Hint: The recipe is in the name.

What the heck is a pound cake—and why is it even called a “pound cake?” It’s not like it weighs 16 ounces are anything. As it turns out, the truth is pretty darn interesting:

What Is a Pound Cake and Why Is It Called That?

mr- million dollar pound cake reshoot
Credit: Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen

The great thing about a pound cake is you don’t even need a recipe. The proportions are right there in the name!

A traditional pound cake calls for one pound of butter, one pound of sugar, one pound of eggs, and one pound of flour. Yeah, your elementary math skills aren’t failing you—that’s a very large, very dense cake.

These days, pound cakes aren’t quite so large. Recipes are often reduced to fit the average cake pan.

Pound cakes are usually baked in loaf pans or Bundt molds.

Typically, they aren’t served with a thick layer of icing. Instead, most are lightly glazed or coated with powdered sugar.

Pound Cake History

I Made Pound Cake with 3 Different Types of Butter—This One Was the Best
Credit: MIXA/Getty Images

MIXA/Getty Images

The dessert quickly thrived after its invention in early 18th-century Britain because, in a world where few people could read, it made a written recipe unnecessary.

Of course, didn’t stop somebody from writing it down: The 1796 landmark cookbook American Cookery by Amelia Simmons includes two recipes.

As time went on, pound cake recipes and proportions were altered slightly to produce a lighter finished product.

By the 20th century, people began adding artificial leaveners like baking soda and baking powder to further lighten the cake.

Types of Pound Cake

Credit: Antonis Achilleos, Food Styling: Margaret Dickey, Prop Styling: Missie Crawford

Antonis Achilleos, Food Styling: Margaret Dickey, Prop Styling: Missie Crawford

There are plenty of popular variations of the traditional pound cake: Oil can be used instead of butter to produce a more moist cake, sour cream is sometimes added to produce a tangier cake, and additional leaveners are often used to lighten the cake.

Added flavors (like lemon, chocolate, and vanilla) are also commonplace.

The traditional version (one pound of each ingredient) is particularly popular in the American South.

How to Make Pound Cake

Credit: Meredith Food Studio

We’ve established that a recipe for pound cake isn’t exactly necessary. If you prefer following a guide to diving right into the deep end, however, we’ve got you covered.

Pound Cake Recipes

Hungry for more? Find our best pound cake recipes of all time here.