Buttermilk Pound Cake

April 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm 104 comments


Last week, I spent more time in the airport than in school. I was visiting colleges I’d been accepted to, hoping to find the one that spoke to me. I only applied to schools in the east coast, so there was a lot of flying in store.

My dad went with me. We took eight flights in total, and unfortunately, we weren’t lucky when it came to the Russian roulette of flight-booking. Nearly all of our flights were red-eye. I was in the middle seat almost every time, and not always next to my dad. I sat next to a baby – twice. And none of the flights came with food, though that might have been a good thing.

But for me, the worst part about it was the boredom. The amusement of my iPod faded quickly, especially without internet access: no Facebook, no Twitter, no email or WordPress for six hours. I wasn’t able to make calls or send texts. Without my phone, my iPod, and my camera, I didn’t know what to do.


I remember my impatience on our last flight home. The plane half landed, bouncing gently up and down and still moving fast enough to make my head spin. I had my phone turned on before the plane had come to a slow roll, before our pilot could say “Welcome to Seattle” and remind us to keep our seatbelts on. I texted my best girlfriend E- (and also checked to see if airport wifi went out this far. It didn’t.)

E- wasn’t texting back quickly enough, so I impatiently slapped the cell phone screen a few times. I glanced up to see the man in the aisle seat staring at me. We both laughed a little and I told him, “Sometimes she texts like she’s only got one hand.” He didn’t get it, so I added, “Super slowly.”

His expression told me that he was seeing something completely foreign, and I felt embarrassed. I pushed my cell phone into my pocket and worked on lifting out my bags. I didn’t check my phone again until my dad and I were reunited and standing outside, waiting for the car to pick us up.


I think it’s safe to say that people my age truly compose the generation of instant gratification. We say we just like to feel connected and make our voices heard, but that isn’t entirely true. We like the power of feeling up to speed, of knowing everything as it happens. When we decide we want something, we can’t get it out of our heads. We want it now, and if we have to wait, our moods sour.

I’m guilty of it. When the bus runs a few minutes off schedule, I turn up my iPod and pout a little, already impatient at my wasted time. When the mood suddenly strikes to watch a certain movie, I immediately drive out to the local Blockbuster, unable to wait for tomorrow. I hate lines, traffic, and even the amount of time it takes for a soda to fall out of the vending machine.

E-, the friend who I texted after my flight, approached me before class a month or two ago. She handed me a slice of buttermilk pound cake in a Tupperware container. It was as simple as pound cake gets, no frills or distractions – no hints of lavender, no chocolate marble swirl, no vanilla bean glaze or berry puree. Not even a dusting of powdered sugar. As the bell rang and we all found our seats, I tried a little piece.

I shouldn’t have been fooled by its humble appearances. This cake was something extraordinary.


E- told me the secret ingredient was time. She’d discovered that if she waited a day or two before cutting into it, everything about this pound cake improved – the flavor, the texture of the crumb, its dynamics. The slightly sugary crust that formed along the edges, giving it a bit of a crunch? The sweet, gentle tang of buttermilk? All side effects of her patience.

I got the recipe, determined to bake the thing and let it sit. But the trouble started even before the oven preheated. I love the taste of batter, and this batter tasted amazing. After two little dips into it I told myself I had to stop or there wouldn’t be any cake to age. I showed some uncharacteristic restraint and slid the pan into the oven.

An hour later, the house smelled incredible. Like sugar and butter and cream and home. When I opened the oven door, the kitchen filled up with warm, fragrant air. I turned the cake out onto a rack and breathed in the sugary steam rising up from it. I really, really wanted to try it. I thought about taking a little crumb from the bottom where nobody was sure to miss it. But I let the cake cool and then packed it up so I wouldn’t be tempted.


I didn’t think I could do it, but two days later, I cut the first piece of pound cake. I could feel how richly dense it was as the knife sank through. I broke off a piece the way I had a couple months ago. Completely and utterly worth waiting for.


Appearance-wise, this pound cake is certainly humble. If you’re like me, the kind of person who judges recipes on the photos and likes baked goods with an impressive air, you might be surprised. This pound cake is everything you’d want in a real pound cake. It’s not a delicate strawberry short cake kind of pound cake – it’s unabashedly dense, heavy in exactly the right way.

