My Vanilla Pound Cake is a classic moist pound cake recipe with three layers of intense vanilla flavor to excite the most serious vanilla fans.
You could make plain pound cake, but why would you when you can make triple vanilla pound cake??? Flavor pretty much rules around here, and if you interested in food history you know there’s been a growing trend for bold extreme flavors in everything from breakfast cereal to cocktails. And I get it, there’s something exhilarating about food that gets right up in your face and bites back. But bold flavor comes in many forms, and this vanilla pound cake proves it. Chocolate has its charms, but in terms of pure aromatic complexity, ‘plain’ vanilla is hands down the champ. If you love and appreciate vanilla, my vanilla pound cake loaf is a must make!
- what exactly is a pound cake?
- what exactly is vanilla?
- 3 layers of vanilla in vanilla pound cake
- related: How to Make Lemon Sugar
- related: Chocolate Pound Cake
- baking tips for vanilla pound cake
- more vanilla recipes!
what exactly is a pound cake?
The name “pound cake” refers to the traditional recipes that date back to the 17th century using more or less equal weights of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. The cake is known for its dense, fine crumb texture and even though it’s been around for centuries, it still makes the best breakfast or coffee break treat ever.
This vanilla pound cake is baked in a loaf pan, which is perfect when you don’t need or want a lot of cake. But pound cakes can also be baked in tube or bundt pans, like my Classic Buttermilk Pound Cake, and you could certainly double this recipe for a pretty bundt presentation.
what exactly is vanilla?
Vanilla is made from the seed pods of a tropical orchid. It contains a mind boggling array of flavor compounds, and like coffee or fine wine, vanilla will vary depending on where it comes from (it might be Tahiti, Madagascar, or Mexico.) Madagascar vanilla is considered the king of vanilla for its rich, creamy flavor with complex notes, especially Bourbon Vanilla.
If you’re wondering why you have to pay so much for that lonely bean in the jar, it’s because those orchids are rare, only bloom once a year, and have to be pollinated by hand. From bean to bottle it takes over a year and a half…you can read about it here if you’re interested.
3 layers of vanilla in vanilla pound cake
To triple down on that lovely vanilla flavor I’ve layered it into this pound cake recipe:
vanilla layer #1: vanilla sugar
- Vanilla sugar is sugar that has been infused with vanilla. To make it, simply put some sugar in a container that has a lid, I use a large wide mouthed mason jar, but you can use a canister if you like. Add a whole vanilla bean that has been split down the middle and bury it into the sugar. (You can even re-use vanilla beans from past recipes.) Give the container a good shake and store in the cupboard. Give the jar another shake before measuring out your sugar. You can keep a container of vanilla sugar going indefinitely: every time you use the sugar just add more to the jar, and replace the vanilla beans from time to time.
related: How to Make Lemon Sugar
vanilla layer #2: vanilla bean paste
- I flavor the batter with vanilla bean paste, which is a thick vanilla product made from ground beans. You get an intense flavor AND those wonderful specks without having to deal with expensive whole beans. Vanilla bean paste can sometimes be hard to find in regular supermarkets, but you can always buy it online, here. The brand I like is Nielsen-Massey.
Vanilla bean paste is expensive, but a little goes a long way, and the flavor is truly special.
vanilla layer #3: vanilla glaze
- The glaze is the icing on this vanilla pound cake ~ pun intended! One bite and all your vanilla sense memories come flooding back…The cake has lots of vanilla presence all by itself, but for me the best part is the vanilla bean glaze on top. I try to get as much on there as possible because I want to get some in every bite.
If you love vanilla I know you’ll enjoy this cake, it’s a classic pound cake recipe taken up a few notches. The complex vanilla flavor really comes through, and the fine crumb texture is lovely. Serve it for breakfast, coffee break, or dessert ~ it’s a winner!
related: Chocolate Pound Cake
baking tips for vanilla pound cake
Room temperature ingredients help this batter come together properly. See instructions here for how to get cold ingredients to room temperature quickly.
Cream your butter and sugar thoroughly, for at least 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Electric mixers or a stand mixer are highly recommended. This important step incorporates air into the batter and helps this vanilla pound cake rise and have that perfect crumb.
Vanilla pound cake glaze: there’s an art to getting a glaze to stick onto a cake. First, don’t rush it, you need to let the cake cool. I like to err on the thick side with my glazes. It should be JUST pourable, but still have substance. I lay a thick layer across the top of the cake and then nudge it gently with a spreader. I want it to lazily fall off the edges, not flow like a waterfall or sink into my cake.
Don’t slice your pound cake until ready to serve or it will start to dry out.
Any leftover slices can be wrapped in plastic wrap, just like our favorite coffee shop does. They’ll stay fresh for a couple of days.
“I made the cake this afternoon and it turned out perfectly. My husband and neighbors are happy taste testers for Thanksgiving brunch.
Thanks again!” ~ Patty
Vanilla Pound Cake
- 9×5 loaf pan
- parchment paper (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour, see instructions for making your own in the notes, below*
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar, directions in the notes below**
- 1 Tbsp vanilla paste, or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 Tbsp milk, or more as needed, you can also use half and half, or cream.
- Set oven to 325°F.
- Lightly spray a standard 9×5 loaf pan and line it with a sheet of parchment paper or foil so you can easily lift the cake out for glazing.
- Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Let the mixer go for at least 3-4 minutes. Note: the long mixing is important for this classic pound cake, the air that is incorporated through mixing is what helps it rise.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Blend in the buttermilk. Then slowly add the flour. Make sure everything is well mixed. Do the last bit by hand.
- Turn the batter into the loaf pan and spread out evenly. Bake on the middle rack for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it. Cool on a rack.
- Make the glaze by whisking the sugar and vanilla together with enough milk or cream to create a thick spreadable glaze. Beat it until there are no lumps. You can add more liquid to thin it down, or more sifted sugar to thicken it up.
- When the cake is almost completely cool, spread a thick layer of glaze over the top and let it drip down the sides. The idea is to have the glaze thick enough that it doesn’t completely slide off the cake. If that happens, gather it up and re-glaze the cake.
- Let the glaze set up before serving your pound cake. The cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days, wrapped in plastic.