is augmented with cream cheese, sour cream, egg yolks, cream and can have a wide variety of flavorings and additonal ingredients added, such as coconut, nuts, raisins and dried fruit. Pound cake can also be made from a mix.
No matter how you bake it, Pound cake is so versatile. It can be eaten as a simple, unadorned snack or with a bowl of fresh fruit or warm fruit compote. One of my favorites is to brush a lightly toasted slice with jam, place a scoop of ice cream on top and drizzle with hot fudge sauce right before serving. A Pound cake makes a perfect cake to cover with Fondant, because it is dense, making it sturdy and unable to easily crush easily under its weight. Pound cake cupcakes are always delightful and keep moist for a longer period of time because of their high fat content. Many coffee cakes, sour cream cakes, and fruit crumb cakes are variations of pound cake.
SARAH SAYS: The original English Pound cake, from which the American-style Butter cake and Pound cake evolved, was exactly that - a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour - and was likely added in that order. Given the combination of ingredients, a tremendous amount of beating by hand must have been involved in order to add enough air so the cake would rise. The recipe must have had:
1 pound butter or shortening (solid plastic fat) = 2 cups (4 sticks)
1 pound sugar = about 2 1/4 cups
1 pound eggs = about 8 to 9 large
1 pound flour = 4 cups or 16 ounces (measured by the spoon and sweep method)