Sliced Sweet Vanilla Pound Cake with Citrus Icing and Orange Zest

A quick search for ‘pound cake’ recipes yields a daunting number of variations! Some whip the egg whites and yolks separately, then fold to combine. Some have extra buttermilk or yolks. Some cream cheese? Step away from the cream cheese and let’s start from the beginning. A traditional pound cake has 1 lb each of egg, butter, sugar, and flour. (Talk about rich!) It’s leavened by whipping air into the egg, butter, and sugar mixture and by the release of gas during the cooking process.

If you want a light and fluffy pound cake, you’ll want to look for a recipe that whips the egg whites separately for extra volume. This recipe sticks to the traditional method of creaming the butter and sugar then adding the whole eggs, which yields a more dense but still moist cake. It also uses a higher percentage of egg yolks than the traditional recipe, which adds to the richness.

If you try to add a lot of liquid (buttermilk, lemon juice, etc) to this mixture, it will get weighed down and don’t be able to rise under the added weight. Recipes with a lot of lemon juice or buttermilk will also have a chemical leavener in there like baking soda and/or baking powder. These are highly alkaline (the opposite of acidic). The balance of acidic (lemon juice/buttermilk) balances the alkalinity in the leavening agent (baking soda/powder), which reduces the otherwise soapy and strong taste that the baking soda/powder otherwise would have left behind. The result is added flavor (lemon juice/buttermilk) made possible with the leavening agent.

The icing in this recipe is called a flat icing. Flat icing is used on many bakery pastries such as danishes or in this case, pound cakes. It’s a really simple icing you can whip up in just a couple minutes and adds the perfect amount of sweetness with a pop of citrus flavor.

Sweet Vanilla Pound Cake with Citrus Icing


Pound Cake

Yield: 1 – 5 cup loaf pan

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp water
  • 8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 9 oz granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 7 oz cake flour, sifted
  • 4 oz Powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 T (or 1.5 oz) fresh lemon or orange juice
  • 1/2 T (or 1/2 oz) corn syrup
  • 1/3 tsp Vanilla extract

Pound Cake Steps

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.

2. Spray the inside of the loaf pan with pan spray. Spoon in some granulated sugar and rotate the pan to coat the inside. This will give a soft caramelized crust to the pound cake.

3. In a small bowl, whisk to combine egg yolks, yolks, vanilla, and water.

4. In the mixer using a paddle attachment, beat the room temperature butter for 2 minutes on medium speed.

Coat Baking Cake Pan with Butter and Sugar for Pound CakePaddling Butter for Sweet Vanilla Pound Cake in KitchenAid Mixing Bowl

Add sugar gradually and continue to mix for 4-5 min until almost white. Scrape down occasionally to mix well.

Scraping Down Batter for Sweet Vanilla Pound Cake in KitchenAid Mixing Bowl

Mixing Sweet Vanilla Pound Cake in KitchenAid Mixing Bowl

With the mixture running, pour in about a third of the egg mixture at time, pausing occasionally to scrape the mixture down. The mixture will look curdled right after you more egg mixture, but will it blend back together after about 15 seconds of mixing. Make sure the mixture has blended well before adding more egg (~30 seconds)

Curdled Cake Batter in Vanilla Pound Cake
Temporarily curdled after adding egg mixture. Keep mixing!

Add salt and continue to mix until combined.

Lightly fold in a quarter of the sifted cake flour at a time. The flour should be completely incorporated before adding more.

Gently pour the mixture into the loaf pan. Use an offset spatula to gently level the mixture. Don’t handle it too much or you’ll lose volume. (The mixture should fill about ~2/3rds of the pan. If you fill it too much, it may run over or even collapse under its own weight.)

Bake at 350 F, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Sweet Vanilla Pound Cake Fresh Out of the Oven on Cooling Rack

Icing Steps

  1. Mix all ingredients using the paddle attachment in a mixer or in metal bowl with a whisk. (Using sifted powdered sugar will make go a lot easier for you.)
  2. To apply:
    • a thin layer, heat the icing over a bain marie to 100 F and use a pastry brush to apply to the top of the pound cake.
    • a thick layer, use a spatula to spread the icing on top of the pound cake.
  3. For this recipe, I grated up some fresh orange zest, lightly blanched it in boiling water, and tossed it in granulated sugar. Sprinkle it on right the icing before it sets, otherwise, it will slide right off.

Sweet Vanilla Pound Cake Drizzled with Citrus Icing and Citrus Zest

Sweet Vanilla Pound Cake with Citrus Icing
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