Pound cake has never really been one of my favorite desserts to eat, but it’s one of my top 5 desserts to make and serve. The main reason being– it’s easy. Only a few staple ingredients beaten together and thrown into the oven. It’s also super versatile in that it’s the perfect canvas for layering different toppings, glazes, or ice cream– so no one even realizes I’m making the same thing all the time.
But, like I said, it’s just not my favorite dessert to eat. To me, pound cake has always been a little bland and a lot boring. I’d much rather dig into a slice of apple pie or a lemon cupcake. Anything tastes incredible under a stream of salted caramel or a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream, but it’s been my goal to make a wonderfully rich pound cake that’s not only full of flavor, but tastes absolutely exquisite on its own. And even better with something as humble as strawberry compote.
To get there, I played around in the kitchen for a few months. Every other week or so, I’d try tweaking my standard pound cake recipe with different techniques and flavors. The minute I smelled the brown butter version, I knew I had one of the best on my hands. It has a moist, velvety texture with a super dense and buttery crumb. The flavor is a dream.
First, do you know how pound cake got its name? Original pound cake recipes call for one pound of each: butter, sugar, eggs, & flour. And not much else. Recipes today are a little different, but the results are generally the same!
Let’s Upgrade the Butter
The first thing I looked at was the butter. Obviously pound cake gets most of its flavor and texture from this glorious ingredient. I tested different amounts, but it wasn’t until I decided to change the flavor of butter that I was satisfied. If you’ve ever used brown butter in a dessert before, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a powerful little ingredient that can transform a good cookie into a “this is the best cookie I’ve ever had in my life” phenomenon. And that’s not an exaggeration; it’s magic. When we brown butter, we cook out all of the water. The milk solids toast, which creates this completely mouthwatering nutty aroma and unique flavor.
Here’s my complete brown butter tutorial.
One crucial step in making pound cake is creaming the butter and sugar. Brown butter is melted butter and you can’t really cream melted butter and sugar. Beating the two together will indeed create air bubbles, but they will quickly deflate. That’s not the batter base you want here. So we’re going to chill the brown butter. Chill it until it becomes solid and then treat it like you would regular butter. Let it soften to room temperature again. Sounds like an awful long time, but I chilled the brown butter in the freezer for only 45 minutes and took it out to soften for 15. Takes an hour, which is about how long regular butter takes to soften. More dessert tricks!
Let’s also take a look at the eggs. Room temperature eggs are key, so they (1) will not harden the butter when they’re added and (2) mix together smoothly. Make sure you add the eggs one at a time. Remember those air bubbles I just talked about? You don’t want them to collapse in the egg step either, so you’ll want to gradually beat them in. The air bubbles will expand as the cake bakes, which allows it to rise up (and not sink). Eggs are one of the most important ingredients in pound cake because they not only provide moisture and richness, they give the cake its structure. I suggest using high quality eggs because they aren’t just any other ingredient you’re throwing in. They’re crucial. And there are 4 of them.
See all the specks in the batter? Those are the toasty brown butter bits. F-l-a-v-o-r.
One quick note before I get to the strawberry compote. (so good!!!) I add a teeny tiny amount of baking powder to my pound cake. Traditionally, pound cake is made without any chemical leavener, but since creaming brown butter doesn’t produce quite as much volume as regular (un-browned) butter would, I make up for it with a little baking powder. It just gives the cake a little extra lift in the right direction.
Ahhh, the strawberry compote. Love this stuff. It’s completely optional because the brown butter pound cake is pretty epic on its own, but I highly suggest serving some compote alongside. And strawberries are finally back in season, so you just have to.
Making it is actually really easy. Like a chunky strawberry syrup, but it’s made completely from scratch and isn’t cloyingly sweet like most store-bought stuff. You’ll need fresh strawberries, a squeeze and zest of lemon to offset some sweetness, sugar, and cornstarch (mixed with water) for thickening. Let it simmer on the stove for a few minutes and you’re done. I usually make the compote in advance because it will need some time to thicken once removed from heat.
PS: this stuff is ridiculously good spooned over cold, creamy greek yogurt in the morning. Or on top of waffles, ice cream, oatmeal, mini french toast, and funfetti angel food cake. (aka party in a cake pan!) For the most dedicated of strawberry lovers, you could even enjoy it on top of strawberry bread. So many options!
This brown butter pound cake will stand the test of time in my recipe repertoire. You’ll not only love the brown butter flavor, you’ll appreciate the spot-on texture as well. Dense without tasting too heavy, golden brown, and impeccably rich. Try it!
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You won’t BELIEVE the flavor in this simple brown butter pound cake. Top with homemade strawberry compote for one of the best desserts ever!
- 1 cup (230g; 2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup (60ml) warm water
- 1 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced in half (you can use frozen; don’t thaw)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- Brown the butter: Slice the butter up into pieces and place in a light-colored skillet. (Light colored helps you determine when the butter begins browning.) Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Keep stirring occasionally. After 5-8 minutes, the butter will begin browning– you’ll notice lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it will have a nutty aroma. See photo above for a visual. Once browned, remove from heat immediately and pour into a large tupperware or a 9×13 baking pan. Cover tightly, place in the refrigerator or freezer, and chill until solid. I always place mine in the freezer. It only takes about 45 minutes this way.
- Remove the brown butter from the refrigerator or freezer and allow to slightly soften on the counter for 15-30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
- Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the solid brown butter on high speed in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients. Beat everything just until incorporated. Do not overmix.
- Pour the batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, 10 minutes. Pound cakes are dense and, therefore, take awhile in the oven. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving. Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- Make the strawberry compote: Whisk the cornstarch and water together until all the cornstarch has dissolved. Add it, along with the rest of the compote ingredients, to a small saucepan over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir the mixture as it cooks. Break up some of the strawberries as you stir. Bring it to a simmer and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool. The mixture will thicken as it cools.
- Spoon cooled compote over pound cake. Cover and store leftover compote in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can make the pound cake ahead of time by freezing it. Bake it, cool it, wrap it up in aluminum foil and freeze the loaf as a whole. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving. Freezes well up to 3 months. You can also brown the butter ahead of time too– keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days then continue with step 2. You can make the strawberry compote a few days ahead of time. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Compote: Makes about 2 cups!
Keywords: brown butter pound cake