Pound cake recipes have been around for hundreds of years. Original versions called for a pound of sugar, a pound of flour, a pound of eggs and a pound of butter, hence the name “pound” cake. There have been many variations through the years, flavors added, including lemon and chocolate. For a period of time recipes suggested the use of margarine instead of butter, that was a dark period in food history and luckily we’ve moved past this crazy notion.
Clearly pound cakes are not a Southern creation, though somehow they feel very Southern. Nothing says hospitality quite like a beautiful pound cake. The sweet scent of vanilla wafting from this delicate cake sets up an expectation and you know something wonderful is coming. I’ve made so many pound cakes through the years. Delivered them for celebrations and at times in hopes of providing comfort, as have many Southern bakers. I’ve made my way through pounds of butter and dozens of eggs before finding what I feel to be the perfect recipe.
Pound cakes can be heavy, dry and even gummy in texture with either a very bland or cloyingly sweet flavor. This recipe comes from one of my Mom’s favorite cookbooks Southern Living, The Southern Hospitality Cookbook, by Winifred Green Cheney, originally published in 1976. This is one of the best pound cakes you’ll ever taste, with a wonderful crumb texture and a balance of flavor developed from a blend of pure vanilla extract, almond extract and cognac or brandy.
Some notes that will aid you in making this cake:
- Set out the butter and eggs so they can be at room temperature, 3-6 hours or overnight.
- Take the time to whip the butter, you want it to look like whipped cream. Using a stand mixer makes this process easier and less tiring to your arms!
- The flour is sifted several times to create a lighter cake. This takes a few extra minutes but the results are worth it.
- Grease and flour your loaf pans, and if it’s humid go ahead and line them with parchment paper to ensure a clean release after baking.
- Use a high quality cognac or brandy. As the rule goes, don’t cook with anything you wouldn’t drink.
- This cake bakes at 325 degrees, a bit lower than traditional baking temperatures.
This recipe will make two large 9” x 5” loaves. Enjoy one now and freeze one for later, this cake makes a fabulous trifle.
Sour Cream Pound Cake
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
Using a large stand mixer beat the butter on low speed until it becomes creamy. Raise the speed to medium and continue beating the butter until it is very light and fluffy, looking much like whipped cream. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to make certain all the butter is whipped thoroughly.
On medium speed, add the sugar, about ¼ cup at a time allowing the sugar to blend into the butter before adding more. Once all the sugar has been combined with the butter add the eggs one at a time, then add the sour cream.
Using separate bowls, sift together the flour, baking soda and kosher salt. Sift the dry ingredients three times. Don’t’ skip this step; it does make a difference in the texture of your cake. On low speed slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter, blending in about 1/3 cup at a time, beating just until the flour disappears. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract and the brandy and stir into the batter on low speed.
Divide the batter evenly between two large loaf pans, which have been greased and floured. If the weather is humid you can also line with parchment paper, lightly grease and flour the bottom of the parchment as well for a clean release from the pan.
Bake on the center rack of your oven at 325 degrees for about 60-65 minutes or until the cakes are golden and they test done with a toothpick.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.