The 4th of July is just two days away, and everyone and their mother vows they have the best apple pie recipe. But while I love a good apple pie, it is not something that, even as an avid baker, I am likely to whip up at home. Instead, I have something else I prefer to put together for special occasions which will make a great addition to your Fourth of July cookout.
Pound cake is an all-time favorite at our house because it is simple, easy, we always have the ingredients in stock, and it is endlessly customizable! It also happens to be one of the best recipes ever to get your kiddos interested in baking.
And let’s be clear, when I mean baking I do not mean spacing out preformed frozen sugar cookies or even mixing oil and eggs with the contents of a boxed cake mix. When I talk about baking I mean measuring out ingredients for a recipe from scratch.
But why is this such a big deal?
Baking with Kids Teaches Valuable Life Skills
There is a time and a place for pre-made frozen cookies dough – and it usually straight from the tube on a Sunday evening with a glass of your favorite beverage in front of a well deserved movie night.
Baking is something that I love and really enjoy. It is also something that many people see as difficult and mystifying so, rather than trying, they just skip straight to the easy, pre-prepped options with minimal effort required. That mindset, defaulting to the easiest option and the path of least resistance when faced with something new or unfamiliar, is something that rankles me to no end. And it is also something that is learned early.
Baking, like most things in life, has the potential to be endlessly complicated. From a gluten-free Sacher torte, to evenly risen souffle’s, to perfect chiffon. Or, it can be beautifully simple like Grandmas butter cookies or, and this is where we bring things back around, a Pound Cake.
Learning to bake something, from scratch, opens up a world of possibilities and encourages kids (and adults) to try new things and be more engaged with cooking and food in general. It can also teach you the value of putting in the effort, how to take apart a problem and learn a new skill. The same way that learning the letters of the alphabet teaches you to read, learning how to combine simple ingredients into something delicious teaches you how to reexamine the foods you enjoy every day.
So, just how simple is this recipe?
Pound Cake So Easy… There is No Recipe
For this recipe, you will need to have a working kitchen scale. This is important. It is possible to do without one, but some conversions are required. You will also need a nonstick baking dish of your choice (or a regular dish and non-stick spray), a large bowl, and a mixer or spoon.
Ingredients; Butter, Sugar, Eggs, Flour… that’s it.
Pound cake consists of equal amounts of these four ingredients by weight, combined in the order listed above.
As confusing as this might seem to bakers who might be used to following a recipe by cups and teaspoons, it is actually a wonderful way to bake because it means that as long as you have those four ingredients, you can always make pound cake. If a regular recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of flour but you only have 2 cups you now need to stop and go to the store for more flour or revisit the horror that is 4th-grade fractions. But with pound cake, you just weigh it out and if you only have 8 ounces of flour then you only need to use 8 ounces of everything else.
This is actually the reference point I am going to use for this recipe; 8 ounces. This produces a reasonable amount of cake (about an average loaf pan) but not crazy quantities so you can enjoy the cake while it is still fresh. And, if something does go a little bit sideways or gets left in the oven a little too long, you haven’t wasted a whole bunch of cake. It is also a reasonable amount of ingredients to have laying around the house. If you don’t have quite enough for 8 ounces of any of these ingredients, you can always reduce the recipe by half if you are using the volumetric conversions or, if you do have a scale, just weigh out the ingredient you have the least of and use the same amounts of the others.
*If you have younger bakers at home, now might be a good time to have a casual discussion on relative densities. The same weights of flour and sugar take up different amounts of space because they have different densities.
Below I have included all the ingredients for this recipe by weight and by approximate volume. Please note that your results may vary if you are using volumetric measurements.
Super Simple Pound Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit and pull out a nonstick loaf pan or another baking vessel of your choice (muffin tin anyone?), mixing bowl, and scale. *I recommend pre-weighing all of your ingredients ahead of time for easy mixing later
- Add 8oz. (2 sticks) of softened butter to the bowl and beat on high for about 2-3 minutes or until the color starts to change and lighten.
- Add your 8 oz. of sugar (1 cup) and continue mixing for an additional 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is slightly less grainy.
- Add in the eggs slowly (one at a time) and mix each one until thoroughly combined.
- Add in the flour (self-rising preferred, but all-purpose or cake work fine) 1/3 at a time stir on low until just barely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to check for hidden pockets of flour and stir again.
- Pour your mixture into your loaf pan (or another vessel) and bake for 30-40 minutes. To test insert a wooden skewer and if it pulls away clean the cake is done.
Let your cake cool for about 30 minutes to an hour before enjoying to prevent the cake from drying out. For an extra level of deliciousness top with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream and your favorite spread (jam, fresh fruit, Nutella, peanut butter, etc.).
One of the best things about pound cake, aside from being quite possibly the simplest baking recipe on earth, is its endless customizability. Just about anything that you want can be added to a pound cake without adversely affecting the baking.
Chocolate Chips. Dried or Fresh Fruits. Apples. Blueberries. Coconut. Cinnamon. Vanilla. Espresso Powder. Nutella. Caramels. Lemon Zest. Cardamom. Cherries. *The mini pound cakes on the cover of this article used apricot jam at the bottom.
The options are only limited by the contents of your kitchen and your imagination! For large amounts of add-ins or very wet ingredients, add an extra 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
I hope you’ll take the time to spend a few moments together as a family and giving baking from scratch a good honest try. The sense of accomplishment you have when you do something entirely on your own is something that is infectious and self-perpetuating. It is something that encourages you to try new things and gives you the confidence to grow, even in areas where you may not be entirely comfortable at first.
Because hey, you can make pound cake from scratch – how hard can AP Calculus really be?