This vanilla pound cake from Virginia Willis is made with pantry staples of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs with the notable addition of vanilla bean seeds. It has a lovely, cakey, fine-crumbed texture and crisp edges. Pound cake perfection.
Virginia Willis says of this vanilla pound cake, “It has been a constant in my life and it has been my birthday cake many times. Our family holidays would not be complete without it. The best part is the crisp, brown sugary edges. Much to my mother’s consternation, more than once, little pesky elves raided the opaque Tupperware cake container and nibbled away those tasty bits.” We’ve all been there with those nibbled edges. And you’ll be there, too, when you make this cake. Rich, buttery, with just the perfect crumb, and, yes, those gosh darn crisp sugary edges.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Vanilla Pound Cake
- 16-cup Bundt pan
- 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the pan
- 3 cups White Lily or other Southern all-purpose flour (or substitute gluten-free all-purpose flour; see variation below)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup whole milk at room temperature
- 5 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 vanilla bean split and scraped, or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening preferably Crisco, at room temperature
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Generously slick a 16-cup Bundt pan with butter.
- In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, eggs, and the scraped vanilla seeds.
- In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle, beat together the butter, shortening, and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- Add the flour and milk mixtures to the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating between dry and liquid, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. Fill the prepared pan with batter. It should be no more than 2/3 full.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 325°F (160°C) and bake for 45 minutes more, until the cake is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan and a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted in the cake comes out with nary a glob of batter but perhaps just a couple dry crumbs.
- Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely. This cake will stay moist in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Gluten-Free VariationFollow the recipe above, substituting your favorite store-bought or homemade gluten-free all-purpose flour blend for the all-purpose flour. Kindly note that the gluten-free version of this pound cake may only rise about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pan and may be slightly moister and denser than traditional pound cake. This is common when you bake with gluten-free flours. And don’t be surprised if the cake takes just a few minutes longer to bake completely through and turns a slightly darker shade of golden than you expect at the edges. This, too, is a common characteristic of gluten-free flours.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This vanilla pound cake has the perfect texture and flavor. The small flecks of vanilla bean were great. The crunchy bits on the top are as good as the author says, and I agree it’s hard to not snitch them.
This pound cake stays moist if kept covered and is the ideal base for any flavor of sauce or fruit topping. It would make an excellent strawberry shortcake. Next time I’ll try making mini Bundt cakes to create individual servings.
Although this vanilla pound cake is much sweeter than most pound cakes I’ve made, my family adored it. I really liked the combined use of butter and shortening—the shortening provided a delightful exterior crunch while the butter kept the cake dense and creamy.
I’m going to take Kim’s suggestion [Editor’s Note: See the recipe tester comment above] and use it to make strawberry shortcake. And in the future, I’ll gift this sugary goodness to any friends with a formidable sweet tooth!
Originally published February 11, 2021