ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why is it called pound cake? History, recipe and variations.

Updated on September 10, 2013

Origins of pound cake

A pound cake does not have to weigh one pound. Actually, in the old days, it would have weighed several pounds!

The name came about because it was originally made using one pound of each of the main ingredients: flour, eggs, sugar, butter. Optionally, a further pound of dried fruit could be added as well.

Recipes date back well into the 18th century, if not earlier and they were popular in both the United Kingdom and the United States. The French have a very similar dish. Their Quatre Quarts (i.e. four quarters) is made using equal weights of flour, eggs, butter and sugar, although the actual weight is not fixed.

A plain Quatre Quarts, the French equivalent of pound cake
A plain Quatre Quarts, the French equivalent of pound cake | Source

Hannah Glasse's 18th century recipe

Hannah Glasse gave the following recipe in her cookbook The art of cookery, made plain and easy: which far exceeds anything of the kind yet published, first published by subscription in England in 1747.

“Take a Pound of Butter, beat it in an earthen Pan, with your Hand one Way, till it is like a fine thick Cream; then have ready twelve Eggs, but half the Whites, beat them well, and beat them up with the Butter, a Pound of Flour beat in it, and a Pound of Sugar, and a few Carraways”

As if that was not enough beating, Hannah goes on to say you then need to carry on beating “all well together for an Hour with your Hand, or a great wooden Spoon” (my emphasis)

The cake was baked in a buttered pan for one hour in a “quick oven “ (i.e. a hot oven, about 400 degrees Fahrenheit).

Already in this very early recipe, Hannah suggests a pound of currants can be added to the basic mixture if desired.

Some other early recipes suggested adding brandy or Madeira wine to the mixture.

Modern pound cake recipes

According to Jane Grigson's classic cookbook, English Food, the cake as originally made was not only very laborious to produce, but also huge!

However, she considers that the availability today of self-raising (self-rising) flour and baking powder, plus the fact smaller cakes are needed for smaller families, means a far easier method can be used today.

It is now possible to throw the ingredients into a bowl in any order. With just seconds of beating with an electric beater, or three minutes or so with a wooden spoon, the mixture is ready for baking. In fact, according to Jane Grigson, the most important time-defining factor is to get the butter out of the fridge early enough for it to soften sufficiently before it is added!

For a smaller cake, Jane Grigson suggests using 4 ounces (quarter pound) of each of the four main ingredients. That preserves the concept of a “pound cake”, because it retains the notion of using equal weights of each principal ingredient, except pound now refers to their combined weight.

In Jane Grigson’s opinion, the modern version of the pound cake makes it “the ideal cake for the non-cake maker”.

Slice of pound cake served with drizzled chocolate sauce
Slice of pound cake served with drizzled chocolate sauce | Source

Theme: A basic recipe for pound cake

Use the scheme of a quarter pound each of flour, eggs, butter and sugar, in Imperial, metric and US measurements (nb the metric equivalent is not exact, but follows standard conventions for converting recipes):

Ingredients:

4 oz (125 g, ½ cup) butter, which has been allowed to soften at room temperature
4 oz (125 g, ½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar: Use vanilla sugar for extra tastiness. Ordinary granulated sugar can be used instead of fine sugar, but will take a bit longer to beat in.
4 oz (125 g, 1 cup) self-raising (self-rising) flour mixed with 1 level teaspoon baking powder
2 medium eggs (which is approximately 4 oz according to Jane Grigson)

Optional: Adding a tablespoon of ground almonds will improve the texture according to Jane Grigson.

Method

Heat oven to 350 deg F (180 deg C, mark 4)

Cut a piece of baking parchment to a width equal to the long side of a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf tin. The length should be long enough so that you can fold the parchment into the tin so it goes down one side, across the bottom on the inside, and up the other side, with a little bit sticking out above the tin on each side. You can then grease the lined tin lightly if you wish, but it is not essential.

