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Lemon Pound Cake

May 19, 2011

Though my mom made it a point to serve us home-cooked meals while growing up, a few convenience foods ended up in her kitchen once in a while.  She was very flexible with snack items and allowed sodas and chips, the latter of which my younger sisters and I would sneak into each other’s bedrooms on Saturday mornings to eat while we watched cartoons (and before my parents would get wind of what we were up to).  None of us kept the soda-drinking habit but the chips remain.

One other convenience food that I remember seeing in the kitchen around my junior high school years was Sara Lee pound cake.  The cake came in an aluminum loaf pan with a cardboard lid.  I remember the dense texture of the cake and the buttery top.  I remember eating it straight out of the refrigerator, sliced thick, with a glass of milk.

Of course, much like most things for which one has no benchmark, the Sara Lee pound cake, for me, was a good cake.  But time has a way of creating rosy memories of mediocre things and a reunion with them later in life is sometimes not as sweet.  I don’t remember seeing the cake much after that period but now I wonder if the cake would maintain the integrity of my memories, if my grown up palate would still like it.

By chance, I came across Francois Payard’s version this week.  He mentioned in one of his books that it was a Wednesday tradition for his father to bake a batch of his lemon pound cake while he grew up in the South of France.  With little more than half a decade between us, it is safe to imagine that while I enjoyed my Sara Lee version here in California, there was a soon-to-be third generation French pastry chef who enjoyed a cake with the same name across the Atlantic.  I had to try his family recipe.

More than twenty-five years later, the pound cake has come back into my life.  The simple ingredients whip up into a light batter but transform into a beautifully dense cake.  The texture is just like the one I enjoyed from childhood.  It is perfectly buttery with no hint of oiliness.  The addition of lemon zest lightens the cake–perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea.  No need to walk down memory lane to tamper with my sweet pound cake remembrances.  This loaf is now my gold standard.

Francois Payard’s Lemon Pound Cake

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (146 grams)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons (I used zest of two large Meyer lemons)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream (87 grams)
  • 6 tablespoons (86 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Butter an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan, then dust it with flour, shaking off the excess.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder in a bowl.
  3. Using a hand mixer, beat the eggs in a large bowl over medium speed until they’re well-blended.  Gradually add the sugar and the salt and continue to beat over medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Mix in the dry ingredients and the lemon zest, alternating with the heavy cream over low speed.  Add the melted butter and mix just until combined.  Transfer the batter into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 65 – 70 minutes (mine was done in about 50 minutes in convection oven).  The cake should be golden at the top and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan over a rack for 15 minutes then remove from the pan and allow to cool to room temperature back on the rack.
  5. This cake can be made ahead of time, wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen.  It can be thawed in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
38 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2011 11:41 PM

    Loving the lemony posts and this pound cake looks divine. I find the problem with a lot of pound cakes is that they are oily so I’m glad you pointed out that this one isn’t .

    • May 22, 2011 2:22 PM

      Thanks, Sukaina. I had a lot of lemons to use up. It was a great excuse to use one of my favorite ingredients. 🙂

  2. May 19, 2011 11:45 PM

    OMG! I used to chomp on Sara Lee’s pound cake like it was the best thing in the world. Glad to I know there was a community of kids who did the same. Guess I’ll have to try this version.

    • May 22, 2011 2:25 PM

      Ken, I’m so glad that you said this. While I wrote the post I wondered if I would be alone in my love for Sara Lee. I guess I wasn’t. This cake has exactly the same texture as Sara Lee but I’d like to think it’s a bit better because of the lemon zest. It’s worth a try. 🙂

  3. May 19, 2011 11:48 PM

    I’m always on the lookout for good pound cake recipes. Francois Payard certainly knows his desserts so I can see why this one would be your new gold standard.

    • May 22, 2011 2:26 PM

      Hi Sylvie,
      Francois Payard certainly doesn’t disappoint–all the recipes of his that I’ve tried have been winners. This one is no exception. I was happy to come across it. 🙂

  4. N Bhashyam permalink
    May 20, 2011 4:49 AM

    Thanks for sharing a really mouth watering recipe.

  5. May 20, 2011 5:06 AM

    This cake looks similar to the one my grandmother made for us; she would add the eggs so slowly to the batter. I would like to make it soon, maybe adding a lemon glaze to the top as well.

    • May 22, 2011 2:27 PM

      Joumana, the lemon glaze would be a great addition. Ina Garten has a lemon cake that I love that uses it and it’s wonderful. 🙂

  6. May 20, 2011 7:03 AM

    Jean – LOVE that you are featuring lemon! This cake looks just simply divine. I bet it was hard to eat just one slice. This is being book marked. Hope you have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

    • May 22, 2011 2:30 PM

      Hi Lisa! This cake went pretty fast. Hubs ate a third of it the first evening! I was glad there was some left the next day–it actually tasted better then. 🙂

  7. May 20, 2011 7:16 AM

    I just LOVE lemon pound cakes – the texture looks so perfect here! SO perfectly moist.