If you like buttermilk, the flavor is wonderful. It’s sweet, with just a little bit of tang. By the second day, the pound cake gets a little sugary crust around the bottom. If that doesn’t sound appealing, believe me, it is. It adds just a tiny bit of crunch and is so, so good.

While this recipe is a great way to use up buttermilk, you don’t need it. I almost never buy it, since it’s so easy to make: just put a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a measuring cup and add enough milk to make it all equal 1 cup. Then let it sit for 5-10 minutes while you prep the rest of the recipe.

I don’t know what the cake tasted like right after baking. All I know is that when I finally tried it, it was perfect. My advice is that you make the pound cake, let it cool, then keep it loosely wrapped for a day or so. Even overnight would work. The cake lasts a long time, but it might not stick around long enough for you to find out.

Cruze Farm Buttermilk Pound Cake
Slightly adapted from the New York Times
Makes a 9″ bundt cake

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted room temperature butter, plus more for greasing the pan
3 1⁄2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring the pan
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cultured buttermilk (see above to make your own)
Juice of 1 lemon, strained

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour a bundt pan.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and drizzle in the sugar, creaming it well. Add the eggs one at a time, after the egg before it has been incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract, scraping down the sides. On low speed, add a third of the flour mixture until just combined. Then add a third of the buttermilk mixture until just combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Stir in the lemon juice.

Smooth the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick or thin knife comes out clean, about 75 minutes. The cake should be browned and the edges should be starting to pull away. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a rack and cool completely.

Printer-Friendly Version – Cruze Farm Buttermilk Pound Cake

Entry filed under: Cake/Cupcakes. Tags: , .

Tall, Soft Biscuits Chocolate-Mint Ice Cream Cake

104 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Denise Rambo  |  April 28, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    My best friend Celeste’s favorite cake is pound cake. I always tease her about what an adventurous and exciting choice that is – LOL! Your post makes me want to make this cake for her. Once again, your photos are gorgeous! (I particularly love your comment about hating to wait for the soda can to drop!) Another great post Sweetie!

  • 2. Sara  |  April 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    This cake looks mouth-wateringly delicious! I adore your blog!

  • 3. Bakingmonster  |  April 28, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    i know what you mean with flights and not having enough to do, but thats awesome that you applied to all college back east thats where I want to go to college. The cake looks/sounds amazing. I have never made pound cake because it never seems flavorful but I like the idea of letting it age, I think I will try it with all the fresh berries that are around now.

  • 4. Joe @ Eden Kitchen  |  April 28, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    This cake looks delicious, and your photos are amazing!!

  • 5. hannah @ thepastrykook  |  April 28, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    hi elissa! this is another amazing story of yours. and the cake. gorgeous! thanks for sharing! i can’t wait for your next post (:

  • 6. Katy  |  April 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Looks amazing. I think I’m going to have to try this when I get home for the summer! (Only two more weeks…and I can’t wait till the semester’s over! haha)

    I hope the college visits went well. Do you know where you’re gonna be in the fall yet?

  • 7. lavienouveau  |  April 28, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    What an interesting idea. it reminds me of how you let steak sit before you dig into it… it has to have time to re-obsorb all of those delicious bits.

    I actually discovered something similar when I lived on my own. I would bake a batch of cupcakes and each one would get individually frozen, and I would take them out to have when I needed a fix, and I found that I liked them so much more after being frozen for a while then fresh out of the oven! weird how certain things work like that, huh?

  • 8. Jayne  |  April 28, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Sounds really good to take on a trip! Ummm… can I bake this in a simple round tin? Cos, well, I haven’t got a bundt pan. *blush*

  • 9. Robyn  |  April 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    You say you look at the photos… so do I! But yours are amazing anyway, they’re what pulled me in to your blog:) Plain and simple often creates the best photos

  • 10. Deanna  |  April 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    I’ve heard that chocolate chip cookies are best when baked 3 days after the dough is made. I’ve never had the patience (or the willpower) but maybe this will inspire me to try.

  • 11. gateauxbellehelene  |  April 29, 2010 at 4:13 am

    What a great tip. Like you I am too impatient and hate waiting for things. It must have been so exhausting travelling on 8 flights. No wonder you got bored easily.
    Can I just say that I love your writing style and would love to express myself as eloquently as you.

