Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Vanilla bean pound cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

There may be no better dessert than a well crafted pound cake. It is perfect in its simplicity and purity of flavor. This vanilla bean pound cake gets its name from the recipe’s old-fashioned formula; 1 pound butter, 1 pound flour, 1 pound eggs and 1 pound sugar. Very few modern recipes follow these exact proportions anymore, but the name stuck. Despite the richness of all that creamy butter and eggs the cake is actually quite delicate. I cream the life out of the butter to incorporate lots of air into it, whip the eggs until they are light and fluffy and add just a touch of baking powder to guarantee the texture I love. This is an excellent place to try out a European-style butter, which is made with less water and whey than American butters. It creates a melt-in-your-mouth cake that is like eating vanilla flavored velvet. I use 1 1/2 vanilla beans to make sure the flavor is as intense as possible, but even made with a single bean this cake will knock your socks off. You can shake some confectioner’s sugar over the top or create this vanilla bean icing that accentuates the flavor and seals in the moisture of the cake.

Vanilla bean pound cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

You can find an updated recipe for this vanilla bean pound cake in my cookbook Zoë Bakes Cakes.

Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

8 oz (1 cup) unsalted butter (Kerrygold, Plugra and many others. – Last time I looked Whole Foods had nearly a 8 varieties)

8 3/4 oz (1 1/4 cups) superfine sugar (blend granulated sugar in a food processor to make your own)

1 to 1 1/2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped

8 oz (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

5 large eggs

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or sour cream

Vanilla Bean Glaze:

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons amaretto or other liqueur

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

To make the cake:

Loaf pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Preheat the oven to 325° degrees. Prepare an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with butter and flour.

To mix the cake:

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream the butter and vanilla seeds for 1 minute using the paddle. Add 1 cup of the sugar very slowly to the butter and cream together for 4 more minutes on medium speed. Set aside.

Whip the eggs until frothy in a stand mixer for about 1 minute on medium speed. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat the eggs for about 4 minutes or until light, fluffy and lemon colored.

Place the bowl with the butter back on the mixer and slowly add 1/2 the egg mixture to the butter, in about 4 parts, mixing very well after each. Alternate adding the remaining egg mixture with the flour mixture in about 3 parts, mixing very well after each. Add the heavy cream and mix well.

Pound cake batter in loaf pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth flat.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour 10 minutes. If the cake is browning too much after 50 minutes then drape the top loosely with foil.

Baked pound cake in loaf pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes.

Pound cake cooling | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Turn it out of the pan and allow it to cool for another 10 minutes before dusting with sugar or glazing.

Mixing confectioners' sugar, cream, liqueur and vanilla bean for glaze | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Mix the glaze: Add the confectioners’, cream, liqueur and vanilla bean together in a small bowl until creamy.

Spreading glaze over pound cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Spread the glaze over the top of the still slightly warm cake.

Vanilla bean pound cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

It will drip slightly over the top and down the sides. As the cake fully cools the glaze will harden just slightly so it is nice and shiny.

Related article:

How to make your own Vanilla Extract.


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37 thoughts to “Vanilla Bean Pound Cake”

  1. Ohhh what a beautiful loaf! I can almost smell it! One more pound cake recipe to add to my collection! Totally agree that they are the best!
    I tried the low fat version from Alice Medrich with some buttermilk and only 5 tbsp of butter- was really good! Especially on the third day when it was much moister. Love how versatile pound cakes can be-I add rosemary/thyme, nuts, berries, zest.. though I almost always just add a little bit of cardamom powder to my vanilla pound cakes to make them smell like home 🙂

  2. I’ve given up butter & sugar for lent, Zoe! This is Day-2…and I don’t think I should hang around your blog a minute more or I might give in to my temptation!

    Beautiful Cake! Like how you mentioned, most of the modern recipes don’t use the original proportion but the name remains.

  3. I told my husband that the hardest thing for me to give up for lent would be baking. As Ria said it is the second day of lent and today I made an apple pound cake, pain d’epi, a courronne, and a crusty white loaf. Now you’ve tempted me with another pound cake!

    1. Hi Jean and Ria,

      The cake will also freeze well! 😉 Just think how delicious it will all taste when you can finally take a bite, all the better for waiting!

      Thanks, Zoë

  4. I absolutely love pound cake. And I love the taste that vanilla bean gives to anything it is added to. I will surely give your version a try.

  5. Hi Zoe:

    Thanx so very much for the recipe for my very favorite cake~!! I was wondering if it would double to fit a bundt pan. A small one can only go so far~!! ;+)

    Thanx much!!

  6. It’s not so easy to achieve a great pound cake – one that’s moist, with a good crumb and plenty of flavor. You have succeeded here it seems and I’m planning to make this with that lovely vanilla-seeded glaze.

  7. This is one of my favorite cakes when done right…it looks so simple on the outside and so buttery and moist and just delicious!

