Our Test Kitchen breaks down some critical steps that can make the difference between a baking disaster and pound cake perfection.
1. Prepare the recipe as directed, and use name-brand ingredients. Store brands of sugar are often more finely ground than name brands, yielding more sugar per cup, which can cause the cake to fall. Store brands of butter may contain more liquid fat and flours more hard wheat, making the cake heavy.
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2. Measure accurately. Be sure to use dry measuring cups for flour and sugar. Spoon flour into the cups and lightly level with the straight edge of a small offset spatula or knife. Extra sugar or leavening causes a cake to fall; extra flour makes it dry.
3. For maximum volume, have ingredients at room temperature. We like to premeasure our ingredients and assemble them in the order listed. That way, if interrupted, we're less likely to make a mistake.
4. Beat softened butter (and cream cheese or vegetable shortening) at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. This can take from 1 to 7 minutes, depending on the power of your mixer. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until light and fluffy. These steps are important because they whip air into the cake batter so it will rise during baking.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears. Overbeating the eggs may cause the batter to overflow the sides of the pan when baked or create a fragile crust that crumbles and separates from the cake as it cools.
6. To prevent the batter from curdling, always add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until blended after each addition. Overmixing the batter once the flour has been added creates a tough, rubbery cake.
7. Be sure to use the correct type of cake pan. Pound cake recipes calling for a tube pan won't always fit in a Bundt pan. (Tube pans have straight, high sides, while Bundt pans are more shallow and fluted.) Although both may measure 10 inches in diameter, each holds a different amount of batter. We also found that some 10-inch tube pans hold 12 cups of batter while others hold 14 or 16 cups. The same pound cake recipe rises and bakes differently in each pan. When unsure of size, use a cup measure to fill the cake pan with water.
8. Grease cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco, and always dust with flour—a slippery surface keeps the batter from rising to its full volume.
9. Place the cake pan in the center of the oven, and keep the door closed until the minimum baking time has elapsed. If the cake requires more baking, gently close the oven door as soon as possible after testing to prevent jarring and loss of heat—both can cause a cake to fall if it's not done.
10. After removing from the oven, place the pound cake, right side up, in the pan on a wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes away from drafts. This allows the cake to become firm enough to remove from the pan without breaking apart. Cooling too long in the pan will cause the cake to be damp and stick to the pan. Remove pound cake from pan to wire rack, and let cool completely.
Ready to put these tips to the test? Head over to our list of Must-Try Pound Cake Recipes