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Pound Cake Problems

Betty asks: I have made pound cakes for years but was trying a new recipe.  I used loaf pans rather than a bunt pan.  The cake separated from the pan and was very crumbly.  I did use dark pans.  Some of the recipes I have tried call for a combination of butter and Crisco, and others for just one or the other.  What do they do differently to a cake?

Baking S.O.S. says: Pound cake gets its name from the fact that the recipe calls for 1 pound each of all the ingredients:

  • 1 pound of flour
  • 1 pound of sugar
  • 1 pound of eggs, and
  • 1 pound of fat–traditionally, it is made with all butter

That’s it.  It’s a very simple recipe in it’s original form. But there are probably hundreds of variations out there because bakers have tweaked the original recipe over the years, putting their own twists on this classic cake.  So the results that you get will vary a bit, depending on which recipe you follow and how much that recipe varies from the original.

I can’t tell you why the recipe you made was crumbly (without actually seeing the recipe’s ingredient list), but I do know from experience that I do not like the effect that teflon-lined pans have on baked goods. The dark coating attracts the heat of the oven, causing cakes to get very dark on the outside edges that come in contact with the pan (the bottom and sides).  The results look and taste bad, so I no longer use non-stick coated pans for baking. I recommend a glass or plain metal loaf pan for baking pound cakes.

As for your other question: How do butter and Crisco affect the cake differently, the main difference is taste. Butter has a much richer flavor than Crisco, which is fairly neutral. So for a better flavor, I recommend using all butter.

But it is interesting that you asked because I was just talking to a co-worker about fat in pound cakes just the other day, so your timing is perfect! My co-worked is from the South, and she says that it is very common for Southern bakers to make pound cake with lard. She says lard gives pound cake a much denser, more moist texture. She herself likes to make pound cakes with a combination of butter and lard. So give that a try sometime if you would like to experiment with the different taste and texture qualities of different fats.

The best way to compare the differences would be to start with a very basic pound cake recipe–like the one above–and then try different variations on that same recipe, rather than trying completely different recipes.  When you start with one standard recipe for your base comparison, you will have a better idea of how the changes in ingredients affect the overall flavor and texture of the cake.

Happy baking!