  • 12. Adriana  |  April 29, 2010 at 4:56 am

    I have to say i really loved reading this post. You sound like me 5 years ago. I was the same impatient gal and sometimes I still am. I get pissed when things don’t happen now, when the internet at home doesn’t work fine and I have to wait until my roommate resets it. But, all in all, the urgency is slowly fading away.
    I would say, and I might be completely wrong, it’s a matter of time. One day you’ll be 20 something (I’m 24) and you’ll realize that all the sudden, certain little things like the bus being late or the time it takes for your friends to reply a text (believe me, i had a really hard time with that), is not a big deal any more.
    For real, this is not a motherly speech. This is me having been you and realizing, as I read your post, time did its job with me. As I get older, I take things with more patience. I’m more ‘chill’ if you want.

    I’d say we don’t belong to the same generation. They say mine has to make things easier for yours to change the world. We have to do the dirty job so you guys can do big things. You make lots of people happy with your baked goods, I’d say that’s a start.

    Anyway, that cake looks superb. I’ve come to love buttermilk in anything and I sure think it’s worth making it and waiting.

    once more, i loved the post!

  • 13. smellslikehome  |  April 29, 2010 at 5:35 am

    a buttermilk pound cake sounds like my ultimate bff!! love the photos and the story and while i can’t quite related to the woes of unrequited instant gratification (since i’m old – 31 lol), i will say good luck choosing your college! the east coast is a wonderful place (though i’m dying to see Seattle for the first time!) and is home to some incredible universities. your wit and level-headedness will take you places and your baking talents will make all who you meet marvel at you. in case Yale is one of the universities you’re considering, let me know…i’ve been working here for 8+ yrs as a researcher and have a good handle on the what life is like in little New Haven. good luck!! :)

  • 14. Philippa  |  April 29, 2010 at 5:56 am

    I love your site and your recipes, and don’t normally reply – I just lurk and read! But on this occasion, I had to say something!

    “The amusement of my iPod faded quickly, especially without internet access: no Facebook, no Twitter, no email or WordPress for six hours. I wasn’t able to make calls or send texts. Without my phone, my iPod, and my camera, I didn’t know what to do.”

    You’re an intelligent person – read a book!!!!

    • 15. Elissa  |  April 29, 2010 at 6:25 am

      Philippa – I did, actually! I read Love In the Time of Cholera and Pigs in Heaven, but I have to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have if I’d had an internet connection!

  • 16. linda  |  April 29, 2010 at 6:42 am

    another awesome post & your insight…amazing!
    i hope that one of the schools “was playing your song!”

    this cake looks wonderful & i love the photograph of the dough in the floured bundt pan.

    i am going to bake this in a bundt pan (similar to nordicware cathedral) …will i have to adjust the baking time?
    thanks! :)

  • 17. Philippa  |  April 29, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Fair enough. Why didn’t you say so?!

  • 18. Anna Kristina  |  April 29, 2010 at 7:36 am

    This sounds incredible, and you really nailed our impatient culture. Lately my husband and I have been trying to take a day a week to just rest, instead of knocking off a to do list. And to take things in stride. When I do it, I feel so much more peaceful. But it’s definitely a challenge. You also might like this article from Real Simple I was coincidentally looking at yesterday!


  • 19. Bob  |  April 29, 2010 at 11:03 am

    That looks wicked good. I love pound cake, I’ll definitely be making this.

  • 20. Alex Erynn  |  April 29, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I find so many things taste better after a day or two. The waiting part is quite hard though, I must admit.

  • 21. Jenny  |  April 29, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Bravo! I know it must seem like everything’s moving at a breakneck pace, but I hope you get a little time while you’re in school to just enjoy yourself at whatever pace the world dictates. Love the pound cake recipe – it’s been too long since I made one. And your previous post on jam biscuits is my inspiration for this weekend’s biscuit project, thank you.

    I hope I get to see you again before you run off to school. Very excited for you!

  • 22. Sharon  |  April 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Never mind the pound cake, which looks fabulous, I can’t wait to hear what school you decided on!

