This cake is such a regular part of my life – I make it so often that I can almost rely on muscle memory to get the job done – that it’s something of a surprise even to me that I haven’t written about it here yet. There’s nothing particularly special about it, and that’s a great part of its charm: a good, plain pound cake, buttery and densely textured, and almost foolproof. That it also is made from nothing fancier than ordinary pantry staples is, to me, a constant source of domestic bliss – and I will cake on demand.
The origins of the pound cake are, obviously, in units from the 18th century that you could probably trade for livestock or small children or something equally horrifying: a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of flour and a pound of eggs. The world has moved on – well, everywhere except Burma, Liberia and the USA – and this is my long-honed, 21st century version, twiddled to work in a standard loaf tin (23 x 13 x 7 cm) and in metric.
I love the texture and slight tang that yoghurt brings to this cake, although on the rare occasions that yoghurt isn’t in the fridge I will happily substitute some homemade buttermilk: 125ml milk with 2 teaspoons of either white vinegar or lemon juice stirred in and left for 10 minutes to thicken up.
For best results, as they say, let the butter, eggs and yoghurt come to room temperature before you start.
125g unsalted butter
200g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
125ml unflavoured Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Set your oven to 160°C. Butter and flour a 23 x 13 x 7 cm loaf tin.
Measure the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and stir them together using a balloon whisk (or, if you are more patient baker than me, sieve them together). Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter together – I use a handheld beater – until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing one in well before adding the next.
Beat in half the flour mixture and half the yoghurt, then the remaining flour mixture, remaining yoghurt and vanilla extract. Mix until just combined; be careful not to overbeat.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 50 minutes. The cake will rise with a handsome dome and have a characteristic crack across the centre. To be sure it’s done, test with a bamboo skewer or stick of spaghetti, looking for moist crumbs rather than liquid batter. Let it rest in the tin for 5 minutes before turning onto a rack to cool completely.