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When pound cake is good, nothing else compares. But when it’s bad, it’s extra sad. (I still have vivid memories of a former roommate’s family recipe that was closer to cardboard than cake.) To me, the perfect pound cake is moist and flavorful with a crisp, golden brown crust. It should have a light, tender crumb, but still be sturdy enough to slice cleanly into thick pieces. It should be delicious on its own, and also be a tasty partner for toppings, like whipped cream and berries.

Pound cake is believed to have originated in Europe in the 1700s and introduced to America by Amelia Simmons in her 1796 cookbook American Cookery, which was the first cookbook authored by an American and published in the United States. Abby Fisher, who was enslaved in South Carolina before making her way to San Francisco after the Civil War, helped popularize pound cake in the South when she included not one, but two pound cake recipes in her 1881 cookbook What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking. Fisher’s book was the first known cookbook written by an African American.

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