The perfect pound cake has a golden brown crust and a fine, moist texture. Achieving this goal requires the right ingredients and careful baking. Traditional pound cake recipes call for a pound each of butter, flour, sugar and eggs. Regardless of your recipe's measurements, stick with real butter and measure each ingredient accurately.
The Real Thing
A perfectly browned pound cake starts with high-quality ingredients. When butter and sugar combine in baked goods, they cause the Maillard reaction, which gives baked goods their beautiful, golden crust. Always use 100 percent butter, not butter blends or margarine. Use white sugar and whole eggs, which also contribute color.
Take Its Temperature
To ensure a golden brown crust on your pound cake, make sure your oven's temperature is accurate. Many home ovens -- even new ovens -- can be off by 25 to 75 degrees, according to Cindy Mushet, author of "The Art & Soul of Baking." Place an oven thermometer in the oven and preheat the oven for 20 to 25 minutes to gauge the thermostat's accuracy. A pound cake won't brown well in an oven that's not hot enough; conversely, an oven that's too hot can cause the sides and edges to brown too quickly.
The Right Equipment
The type of bakeware you use can also influence how well your pound cake browns. Cakes bake more quickly in dark or black metal bakeware and can often become too brown or dry. Glass bakeware also bakes quickly. If you use these types of pans, reduce the heat by 25 degrees and watch the oven closely. Sturdy aluminum pans are best for even baking and golden brown crusts. Be sure to use the size of pan called for in a recipe.
Set Them Straight
For beautifully golden pound cakes, set the oven rack in the center of the oven. Place the filled pan in the center of the rack. If you're baking more than one pound cake, place the cakes on the same rack with at least 2 inches between them so heat circulates freely. Don't place cake pans one above the other. The cakes won't brown well. Set the timer for 5 minutes before you expect the cake to be done. The cake is done when it looks golden brown and feels slightly spongy, but not mushy when you touch it. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake should come out clean, with a few crumbs.
- The Art & Soul of Baking; Cindy Mushet
- NPR: Cake-Baking Secrets from Alton Brown
- What's Cooking America: Secrets to Making a Successful Cake
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."