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Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

Recipes for pound cakes started in a cold oven first appeared in advertising campaigns designed to entice homemakers into replacing their wood-fired ovens with the gas stoves that were being introduced to the American market in the early twentieth century. (Imagine having to stoke a fire just to bake a cake and wait for the temperature to be just right! It’s no wonder Southern bakers had baking prowess.) The thought of a cooler kitchen in the hot summers was appealing to bakers. You simply mixed the batter and placed the cake pan in a cold oven, then turned the oven on; pound cakes are so dense, they don’t need the usual initial blast of high heat.

This cake bakes slowly as the temperature of the oven rises, which allows more time for the leavening agents to lift the cake. It has a fine, delicate crumb and develops a golden crust that is unlike that of any other cake.

Editor's Note: This pound cake recipe makes a large Bundt cake; pan capacity will vary depending on the shape. We recommend this Bundt pan.

Ingredients

Serves 12 to 16

3½ cups (438 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. (4 g) baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 ½ cups (355 ml) whole milk
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 sticks (340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
6 large (300 g) eggs, at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Step 1

Butter a 10-inch (25 cm) Bundt pan, making sure to get into all the crevices. Lightly dust the pan with flour, tapping the pan on the counter to shake out the excess.

Step 2

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, mix together the milk and vanilla.

Step 3

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 

Step 4

Turn the speed down to low and gradually add the sugar. Then increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is very light and fluffy.

Step 5

Reduce the speed to low again and add the eggs one (50 g) at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. 

Step 6

Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.

Step 7

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand (if using) and, using the rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter is completely mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula.

Step 8

Place the pan on the middle rack of the cold oven and set the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C). Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the cake is golden on top; a cake tester inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert it onto another rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely.

Step 9

Dust the cooled cake generously with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Excerpted from Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking by Cheryl Day (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2021. Buy the full book from Artisan Books or Amazon.

How would you rate Cold Oven Pound Cake?

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Tell us what you think
  • Excellent. We love it. Put a vanilla glaze on it. Will try lemon next time. Never thought it would work in a cold start. Wonder if it will work with other cakes?

    • Alf

    • Ellington ct

    • 4/4/2022

  • This is not a pound cake!

    • Barry Miller

    • Salt Lake City

    • 3/23/2022

  • Responding to question regarding using a cold electric oven. Some years ago our State Baking Contest for adults had a similar recipe for a pound cake (loaf pan) that started in a cold oven. While judging across the state at fairs etc we noted the appearance of the top of some of the pound cakes would be crackled and crispier. While the rest of the pound cakes would show the normal split across the top while being smooth. We found that the crackled appearance came from cold starts in electric ovens. Early on we realized we needed to modify our judging on the appearance of the pound cake. Will be trying this recipe in my electric oven and it will be interesting to see the results. Can't wait as this looks like a keeper for a pound cake recipe

    • Laurie

    • Torrington, CT

    • 3/22/2022

  • Does this work in a cold electric oven? Don’t the elements peak well above the set temperature to bri g the oven to desired temperature?

    • Catherine A.

    • SF, CA

    • 3/20/2022

  • Is there any reason not to use a cast iron bundt pan instead of cast aluminum?

    • Ray

    • SE PA

    • 3/20/2022

  • Never would of thought that would work but it does and it turned out great :)

    • Roman

    • Beaverton , Oregon

    • 3/20/2022

  • I have made this cake for years and everyone loves it. It is absolutely delicious!!!

    • Anonymous

    • Roanoke, VA but live in Abingdon, VA now.

    • 3/20/2022

  • My mother made this cake for many years, esp. when needed to take something for a funeral. She always topped it with a lemon glaze (1 1/2 C sifted confectioners sugar + juice of 3 lemons)

    • Anonymous

    • Virginia

    • 3/20/2022

  • My cake came out tasting amazing but it was very dense and a little dry. I need some advice on how to make it moist. Instead of all purpose flour I used cake flour. I love the recipe and will be making it again and again until it like want - moist, fluffy and airy.

    • RachelB

    • Houston, TX

    • 3/19/2022

  • Not sure if my grandmother started with a cold oven (she'd be over 100 years old if still around) but she made the world's best pound cake with a thick sweet crust that was impossible to duplicate. Since nobody wrote things down back then I assumed she had left a key ingredient out LOL. Anyway, her recipe was similar to this one but the process was not. Couldn't find my bundt pan so made two huge loaves

    • westendgirl

    • Hagerstown, MD

    • 3/17/2022

  • I think the two people who commented "too much sugar" are dumb. It's cake people; get a life!

    • Breadfan

    • Cakeville USA

    • 3/17/2022

  • too much sugar!

    • Anonymous

    • NNJ

    • 3/17/2022

  • 50 grams added sugar per serving? That’s two days worth for an adult. Ridiculous.

    • Anonymous

    • 3/16/2022

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