The Quest for the Perfect Pound Cake – Garden & Gun

Food & Drink

The Quest for the Perfect Pound Cake

A culinary couple has set out to create the ultimate pound cake recipe

photo: Melany Robinson


Pound cakes, like marriages, require a healthy dose of compromise. Just ask Drew Robinson, formerly a chef at Birmingham-based Jim ‘N Nicks Bar-B-Q, and his wife, Melany, a culinary publicist, who for the past six months have embarked on the journey to develop a house pound cake recipe. “We both love pound cake, but what I like is a lot different than what Melany likes,” Drew says. “So rather than fight over which cake we make, we decided to work to find the middle ground.” 

Drew’s ideal pound cake incorporates cake flour with ingredients beaten for a long time to produce a super fine, silky crumb. Melany, on the other hand, likes her crumbs chunkier, which comes from all-purpose flour and less beating. To start, they each brought their favorite recipe to the table—Melany’s modified from the cakes her adopted grandmother made her as a child, Drew’s adapted from a recipe attributed to Elvis Presley’s housekeeper—and began playing with proportions and flavors. “We experimented with cream cheese versus sour cream. We tried different extracts: More almond or less almond? More vanilla or less vanilla?” Melany says. “Our biggest debate was on preheating the oven or not. Drew is always of the opinion that a pound cake starts in a cold oven, but I like crust from a preheated oven.”

“This recipe is the closest combination of getting the crust Melany likes on the outside and getting the finer crumbs I like,” Drew says.  

 “And we’re hands-down in favor of sour cream. We’re not wavering on that,” Melany says. “I also really think we have all the ratios right: Butter to egg, vanilla to almond. Don’t you think that’s all right, Drew?” 

Drew pauses for a long moment. “Possibly.” 

“See, it’s never ending,” Melany laughs. “I guess we’re going to have to make another one this weekend.” 

photo: Melany Robinson
Pound cake, fresh from the oven, before it’s turned out of the pan.

Ingredients

  • The Robinsons Sour Cream Pound Cake (as it stands for now)

    • 1 cup unsalted butter

    • 6 eggs

    • 3 cups sugar

    • 3 cups AP flour

    • ¼ tsp. baking powder

    • ½ tsp. salt

    • 1 cup sour cream

    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

    • ½ tsp. almond extract


Preparation

  1. Pull butter and eggs out of refrigerator and let sit until room temperature. Grease (with shortening) and flour a bundt pan. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. 

  2. Beat softened butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar 1 tbsp. at a time, continuing to beat until light and fluffy.

  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears. Overbeating the eggs can create a fragile crust that crumbles and separates from the cake as it cools.

  4. Add vanilla and almond extracts. 

  5. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt three times in a small bowl.

  6. Add half the flour/baking powder/salt mix, the sour cream, and then the other half of the dry ingredient mix. Mix just until blended after each addition. Overmixing the batter once the flour has been added creates a tough, rubbery cake.

  7. Place the pan in the center of the oven, and keep the door closed until the minimum baking time has elapsed.

  8. Bake for 65-75 minutes. 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. Remove when tester comes out clean.

  9. After removing from the oven, gently flip the bundt pan over so the pound cake is 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.