Variations on a Pound Cake

I love to bake desserts especially cakes and cookies. During the winter holiday season they make great homemade gifts and elegant additions to a festive meal. I received a Poppy Seed Pound Cake one year as a gift which was delicious. So I thought it would be fun to make some old-fashioned pound cakes and started experimenting with recipes. Here’s what happened.Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake - 1 - IMG_0914_1

Pound Cakes

The traditional pound cake got its name because the ingredients were originally a pound each of shortening, flour, sugar and eggs or at least equal amounts of each ingredient. No leavening agents such as baking powder or soda were included in the recipe. The lift to the cake came from air beaten into the shortening and eggs. They also didn’t include any milk, cream or buttermilk in the recipe. The cakes were often baked in a loaf pan, Bundt cake pan or a spring-form pan at a low temperature for an hour or longer.

Lemon Almond Pound Cake

First I tried a lemon almond pound cake. It made a rather dense, dry cake, in my opinion, although my husband said it was delicious. Plus the recipe made a very large cake. (Many of these traditional recipes have 6 to 8 eggs.) The cake did have a very nice, fine texture–the best characteristic of this cake–and a pleasing almond and lemon flavor.

Old Fashioned Lemon Almond Pound Cake - 2 - IMG_0854_1

Pound cakes may be used in a Trifle, a dessert with custard or pudding layered with fruit and some syrup or liqueur infused over the cake. This pound cake would be delicious when served as a Trifle. It would also be great served with whipped cream or ice cream and fresh fruit.

Old Fashioned Lemon Almond Pound Cake - IMG_0859_1

Chocolate Espresso Sour Cream Pound Cake

The second cake recipe I tried was a Chocolate Espresso Sour Cream Pound Cake. I took the chocolate espresso idea from a pecan pie recipe adding Ghirardelli baking chocolate, instant espresso coffee granules and Kahlua Liqueur to the cake mix. To help the cake be less dry, I added sour cream to the batter.  Again it made a large, dense cake with a fine texture with an nice chocolate coffee flavor. I would serve this with whipped cream or ice cream.

Chocolate Expresso Pound Cake - 3 - IMG_0891_1

Variations on a Pound Cake

Over the years other ingredients have been added to pound cake recipes making for a more flavorful and “lighter” cake. These are good additions, in my opinion. The final result and what matters is how the cake tastes–not the recipe.

These ingredients include leavening agents (baking powder and soda), cream, buttermilk, sour cream and oil. Often grated citrus peel–orange or lemon–and citrus juices are added along with extracts such as vanilla and almond extract. Many pound cakes have a sugar syrup poured over the hot cake to add moisture and sweetness.

All these things help make a rich, flavorful cake and some of the recipes don’t even look like a pound cake recipe except for the fact that they are baked in a loaf pan. But it’s the cake–not the recipe–that matters.

Third Recipe Try – Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

I’ve given up on making a “traditional” pound cake and I searched through my recipe stacks to find pound cakes I’d made several years ago for Christmas gifts for friends. Sure enough, these were all “variations” on a pound cake recipe. One was a Martha Stewart “Blueberry Belle” cake, another was a Martha Stewart “Lemon Thyme” cake and a third was an Epicurious “Orange Poppy Seed” pound cake. For the gifts, I baked these in individual loaf pans.

Here’s my adaptation of one of them, a Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake. It is very lemony and not overly sweet. Success!

Lemon Poppy Seet Pound Cake - slice - IMG_0926_1


Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print



  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice


  • 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest from peels of 3 lemons plus the juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of the 3 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds

Instructions and Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Oil and lightly flour a 10″ spring-form pan and set aside.
  2. For glaze, add sugar and lemon juice to small saucepan. Heat on medium high heat and stir until sugar dissolves and boils. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. For cake, beat butter in large mixing boil with mixer at high speed until softened.
  4. Slowly pour in sugar and beat on high speed until soft and creamy.
  5. Add lemon zest and vanilla extract.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until soft and creamy.
  7. In separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  8. On low speed of mixer, add flour alternately to the batter with the milk and lemon juice, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until just blended.
  9. Pour in the poppy seeds and beat just until combined.
  10. Pour batter into prepared spring-form pan and bake in oven for 50 -60 minutes until the cake pulls away from sides and springs back on top.
  11. Remove from oven, cool in pan about 30 minutes. With knife, loosen sides of cake from cake pan and invert on to a plate. Slide knife around cake to loosen bottom of cake from spring-form pan, removing pan and flipping onto serving plate.
  12. Punch holes in cake and slowly pour sugar/lemon glaze over cake. Cool, cut into slices and serve.

The batter may also be poured and baked in 6 to 8 individual loaf pans. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes.


3 thoughts on “Variations on a Pound Cake

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