  8. Dear Zoe,
    I am a stay at home mom that enjoys baking for a hobby. I love your site!! My vanilla cakes always come out with an “eggy” flavor. I have tested about a dozen different vanilla cake recipes and keep having the same problem. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Jina,

      My boys are quite sensitive to that flavor and did not find it to be true of this recipe at all. The trick may actually be in the whipping of the butter and eggs, so they are all suspended nicely by the air they create.

      Thanks, Zoë

  9. Zoe:
    I couldn’t help myself…I took a bite of the vanilla bean pound cake that I just made for my dinner party tonight. Heavenly hardly describes the cake! Instead of using vanilla beans, I used the pure vanilla bean paste (1 tablespoon = 1 vanilla bean). And, since I did not have any Amaretto, I used Cuarenta Y Tres (it is a spanish vanilla liqueur). I may just have another bite…I do not think my guest will notice or mind!

  10. I’ll admit… I was going to click right past this until I read “vanilla-flavored velvet.” Now I really want to try what I’m sure is an incredible version of an old-fashioned classic!

  11. Hi Zoe,

    I am wanting to use your recipe for a wedding cake, I was wondering how much batter I should make for a 10″, 8″ and 6″ (all three) rounds, plus how long should I bake each round for?
    thanks for your input,

  12. In the recipe it states to add half the egg mixture, in four parts. Alternate adding the remaining egg mixture with the flour mixture in about 3 parts. I’m sorry Im confused. Could you make it a bit more simple for me? I usually begin and end with flour when mixing a cake. Appreciate all your beautiful work and inspiration 🙂

  13. Zoe:-D

    This recipe got is fan-tastic! I made it with a hand-mixer and it was delicious. A lot more work, though and a little trickier (wish I had 3 hands)
    I told my husband there will be no more desserts until I had a stand mixer in the kitchen. He gave me a pained look but apparently is not quite convinced. Its been a month and so far neither of us has caved.
    Any suggestions for a husband-convincing roasted chicken recipe would be gratefully accepted. (that’s his favorite protein)
    PS to Grace-anne March 17 10:43 am – ALL great chefs taste their food before serving…and the bigger the taste, the better judge you can be. None of my food ever goes to the table whole!

  14. @ Zoe – Thanks for the great cake recipe! I made it the other night and took to the office next day – everyone really enjoyed it (five guys demolished one cake (minus the two slices Mr. Husband and I had tried the night before)). Glad I only put the glaze on the slices that we tested out though, as it was very sweet.

    @Kristi – do what I did and buy yourself the mixer! No reason you can’t buy your own birthday/holiday gift. 😉

  15. Zoe, mi hija y yo somos tus fans en guadalajara, mexico, hemos hecho este pound cake y como todas tus recetas, està delicioso¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡

  16. Zoe’ I noticed that your recipe called for unsalted butter and all purpose flour. Would the taste or the effects change if I used regular butter and cake flour?

    1. Hi Vincent,

      You will want to decrease the salt in the recipe and you will probably need an additional 1/4 cup of cake flour. It will have a very different texture if you use cake flour. let me know what you think.

      Thanks, Zoë

  17. Lovely! Delicious! My husband and I made this together. We got fresh vanilla beans in our bountiful basket. I used 1 teaspoon of triple sec in place of amaretto. Will make again!

  18. Been wanting to make this for ages. Finally today was the day. Made 2 idiotic mistakes and need to vent. First of all I left out the heavy cream. I wouldn’t mind if I had a complete mental block about it BUT I went out in the rain this morning to buy it. While cake was baking I noticed it was not rising evenly in pan which was very peculiar. I then noticed my more than idiotic mistake #2. My oven rack was uneven. It is ready to come out of the “corrected” oven shortly. At least I will get an idea of how it is supposed to be. I did have a question if anyone reads this. I was in a quandary as to which beater to use for the egg portion. I used the whisk attachment as opposed to the paddle. In retrospect I should have used paddle for both. In which case I would do the egg portion first as it is easier to clean off the egg part of batter than the butter part. Thanks for listening

  19. Wow… this is GOOD. Buttery, moist, melt-in-your-mouth good. I made these into mini bundt cakes for a baby shower (baked in about 15 min in case anyone else is curious). Ran a couple samples over to the neighbors tonight even and they raved!

    I happened to have a bag of KAF baker’s sugar so it was perfect for this recipe. I’ll probably do my own bake-test soon to compare for myself, but just curious what the super fine sugar does differently from granulated sugar? Also, with the cake flour, what difference would you notice?

    My husband is “sensitive” to eggy flavors and he didn’t even say a word about it! Thanks for sharing a perfect recipe–and technique.

    1. Hi Carol,

      My apologies, the printing app isn’t set up correctly and so the option to print without pictures isn’t showing up. Thanks for letting me know, we will fix this ASAP!


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