The original pound cake got its name from the measurements of some ingredients used in the recipe — a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of flour. Those proportions haven’t been commonly used for more than a century, as these basic recipes from 1920 show.

Even when much less butter and sugar are used, the result is a simple, rich, fine-textured cake that is lovely on its own… and one that can be especially delicious when dressed up with some sweet add-ons.

Some popular pound cake toppings include fruit (especially berries), whipped cream, creme fraiche, ice cream, lemon curd, jam, caramel sauce and chocolate sauce.

But whether you eat it plain or use one or more of these flavorful toppings on your traditional pound cake, you’ll have a dessert that would be a winner in any century.

Three from-scratch traditional pound cake recipes (1920)

Traditional pound cake recipes from a chef

Here are some of Mrs. Mary A Wilson’s best “tried in the fire recipes,” the actual working results of many years’ teaching and lecturing. Mrs. Wilson literally “cooked to the queen’s taste,” as she served five years at Buckingham Palace in the service of Queen Victoria. She also served as chef in many of the famous resorts and cities in Europe. There is an individuality to her recipes and her method of presenting them that appeals to every woman.


Traditional white pound cake recipe

Four ounces of butter,
One and one-half cups of sugar.

Cream until light and frothy, and then add:
One cupful of milk,
Three and one-half cupfuls of flour,
Four teaspoonfuls of baking powder,
One teaspoonful of almond extract,
One-half teaspoonful of mace.

Beat for five minutes to blend, and then cut and fold in the stiffly beaten whites of five eggs. Bake in prepared pans for one hour in a moderate oven. To prepare the pan, grease and flour the pan and then line it with greased and floured paper. Golden cake may be made from this recipe, using the yolks of seven eggs.

To make this successfully, you must use good shortening, pastry flour, granulated sugar and fresh eggs. Exact care in measuring with the proper methods of compounding, and, finally, careful baking are necessary.

Now, for another point: do not stir the cake after its final beating.

In filling the cake pan, put the mixture well into the corners and leave a slight depression in the center. This will leave the cake perfectly smooth on top.

Now, if the oven is too cool when the cakes go into it, the cake will rise over the top of the pans and become coarse-grained. While, on the other hand, if it is too hot, it will brown quickly on the top before the cake has had a chance to rise; then when the dough does attempt to rise, it will break through and crack the crust. Too much flour will also cause this.

Now to break the old hoodoos about cake-baking! You may look at the cake after it is in the oven ten minutes if you will open and shut the oven door gently. If necessary to remove the cake, wait until it has reached its full height and is beginning to brown — then it may be removed carefully without danger of falling. Sometimes it may be necessary to remove the cakes so that they may brown evenly.

Turn the cakes to cool upon a sieve or wire cake-rack.

Should the cake for any reason scorch, don’t trim it with a knife. This spoils its appearance; instead, use a grater and remove the scorched part.

Icing the cakes greatly improves their appearance. Do not attempt to ice a cake until it is cool, and then coat the entire cake over with a plain water icing (recipe below).


Traditional pound cake recipe – Small cake

Four ounces of butter,
One cupful of sugar.

Place in a warm bowl and cream until light and frothy; now add yolks of four eggs and beat well for ten minutes, then add:

Three cupfuls of flour,
Four level teaspoonfuls baking powder,
One cupful of milk,
One teaspoonful of nutmeg.

Beat hard for fifteen minutes and then carefully fold in the stiffly-beaten white of an egg, and then pour into a prepared pan and bake for sixty minutes in slow oven.


Traditional pound cake recipe – Large cake

One and one-half cupfuls of sugar,
Eight ounces of shortening.

Cream together until light and fluffy, and then add:

Yolks of six eggs,
Five cupfuls of sifted flour,
Three level teaspoons of baking powder,
One and one-half cupfuls of milk,
One teaspoonful of mace.

Beat for twenty minutes to blend, and then carefully fold in the stiffly beaten whites of the six eggs. Bake in a prepared pan for eighty minutes in a moderate oven.


Plain water icing recipe

Place in bowl:

One pound XXXX sugar [fine sugar],
Two tablespoonfuls cornstarch,
One teaspoonful lemon juice,
Sufficient hot water to spread.

Beat to mix, then use.


Orange water icing recipe

Place in bowl:

One pound XXXX sugar [fine sugar],
Two tablespoonfuls cornstarch,
Yolk of one egg,
One teaspoonful grated orange peel.

Sufficient hot orange juice to make a mixture which will spread. Beat hard for a few minutes to make glassy.


About this story

Source publication: Mrs. Wilson's Cook Book: Numerous New Recipes Based on Present Economic Conditions

Source publication date: 1920

Filed under: 1920s, Dessert recipes, Food & drink

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