Presenting Cold-Oven Pound Cake

The quintessential pound cake made with an unusual technique.
The quintessential pound cake made with an unusual technique.

This recipe is for those who can be forgetful.

The ones who sometimes neglect to add that vanilla extract to a batch of cookies, the ones who somehow didn’t grease a pan before adding the batter, or have hurriedly mixed in an ingredient at the very last second when it should have been stirred in at the start.

Yes, folks maybe like you and surely like me, as I’ve been guilty at least once of all of those things.

Ever forgotten to preheat the oven before sticking a cake in to bake?

No fretting about that with this recipe. That’s because “Cold-Oven Pound Cake” indeed gets slid into the oven before it is turned on. And boy, does this technique lead to one sensational cake.

It’s from “Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking” (Artisan Books, 2021), of which I received a review copy.

With her husband Griffith Day, they co-own the Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, GA. Se is also a co-founder of the Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice that works to preserve the legacy of Black-owned restaurants in the United States.

Her newest cookbook reflects her passion for time-honored baking recipes, the kind passed down from generation after generation that more than stand the test of time.

Enjoy everything from “Cornmeal Cheese Waffles,” “Applesauce Cake with Butterscotch Icing,” and “Chocolate Church Cake,” to “Blueberry Icebox Pie,” “Sweet Potato Spice Cookies,” and “Raspberry Chess Pie Bars.”

The thick batter nearly fills a classic Bundt pan to the top.
The thick batter nearly fills a classic Bundt pan to the top.
The just-baked cake cooling before unmolding.
The just-baked cake cooling before unmolding.

As Day explains, the idea for baking pound cakes in a cold oven first started in advertising campaigns in the early 20th century. It was designed to lure homemakers into replacing their wood-fired oven with gas ovens by demonstrating that they needn’t warm up the house so much just to bake a cake. That makes it an ideal cake to bake in summer, too.

Why does this technique work so well on this type of cake? Because pound cakes are so dense, Day explains, they don’t need that big initial blast of high heat to encourage rising. Instead, the leavening agents get time to slowly do their thing.

This is a bountiful cake. You will need your largest Bundt pan, as the batter will come up to within an inch or so of its top.

It’s not called pound cake for nothing. The thick batter is enriched with three sticks of butter (3/4 pound), along with six eggs, and a good amount of whole milk.

All it needs is a dusting of powdered sugar.
All it needs is a dusting of powdered sugar.

Dusted simply with powdered sugar, it may look like a plain, no-nonsense cake. But, wow, does it deliver in nostalgic taste.

It’s outrageously buttery tasting with a prominent vanilla presence. The crumb is moist and dense yet somehow a little fluffy, too. The low-slow bake also imparts a beautiful caramelized, thin-crusty exterior that is the perfect contrast to the heavenly soft interior.

It’s like the taste of vanilla wafers — on steroids.

Best yet, the cake stays moist for days. Slices can be easily frozen to enjoy later, too.

Even if you fail to preheat the oven, you’re still golden with this cake.

Just remember to set the timer, though, OK?

You won't be able to get enough of this luscious, buttery cake.
You won’t be able to get enough of this luscious, buttery cake.

Cold-Oven Pound Cake

(Serves 12 to 16)

3 1/2 cups (438 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum free

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar

6 large eggs, at room temperature

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan, making sure to get into all the crevices. Lightly dust the pan with flour, tapping the pan on the counter to shake out the excess.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup or small bowl, mix together the milk, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the speed down to low and gradually add the sugar. Then increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is very light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low again and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand (if using) and, using the rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter is completely mixed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Place the pan on the middle rack of the cold oven and set the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the cake is golden on top; a cake tester inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert it onto another rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely.

Dust the cooled cake generously with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

From “Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking” by Cheryl Day

More Cheryl Day Recipes to Enjoy: Brown Sugar Bundt Cake with Butterscotch Glaze

And: Molasses-Ginger Cookies

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  • Ooh, this looks so delicious with a beautiful, even texture. Thanks for sharing the recipe and also for including the measurements in grams.

  • When it cools down, I can’t wait to try this recipe. No baking when it’s 95 degrees out!

  • Hi Suzie: I can’t blame you for that. Even though this recipe saves on the length of time the oven is on, you still definitely don’t want to bake when it’s a heatwave. Enjoy the cake when the temps normalize. It’s a dreamy, delicious, absolutely perfect pound cake.

  • Made this this past weekend and it turned out great. I just added some almond extract because I have a bunch of almond lovers. Really nice crumb, and golden color.

  • Hi Carolyn. Do you think it would work if I cut the recipe in half and then baked it in a loaf pan? This recipe (as is) looks like a LOT of cake.

  • Hi Lewis: It is a very big cake. However, it freezes beautifully. So you could freeze slices, wrapped in foil or plastic wrap, then put into a zip-lock bag, to enjoy later. You might be able to do it in a loaf pan if you cut the recipe in half. I haven’t tried it, myself, but it should be fine. Just pay close attention to the baking time, since it will be less.

  • Hi Robyn: Almond extract would be wonderful in this! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe so much. It’s definitely one of my new favorites.

  • A girlfriends mother use to make a cold oven pound cake, I absolutely loved. I had put the recipe on my phone & my phone broke, ( I since write all recipes down) she has passed on, so I have no way to get recipe. Your recipe from memory seems to have everything I can remember except for Cornstarch & cardamom? I did notice hers had a flaky top. What would those two items do & I don’t remember baking powder, so could it be those two items took the place of baking powder? Thank you for any help! I would to re-create hers! ❤️

  • Hi Michelle: The cardamom shouldn’t have any effect on the texture, as it’s just a wonderful warm spice to add flavor. Baking powder is a leavening agent, so it will help the cake rise. According to this Bob’s Red Mill post, cornstarch will result in a lighter, chewier texture in baked goods:
    I think you should try Cheryl Day’s cold-oven pound cake recipe and see if it’s like what you remembered. I think you will much enjoy this cake. 😉

  • Should the flour be sifted?

  • Hi Dora: You don’t necessarily have to do that because you will be whisking the flour anyway. That should take care of any potential lumps in the flour. Hope that helps! 😉

  • My neighbor gav3 me this recipe. AND CAME OUT DRLICIOUS.
    She put lemon FL a voting with milk and vanilla.Tasted just like Sarah Lee pound cake

  • Hi Kim: So happy to hear that! I’ve made this cake twice, and I’m baking it again for a family gathering this weekend. It really is a winner with its crispy exterior and lush, decadently buttery interior. Enjoy!

  • What should I do if my oven preheats before I put my cake in if it’s suppose to be a cold oven cake

  • Hi Marge: I would think that you could just put the cake in the oven, then turn it on. Hope that helps.

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