  • 23. Shandy  |  April 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Love your blog and have never responded before, but I found your post really interesting. I have a 13-year-old stepson, and he exhibits a lot of the same behavior you describe. I don’t believe he’s experienced five minutes of total silence in his life. Everything is about being “busy” and “connected” at all times and huffing with impatience if the wait for anything is more than a few seconds long. The funny thing is that he can’t answer when I ask him what he was going to spend all that “wasted” time on. What, exactly, is he missing out on, besides sending another three-word text? What wonderful thing would he be doing with that time that he’s so upset about losing? Why is he so afraid of the quiet?

    As a person who is likewise guilty of spending too much time on the internet, I think these questions are surprisingly important ones to answer. But here I am posting on a complete stranger’s blog and avoiding answering them myself.

    Still, the cake looks sublime in its simplicity, and I thoroughly enjoy your posts. Keep on keeping on!

  • 24. thescrappybug  |  April 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I love pound cake. And this looks so so good I can’t wait to try. I am twice your age and let me tell you I have grown out of patience. If the elevator doesn’t come fast enough or if the web page doesn’t load fast enough i sigh or moan in frustration. Patience is slowly becoming extinct in our society.

    I hope one of the schools caught your eye. I am sure you will have an amazing experience any place you go. Love your blog by the way!

  • 25. rachel  |  April 29, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    let us know what school you are going to when you decide. Or even better tell us by designing a cake for such school!


  • 26. Deelish Dish  |  April 29, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I’m new to this site and boy am I impressed! You make the rest of us look like morons. Congrats!

  • 27. Sarah  |  April 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I noticed that you read Pigs in Heaven and I wanted to tell you that I love Barbara Kingsolver. The Poisonwood Bible is tied for my second most favorite book. It’s the best thing in the world to find people who like the same books as you. Last week when you wrote about To Kill a Mockingbird (number three on my list) everything I loved so much about that story came back to me.
    Also, this cake looks wonderful. I love to toast pound cake (my sister makes fun of me for it, but it’s delicious) and then eat it with raspberry sorbet. But the way you describe this one it probably tastes best simply the way it is.

  • 28. Caroline  |  April 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    did you decide on a school?

  • 29. claire  |  April 29, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    just wondering, leave it at room temperature or keep in the refrigerator for 2 days? i live in humid singapore…

    • 30. Elissa  |  April 30, 2010 at 8:41 am

      Claire – I’m not exactly sure. I kept mine at room temperature and it was great for the whole week, but my kitchen is somewhat cool and dry. I suggest keeping it at room temperature and if it’s not looking good, move it to the fridge.

  • 31. Sara  |  April 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    I love how you tie baking, photography, and life lessons together! I love reading your posts!

  • 32. CUPCAKE LOVER:)  |  April 29, 2010 at 6:59 pm


    I <3 cake….

    I actually think I wouldn't fail at this recipe.

  • 33. Niki  |  April 30, 2010 at 5:41 am

    Mmm…. that looks delicious. But my question is, do you let it sit out on the counter, covered, overnight, or in the refridgerator?
    I’m super curious on how it tastes the first day. If it was in my household, thankfully, the whole thing wouldn’t be eaten the first day, so I’d still be able to try a couple day old piece afetr I gto to try a fresh from the oven piece :)

    • 34. Elissa  |  April 30, 2010 at 8:42 am

      Niki – I let it sit on the counter, at room temperature. I put it under my glass cake dome so it was in an airtight container. I wouldn’t put it in the fridge unless you really needed to, since the cake is already so thick and dense. I sort of want to know how it tastes on the first day, too! Maybe next time I’ll do a little comparison. :)

  • 35. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  April 30, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Your pound cake looks perfect!

  • 36. Monica H  |  April 30, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Oh delicious! I am intrigued for sure, which I can’t say is ever happened over a pound cake. I’d like to make this in mini Bundts and try the fresh from the oven ones as well as the 2 day old one.

  • 37. Valerie  |  April 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    You always have interesting narratives, but this one struck me because I cannot agree more that the “young kids” rely on instant gratification so much. When I was in high school, cell phones were for “people who could afford it”….there weren’t any good rate plans yet. We were still into AIM-ing then… I’m sort of an old person stuck in a younger person’s body; I was thinking the other day, if anyone remembers when there weren’t any cell phones, and everyone got by just fine? We’d leave a message on the answering machine and know the person would call back later. We’d make plans and stick to them, because there was no cell phone to excuse our being a few minutes late. Oh and on the plane, we’d bring a magazine or book :)

    This pound cake looks amazing! I might make it for Mother’s Day; my mother loves sweets but doesn’t bake–I guess that’s what her daughter’s for.

    ps. It’ll be interesting what kind of concoctions you have once you’re in college. Microwave brownies, anyone?