Mix all ingredients to a smooth dough using electric beater, wooden spoon (or use hands like Hannah Glasse did!)
Pour mixture into loaf tin.
Bake for approximately 1 hour. Test it is baked through by inserting a skewer or knitting needle. The cake is ready if no dough sticks to the skewer.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in tin for 15 minutes.
Grab hold of the edges of the baking parchment and lift the cake out onto a rack to continue cooling.

Proud to say this hub is a:

I was delighted to be invited to submit a link to this hub as a featured recipe on Mycitycuisine!
I was delighted to be invited to submit a link to this hub as a featured recipe on Mycitycuisine! | Source

And variations: Ten ways to ring the changes

You can use each of these ideas alone or combine two or three according to inspiration, or experiment with your own ideas

  1. Brandy or other alcohol: 2-3 tablespoons of brandy, rum, Madeira wine, or other spirit/liqueur. Replacing one tablespoon of the brandy with strong coffee (or use Kahlua instead!) works well too, especially if combined with walnuts (see chopped nuts below)
  2. Brown sugar: Use soft dark brown sugar instead of the white sugar
  3. Caraway seeds: These will give the cake the character of Hannah Glasse’s original recipe. About one dessertspoon is a good quantity.
  4. Chopped nuts: Mixed or just one type as you prefer: 2 oz (60g, ½ cup)
  5. Dark chocolate chips: 3 oz (90g, ½ cup)
  6. Dried mixed fruit, currants, sultanas: 4 oz (125g, ¾ cup)
  7. Icing: drizzle glace icing over the top
  8. Layering: Cut the cake across into two or three pieces and sandwich back together with buttercream and/or jam
  9. Lemon: Grated rind of one lemon plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  10. Orange: Grated rind and half the juice of a large orange

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 

      3 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Hello, WriteAngled! I didn't realize that the pound cake had such an interesting evolution. I love its buttery flavor!

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Pound cake (when done well) is one of my favorites, and I've often wondered why they were called that. So, now I know! Thanks.

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      5 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      That does sound good!

    • profile image

      Ruth Lanham 

      5 years ago

      I love pound cake with strawberries and cool whip free. Almost like a strawberry shortcake.

    • profile image

      Southernmapart 

      6 years ago

      The 18th c. recipe calling for beating the cake batter an hour will have considerably increased the gluten in the flour. In other words, the baked product will have to have been one tough, chewy cake, something akin to eating a sweet, buttery Ciabatta bread without the benefit of yeast.

    • profile image

      Sue 

      6 years ago

      love that old recipe lol

      absolutely brilliant article with all the different things you can add

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 

      6 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      This sounds very yummy!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      No wonder people didn't gain as much weight back then - they worked off a lot of calories by beating the cake for an hour! May even have been too tired to eat it after that. I've done meringue by hand (egg beater), and it took forever. I went out and bought my first hand mixer the very next week.

      Great hub - I've always wondered about the origin of the name of the cake. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      6 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thank you, Eddy. I need to try your laverbread recipe. I love it, but have always wimped out of trying to make it!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      6 years ago from Wales

      Another to bookmark in 'My favourite recipes 'slot.

      Here's to many many more to share on here.

      Take care,

      Eddy.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      6 years ago from Wales

      Wjhata great hub and one for me to bookmark into 'My Favourite Recipes' slot.

      I now look forward to reading many more by you.

      Take care and enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      7 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Well, there are all those cartoons of angry looking and extremely muscular female cooks brandishing rolling pins!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I've always wondered about that - must have been a huge cake. And beating it for an hour? Boy, those cooks back then before electric mixers, must have had some amazing arms! Now, I've whipped egg whites by hand with a whisk and it doesn't take much longer than doing it with a mixer, but an hour? Sheesh!

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 

      7 years ago

      I have never made a pound cake but with this recipe maybe I will try it.

    • eye say profile image

      eye say 

      7 years ago from Canada

      fantastic, I've always wanted to make one, this Christmas I will, thanks for this simple recipe.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)