We recently discovered that our readers are obsessed with pound cake. While it shouldn’t seem so surprising, considering it’s a super buttery dessert, we were shocked. It’s so old-school.
For help with figuring out how to make it best, we turned to Paula Deen and Ina Garten. Paula because she’s a Southern gal who claims her “Mama” has the best recipe, and Ina because her recipes almost never let us down. Here’s how the two compared.
In theory, a pound cake should have 1 pound each butter, sugar, and flour. Paula only uses 1/2 pound butter, but she also adds 1/2 cup vegetable shortening. Her cake — which she bakes in a tube pan — also calls for equal parts sugar and flour, 5 eggs, some salt (preferably fine), baking powder, milk, and vanilla.
If you like Sara Lee, you’ll love this pound cake. It has the same dense but soft texture — perhaps thanks to the shortening? What’s more are the slightly caramelized crispy edges that you get from using a tube (or bundt) pan.
Follow the Barefoot Contessa’s lead and you’ll only use 1/2 pound butter to yield 2 loaves. (Apparently the pound cake rules are rarely followed.) Each loaf has about half the amount of sugar, eggs, and flour than Paula’s. And instead of using milk, she opts for buttermilk.
The loaves bake up a little craggily on top without perfect domes. But we’re not ones to judge by looks. The slices themselves were moist, crumbly, and not too sweet.
Paula wins. The cake sliced beautifully (almost impossibly) clean and straight, which everyone appreciated. Apparently crumbles in a pound cake are sacrilege.
To be fair, Ina has a couple other pound cake recipes, of which we’re particularly fond of the lemon version. But to keep the taste test as fair as possible, we chose to go with her take on the classic — which she ever so sadly calls “Plain Pound Cake.” To me, her cake tasted better. The buttermilk gave it richness and the sweetness was just right. But I didn’t grow up on Sara Lee; everyone else did and much preferred Paula’s go-to.
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