This is my grandmother’s pound cake. Like any good Southern cook, she had all her recipes on much-used and splotched index cards. I used to have the index card on which she scratched this recipe, but in several moves it has been lost. This cake is my go-to cake for food gifts; funeral food; breakfast toast; or dessert with macerated strawberries, lemon curd, or ice cream—the variations are endless. Friends swear by it for curing whatever illness they have at the moment. There is no leavener, no whipping cream, no sour cream, no salt other than the salted butter, no fancy extracts—just simple ingredients. It makes a crunchy, crusty top and the inside is dense and almost creamy. The contrast is delightful.
Tips: Do not use whole milk; 2% is best but skim works as well. Whole milk is too heavy and will keep the cake from rising. Make sure your oven is COLD. Do not preheat it. If you do not want to eat it all at once, this cake freezes beautifully. It also travels well and does not dry out quickly. —Muffinj
Test Kitchen Notes
A go-to cake for all occasions? With ingredients I always have on hand? This I had to try. I was intrigued by the unusual mixing and baking techniques. The fairly stiff batter needed some coaxing to get it distributed evenly in the pan, but once it was in, it baked up beautifully with a wonderful caramelized exterior and a moist, non-crumbly interior that has just the right amount of sweetness. Cut into chunks, it was a fabulous and sturdy dipper for chocolate fondue; when toasted, it browned without drying out and took cake to a whole new level. —tanager
Separate the eggs; the yolks go in a small bowl. The whites go into a medium bowl. Set both aside.
Using a stand mixer, cream the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the egg yolks to the creamed mixture and beat until incorporated.
Pour the vanilla into the milk.
Pour 1/3 cup of the milk mixture into the butter, sugar, and egg mixture along with 1 cup of flour. Beat only until incorporated—do not overmix. Repeat the milk and flour additions twice more until all is used and beaten until just incorporated.
Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry, and fold gently into the cake mixture.
Pour the mixture into the greased and floured tube pan and place the pan into the cold oven.
Turn the oven on to 300° F. Bake the cake for 45 minutes.
Raise the temperature to 325° F and bake another 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Then, run a knife around the edge and invert the cake onto the rack and then back onto a plate.
Serve right then, or toasted in the morning for breakfast, or with macerated fruit and ice cream for dessert.