  • 38. Carmen  |  April 30, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    i’ve noticed that indian dishes like saag palak tastes ten times better when you let it sit for a couple of days. the flavors intensify. patience really is a virtue

  • 39. TaraTakesCake  |  April 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    the amount of butter you used is twice the nytimes recipe…was that a typo?

    • 40. Elissa  |  April 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm

      TaraTakesCake – The original recipe as printed in the NY Times calls for 3/4 cup butter and 3/4 cup shortening. I don’t really like shortening, so I used all butter – which would make 1 1/2 cups, or three sticks. You can use shortening, but I don’t have it in the house and I wrote down the recipe for you guys as I made it. :)

  • 41. sillygirl  |  May 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

    In the interest of “science” I would make TWO cakes so I can taste one from the first until it is gone and start the second after a few days. And I second taking a good long book along on flights. I also think it’s important to have peaceful unconnected time – I take a really slow walk for an hour each day – do not allow my brain to think about anything – exercizing the brain to be able to just be in the moment – see, feel, hear, breathe where I am. Love your recipes!

  • 42. Moriah  |  May 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Ellisa, I’ve been following your blog for a little while now and thought I should at least say ‘hi’! I’m really sorry you didn’t make it into the college you wanted to.. I hope you’ll feel better about it soon! Sometimes things happen that we don’t understand or like, but they end up being for the better. As talented and intelligent as you are though.. I don’t know what that college was thinking!! I’ve always loved reading your posts because, not only are you such an inspiring writer and baker, you’re also very honest :) Can’t wait to try this pound cake. It looks amazing!

  • 43. lee  |  May 2, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Good luck choosing the college that speaks to you. I know you will do well at whatever college you choose. Pound cakes are my favorite, thanks for sharing the recipe and the amazing photos.

  • 44. Nicole  |  May 2, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Wow. I am suddenly obsessed with this blog after I stumbled across it the other day. I basically have every recipe pulled up in separate tabs because I want to make all of these! I love to bake, but, this being my first semester in college – in the dorms – I have not been able to bake ANYTHING! I cannot wait until this summer when I will kill my mom with an overload of baked goods, and I plan on cooking through your blog like Julie does for Julia Childs’ cook book in “Julie & Julia.” I am so happy that I found your blog!

    Just keep on baking :)

  • 45. Jessica  |  May 3, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Looks amazing! I keep powdered buttermilk around. Then i have it when I need it and it lasts for a long time. It’s great!

  • 46. Kay  |  May 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I am making the pound cake right now. I bought fresh strawberries and will have it w/ the cake. Yummy. I love pound cake! Thanks for the recipe!

  • 47. Susan  |  May 4, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I made two versions of the pound cake this weekend. One was an orange flavored bundt cake and the other was a two layer cake, with fresh fruit in the middle and topped with whipped cream. Both were delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

  • 48. red | hongyi  |  May 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    you’re such a sweetheart. thank u for sharing all these recipes, your blog is such a treat to visit, always…because u blog from ur heart. i mean that. :)

  • 49. Making my Mark  |  May 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Mmmm. I love homemade pound cake.

  • 50. claire  |  May 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    hi Elissa, the past few days here in Singapore was cloudy and sometimes, slight rain, and it was the perfect time to bake this pound cake! i left it exactly 2 days at room temperature and OMG, it was wonderfully delicious! a BIG THANK YOU for the recipe.

  • 51. Ashley  |  May 5, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Wow this cake looks really amazing and like it was worth the wait! I’d find it hard to resist cutting into.

  • 52. Mrs Ergül  |  May 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    This reminds me of stews that getting as it age. I will like to give this a try!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe and all the best!

  • 53. Lisa  |  May 6, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Yum! This looks delish –> your photography always makes my tummy rumble =)

  • 54. Beth  |  May 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I made ths cake and brought it into work. People loved it!


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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