Down South, or at least in my circle of friends and family, pound cakes are identified by whose recipe was used. You don’t have vanilla pound cake or lemon pound cake or buttermilk pound cake, you have Aunt Virginia’s Pound Cake or Ms. Shirley’s Pound Cake or MayBelle Prichard’s Pound Cake. And you have all of their recipes because they’re all different.
Aunt Virginia’s pound cake was the one most sought after in my family. But, God rest her sweet soul, I always found it to be a little too eggy and dense. So every time I’d make a pound cake, I’d start with Aunt Virginia’s recipe and alter it a bit. After several years and a lot of research, I finally nailed down what I think is the best pound cake recipe ever.
The first time I ever saw a certain renowned hotel's famous pound cake recipe I was both mortified and elated. It’s almost exactly like mine. I was mortified because it took me years to perfect my recipe and, if you hadn't been on my pound cake journey with me over the years, you might think I’d just used theirs. I didn't, by the way. You can ask my mama. But I was elated too because that must mean my recipe is good enough to be famous!
You can change up the extracts to suit your fancy. Sometimes I use all vanilla. Sometimes I use vanilla and almond. Sometimes I use butternut and sometimes I use all lemon (just always use 3 teaspoons total). But my favorite combo is vanilla and lemon. The lemon is still subtle enough that the cake doesn't scream, “Pucker up, heifers! I’m lemon!” but it’s just the right amount of brightness to compliment all the warm notes of a traditional pound cake.
And, in keeping with the Southern tradition, I’m going to call this Mandy’s Pound Cake. It feels a little weird to name a recipe after myself but I've heard Mama call it that enough times that it sounds natural now.
Mandy’s Pound Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) real, salted butter
1/2 cup shortening*
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or a combo of 1 tablespoon vinegar and whole milk to equal 1 1/4 cups)
Bring all ingredients to room temperature. If substituting buttermilk with vinegar and milk, be sure to mix them together (in a plastic or class container – not metal) before you set them out to come to room temperature as the vinegar needs time to react to the milk. Grease (with shortening) and flour a 10-inch tube pan**; set aside.
"Creaming" is a very important step in most cakes, especially pound cakes, so take care to follow the instructions carefully. In a large bowl or stand mixer beat butter and shortening at medium speed for 1 minute. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed, until light, fluffy and very pale yellow in color (5-7 minutes). When the mixture has almost doubled in size, everything's been properly creamed. Don't mix longer than this or the mixture will "break" and your cake won't rise correctly.
Add extracts and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add flour mixture and buttermilk to creamed mixture, mixing at low speed until combined, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan, then plate top-side up. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
*You need both the butter and the shortening as the butter tastes rich and delicious but the shortening has a higher melting point and makes a more tender cake. If you don’t have shortening, use all butter but I highly recommend using a combo of both. P.S. don’t make this with margarine and then fuss at me because your cake didn't turn out right.
**After having a conversation with some of my blogging buddies one day, I learned that “tube pan” means something different in different parts of the country. Where I live, a tube pan has a flat bottom and most often, a removable center. Where they live, it's what I call a bundt pan. You can make this in both but if you use a bundt pan, make sure it’s 12-cup or larger (or only fill 2/3 full) as the recipe makes a lot of batter. I do not recommend making this in a pan that doesn't have an open center as you will most certainly have to over-bake the cake to get it cooked through in the middle.
And just so we're all on the same page, this is what bundt pans and tube pans are to me: