Easy Lighter Homemade Pound Cake from Scratch

I can be a real recipe geek, as this pound cake experience clearly illustrates.

It all started with wanting to make a lighter homemade poundcake from scratch.

A typical slice of pound cake can have upwards of 400 to 500 calories, not something I can afford to indulge in very often.

Yet, it’s something I like, probably because it’s so simple and versatile. Great plain, pound cake also is delicious with  fruit compote, fruit salad, yogurt, and ice cream.

Suddenly it dawned on me that I’d never even made a regular pound cake from scratch, let alone a lighter one. How could I go about attempting to lighten a pound cake recipe without having made a standard one? (Yes, this is how my geeky recipe brain operates. Or was this just an excuse to dig out lots of butter and sugar? I’m really not sure.)

I decided my Mom’s birthday was the perfect excuse reason to make her a full fat pound cake that I could then experiment with making lighter later. My pound cake mission had begun.

Skinny Pound Cake

In Search of Lighter Pound Cake

I searched through lots and lots of cookbooks to decide on a recipe, and learned in the process, that most pound cakes use the same basic ingredients – butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and sometimes milk – but the recipes can vary considerably in the amount of sugar and number of eggs used. Other popular pound cake ingredients include cream cheese and sour cream.

Since I couldn’t seem to choose  just one, I decided to make 2 recipes: The Barefoot Contessa’s Honey Vanilla Pound Cake, which appears in her Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients and the Easy Pound Cake from How to Bake : Complete Guide to Perfect Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Tarts, Breads, Pizzas, Muffins, by Nick Malgieri.

I discounted the pound cake recipe that appears in How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food because it’s technique was more involved, requiring that you separate the eggs, whip the whites and then fold them back into the batter. (Even though this is the technique Smitten Kitten swears by and attributes to James beard here in her post for lighter airy pound cake, it seemed like too much work.  I wanted “easy.” I definitely need to work on my aversion to whipping and folding egg whites.)

While I didn’t select the Bittman pound cake recipe, he did provide a great suggestion for lightening it: substitute 3/4 cup plain yogurt for 1/2 cup of butter.

By the time I was done investigating and ready to get baking, it was quite late. I pulled out the butter, sugar, flour, eggs, milk, honey, and vanilla and plugged in the KitchenAid . (Rod and Mac quietly exited upstairs to the man cave before the flour began to fly.)

Each of the batters looked, smelled, and tasted delicious.

What I did next, turned out to be a big baking mistake learning opportunity. I used foil pans and filled them too full. After 30 minutes of baking I looked in the oven to discover batter bubbling and oozing from the pans onto the baking sheet beneath them. I wanted to cry or scream. And the old perfectionist me would have pulled them from the oven, dumped them into the trash, and started over again.

I took a big breath, sighed, closed the oven and decided to let them bake and see how they turned out, knowing they would be far from perfect.

And having just cleaned up the kitchen, I dug out the ingredients, revved up the KitchenAid and mixed together another one to bake in a sturdier pan. This was my Mom’s birthday after all.

Note to self: Get yourself some sturdier regular sized loaf pans and DO NOT overfill them!

The Results

While the cakes that had overrun were not picture perfect, they tasted pretty darned good. In our side-by-side tasting, Mom and I both preferred the texture of the Easy Pound Cake (which called for 1/4 cup milk) a little better.

Pound Cake Experiments

Pound Cake Experiments – What Happens When Your Pan Overflows!

A few days later, I finally baked my lighter pound cake, which I liked best of all, since it was easy, delicious and a little lighter and healthier!