  8. May 20, 2011 7:18 AM

    This looks delicious! It makes me miss my nana’s poundcake!

  9. May 20, 2011 7:25 AM

    Very comforting classic dessert. Yours look so smooth and perfect. I wish pound cake was one of the major food groups so we can eat lots of it without feeling guilty.

  10. May 20, 2011 7:40 AM

    I always grew up with a pound cake in the house. My mom would make one and we’d work on it… sliver by sliver… for the next five days. This one just looks wonderful!

  11. May 20, 2011 7:41 AM

    My advice is to keep the “rosy memories” of Sara Lee intact. Tasting it today would probably disappoint you and then you’d lose or at least change those memories. GREG

  12. May 20, 2011 7:56 AM

    That is absolutely gorgeous!! WOW I bet it just tastes fantastic

  13. Roxan permalink
    May 20, 2011 8:15 AM

    My mom also loved the Sara Lee pound cake! I think there was also another frozen cake that she liked to get – maybe it was pepperidge farm? It was a round chocolate layer cake that came with a piece of corrugated paper wrappped around the side. Did your mom get that too? Thinking about both of those cakes really brings back my childhood and growing up.

    Now I totally have a craving for pound cake! It’s just so dense and delicious. I used to press my fingers into the top of the Sara Lee cake because I loved how it squished down. I want to make one now, and do the same thing 🙂

    Have a beautiful weekend, Jean!

    • May 22, 2011 2:33 PM

      Hi Roxan! I’m not quite sure what the round cake was but we probably had it, too, growing up. 🙂 I know what you mean about squishing the top of the pound cake. It was a bit soft at the top where all the butter flavor was. 🙂 This recipe is worth trying to get your pound cake fix. 🙂

  14. May 20, 2011 8:44 AM

    Simple cake – but looks impressive

  15. May 20, 2011 9:21 AM

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post, Jean. Sara Lee made a few appearances in my childhood as well. Sometimes while cruising the grocery aisle, I even want to grab one. I then quickly dismiss it because I knew it’s purely nostalgia.

    Your pound cake looks divine!

    • May 22, 2011 2:34 PM

      Thanks, Annapet. I wasn’t even sure that Sara Lee still makes it. This recipe is too easy to not choose homemade, though. I was happy to find it. 🙂

  16. May 20, 2011 10:00 AM

    Oh it seems like I’m missing out something here. I don’t know what’s Sara Lee pound cake! But looks like you make something even better. I love you keep using lemons. Haha of course it’s your blog title, but I really appreciate every recipe here. There are in fact too many recipes that are in my folder that I can’t catch up. I still need to re-cook your green bean too… Have a great weekend Jean!

    • May 22, 2011 2:36 PM

      Hi Nami! I picked a bunch of lemons from my tree and was inspired with some lemon-themed posts. 🙂

      Oh, the green bean dish is one of my favorite dishes now. Yes, do try it again and please let me know how it goes. 🙂

  17. May 20, 2011 10:54 AM

    I have only had pound cake a couple times before, with varying results. Store bought – not good. Almond pound cake – yummy! Pretty sure this one would go in the yummy category!

  18. May 20, 2011 2:47 PM

    This looks so moist and dense, I’d love to have a piece right now!

  19. May 20, 2011 6:12 PM

    What a lovely cake. Beautiful pictures. : )

  20. May 21, 2011 6:57 AM

    Oh, Sara Lee pound cake was the best! I’m sure your home-made, never frozen variant is way more delicious. Beautiful photos to go along with this great recipe.

  21. May 21, 2011 10:36 AM

    I remember loving Sara Lee pound cake and banana cake growing up. I have been on a pound cake kick lately, so I am looking forward to trying this.

  22. May 21, 2011 7:53 PM

    Ah yes…pound cake. I’ve found a recent love for it too. Your pictures along with your words were just perfect. Thank you for sharing with me tonight…I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long! Your blog continues to bring a smile to my face. I hope you have a blessed Sunday!

    • May 22, 2011 2:38 PM

      Monet, you’re so sweet. No need to apologize for your absence but I’m very glad you’re here now. 🙂

  23. May 22, 2011 7:39 AM

    Yay, love any coffee lemon pound cakes and I love your full circle story about your experiences with it throughout childhood to adulthood. SU. Have a fun trip and vacation!

  24. May 22, 2011 11:39 AM

    My mom loved that Sara Lee pound cake….man that takes me back. Beautiful pound cake….I would happily take a slice.

  25. May 23, 2011 5:15 PM

    Lemon pound cake is one of my favorite treats for breakfast. Isn’t it amazing how something so simple can be totally cravings-satisfying? I did not grow up with Sara Lee stuff but instead with the French version so you really got me here with this recipe.

  26. May 24, 2011 1:56 PM

    what beautiful recipes and great photos. Michael

  27. May 24, 2011 5:14 PM

    The pound cake looks wonderful.

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