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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!

9 comments to Pound Cake Problems

  • Pamela

    I have been baking the same pound cake for over 30 years, and for some reason the last time I baked it the cake was not completly done in the middle and was tough, cracked and was not smooth on the outside, almost like a roll effect. What could be the reason for this happening?

  • Hi Pamela, it sounds like your oven is too hot–either the temperature was set too high, or else the oven is simply running hotter than you set it. Place an oven thermometer inside the oven to check the true temperature of the oven next time you bake.

    An oven that is too hot would cause the outside crust to get dark and brown–tough, as you described it. And it would get too dark on the outside before it was completely baked through the center–which explains why the cake was not done inside, as you said. Be sure to check for doneness in the very center of the cake before you remove it from the oven. The easiest way to tell if the cake is done is to insert a wooden toothpick in the center of the pound cake. If it comes out dry or with dry cake crumbs on it, then it is done. If it comes out wet, it still needs more baking time. If the cake is getting too dark on the outside before it is done in the middle, I recommend turning the oven temperature down by 25 degrees until the cake is completely done through the center.


  • Hi there, I wonder if your oven is perhaps running a little too hot? If your oven is no longer baking goods in the same way it used to, then perhaps its calibration is off? Try using an oven thermometer to check the actual temperature of the oven when it is turned on. Of course, there could be other explanations, but it’s always best to start with one variable and then go from there. Let me know what you find out!

  • Lauren Plonski

    I’ve been baking for over 60 years. All of a sudden my pound cake recipe is no longer producing the great results as previously. I am using the same recipe, making it the same way as I always have and now when I remove it from the pan, the cake bottom is not done; it’s very dense and not cake like. I use all butter. I made this cake just two weeks ago and it was fine, now yesterday and today when I made one each day – I have this problem. What am I now doing wrong? Thank you. LP

  • Hi LP, This is a very difficult problem to diagnose…as you can see from some of the other comments, bakers like yourself are experiencing problems with their once tried-and-true pound cake recipes for the first time. For some of the other readers, I have suggested checking the oven for accurate baking temperature.

    In your case, I wonder if the ingredients have any impact on the results you are now finding? Perhaps if you have switched brands (of flour, sugar, or butter, for example), it could be that each brand formulates its product slightly differently than the others or uses slightly different source ingredients which could potentially affect the outcome of your pound cake.

    For example, sugar made from sugar cane (as it was traditionally made) produces different results than sugar made from sugar beets. Nowadays, almost all sugar is made from genetically modified sugar beets unless it expressly states that it is made from cane sugar. Domino brand sugar is the only brand I know that still uses sugar cane to make all of its sugars.

    Another possible culprit could be the flour: flour is made of all different kinds of wheats, from “hard” to “soft” varieties of wheat and containing varying amounts of gluten (the protein found in wheat), which is why there are so many varieties of flour out there–including the softer, low-gluten cake and pastry flours to the hard, high gluten bread flour. All-purpose flour is a blend of different kinds of wheat, so no all AP flours are created exactly the same. Different brands can be formulated differently.

    All of these differences in products could be very subtle. But to a baker such as yourself who has been baking the exact same recipes for years, you are much more likely to notice the differences in the finished product when something changes in the ingredients. So when you made a couple of pound cakes in a row that did not turn out properly, my guess is that you used the same ingredients for both batches, and perhaps the ingredients were “off” in some way.

    The underlying issue/concern with my suggestion is that our food system is changing, and whether we know it or not, the foods we cook and bake with now are not necessarily the same as the food stuffs we used to work with even 15 years ago, thanks to genetic engineering of crops (also known as GMO’s or genetically modified organisms). I myself have switched from generic store brands of sugar to Domino brand once I learned of the different baking properties of sugar made from beets vs. sugar made from sugar cane. You might try changing the brand of the ingredients you are using and see if you notice any differences.

  • BobW

    I have made the same cream cheese pound cake for years; all of a sudden my cake is not done on the inside, it looks great on the outside. I’ve tried using different all purpose flour thinking that might be the problem. I’ve made the same cake but in a smaller pan and the cake gets done. What could be the problem?

  • Lovita Fernandes

    In the traditional recipe you have mentioned, how much baking powder would be needed?

  • In a traditional pound cake, there actually is no baking powder needed. It is simply a formula for: 1 pound of flour, 1 pound of sugar, 1 pound of eggs, and 1 pound of butter. That is the most traditional rendition of pound cake, and hence the name. There are plenty of updated variations on that theme, but this basic formula is the launch point where everything else evolved from.

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