Lighter Healthier Pound Cake

Lighter Healthier Pound Cake

Lighter Yogurt Pound Cake Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A lighter yogurt pound cake that replaces ½ the butter of your typical pound cake recipe with yogurt. Be sure that your butter and eggs are at room temperature before making this cake batter.
Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground mace* (optional)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups cake flour
Instructions
  1. Grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper, so the pound cake doesn't stick to the bottom when you try to remove it.
  2. Position an oven rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.
  3. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until soft and light. Beat in 3 of the eggs, one at a time, letting each one get incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Beat in the yogurt until well blended.
  5. Beat in the salt, mace (if using) and vanilla extract.
  6. In a separate small bowl, combine the remaining egg, with the milk.
  7. In third bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder and sift once. (I just shake it through a strainer.)
  8. Beat in ⅓ of the flour. Then beat in half the milk mixture. Then ⅓ of the flour, half the milk and the remaining ⅓ flour - until everything is incorporated.
  9. Fill the pan about ⅚th full. Bake the pound cake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour or until it is well risen and colored, cracked on the surface, and a thin knife inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool in the pan.
  11. Once completely cool, gently run a sharp knife along the sides of the pan, carefully remove the cake from the pan and remove the paper.
  12. Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and store at a cool room temperature in the refrigerator. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before serving.
  13. It's really important that your butter and eggs are at room temperature or the butter may separate while you are mixing giving the cake a rough, irregular texture, instead of a smooth, tender one.
Martha's Notes
Nutritional Estimates Per Serving when made with nonfat plain yogurt 1 slice): 238 calories, 9.6 g fat, 34.2 g carbs, 0.6 g fiber, 4.0 g protein and 6 WW PointsPlus value
*Mace, the outer covering of a nutmeg, is the traditional flavoring for pound cake. Don't have. Used a little Penzeys baking spice
Variations:
Orange Pound Cake: Omit the mace. Add the zest of one medium naval orange and substitute orange extract for the vanilla
Lemon Pound Cake: Omit the mace. Add the zest of one lemon and substitute 2 teaspoons lemon extract for the vanilla
Honey Spice Pound Cake: Decrease sugar to ¾ cup and add ¼ cup honey. Omit mace and vanilla. Add ½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
Ginger Pound Cake: Substitute 2 teaspoons ground ginger for the spices in the Honey spice Pound Cake variation.
Honey Vanilla Pound Cake: Add 2 tablespoons honey and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Polenta Pound Cake: Substitute 1 cup polenta for 1 cup flour
Nut Pound Cake: Substitute 1 cup nut meal or flour for 1 cup of flour and use 1 cup all purpose flour for the remaining cup.

*PointsPlus® calculated by Simple Nourished Living; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc.

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Comments

  1. Carey says

    Just made this and it was very good. Drizzled an icing of powdered sugar and lemon juice over the slices… Mmm. Served it with tea to a friend who remarked that it didn’t taste diet at all. My toddlers enjoyed it, too. Thanks for the lovely recipe.

  2. Nabila says

    This looks delicious! I was wondering, if I wanted to bake this in cupcake form and insert a strawberry into each cup of batter (to make a sort of denser strawberry shortcake cupcake, if you will – and then top with some whipped cream) do you have any idea how long I would have to bake the cupcakes? Thanks so much for the recipe – I love pound cake but wanted something healthier, and this looks perfect! :)

    • says

      Hi Nabila,

      I’ve never baked pound cake as cupcakes, so I’m only guessing, but I would think at least 30 minutes. You might want to begin checking at 20 minutes, so you don’t over bake them. I’ve also never tried placing a whole strawberry in the middle of the cupcake. Have you? I’m thinking the berry would let off a lot of liquid that might cause the cupcake to be really mushy. Would love to hear how your baking experiments turn out!

      Warmly,

      Martha

  3. Mark says

    I’m going to try this recipe using liquid egg product, low-fat butter, skim milk, and non-fat plain yogurt. I think that might bring the fat and the calorie count down farther.

    Also, I use anise extract in lieu of vanilla – I call this my Italian-style pound cake. Served with Spumoni on top and a drizzle of red wine.

    • says

      Hi Mark, Your changes sound good. Love the idea of anise instead of vanilla for an Italian-style poundcake. And serving it topped with spumoni and a drizzle of red wine is totally inspired!! Must remember this the next time I’m wanting an Italian style dessert. Thanks so much for taking the time to share.

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