Buttermilk Pound Cake

published Oct 1, 2021
Buttermilk Pound Cake Recipe

Buttermilk gives this tender, classic pound cake a tiny bit of tang.

Serves12 to 16

Makes1 large bundt cake

Prep25 minutes

Cook1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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buttermilk pound cake on a plate
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

I grew up eating lots of frozen Sara Lee pound cake, loving its dense texture and buttery flavor. My mom even made ice cream cakes for our birthdays out of pound cake, so it holds a special place in my heart.

Adding buttermilk to a pound cake batter is a fun little twist: It adds an oh-so-subtle tang and plays well with the copious amounts of eggs, sugar, and butter in the batter. Plus, it makes the texture of the cake extra soft and tender. This beauty of a pound cake is baked in a Bundt pan for an easy-but-impressive look that requires no adornment beyond a fine sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

What Does Adding Buttermilk Do to a Cake?

Besides imparting its signature tangy flavor, the acid in buttermilk helps tenderize the gluten to give cake a softer texture. Buttermilk also reacts with baking soda to help cakes rise, but you’ll notice this pound cake doesn’t have any baking soda — it’s omitted because we want a denser texture and don’t need it to rise much.

How to Make Buttermilk Pound Cake

  1. Let the butter, buttermilk, and eggs sit out. You’ll want all of these ingredients at room temperature so the batter mixes evenly and gets the right texture.
  2. Butter and flour the pan. To make sure all the nooks and crannies of the Bundt pan are greased and floured, I like to brush them with a paste of melted butter and flour. It’s best to use a fine-bristled pastry brush rather than a silicone brush for even coating.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar. Cream the butter first to get it nice and fluffy, then beat in the sugar and eggs.
  4. Alternate the dry ingredients with the buttermilk. Beat in the flour and salt in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixed with some vanilla. I’m partial to the seeds scraped from a vanilla bean since it really shines through this simple cake, but you can also use vanilla extract or paste.
  5. Tap the pan. Pick up the filled Bundt pan and tap it gently against the counter a few times to settle any air bubbles.
  6. Bake it low and slow. The dense batter and tall Bundt pan means that you want to bake at a lower temperature (325ºF) to give the cake a chance to cook evenly. Be patient!
  7. Be patient with the cooling, too. Let the cake sit in the pan for 30 minutes before flipping it out, then let it cool completely on the rack.

Does Buttermilk Pound Cake Need to Be Refrigerated?

Nope! Buttermilk pound cake can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, no need for refrigeration.

What Can I Do with Leftover Buttermilk?

If you find yourself with leftover buttermilk, you can freeze it in ice cube trays or use it in other recipes, such as scones, muffins, waffles, or pancakes. Or go the savory route and mix it into salad dressings (ranch forever!), savory quick breads, or as a coating for fried chicken.

How Should I Serve Buttermilk Pound Cake?

I love eating this pound cake as is, but it also makes a wonderful bed for macerated berries and fruit, can be cut up and layered into a trifle, or simply topped with scoops of ice cream if you want to channel my mom’s favorite way to serve pound cake.

Buttermilk Pound Cake Recipe

Buttermilk gives this tender, classic pound cake a tiny bit of tang.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes

Makes 1 large bundt cake

Serves 12 to 16

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks

    (12 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided

  • 5

    large eggs

  • 1 cup

    low-fat or full-fat buttermilk

  • 2 3/4 cups

    plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste, or the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean pod

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place 3 sticks of the unsalted butter in a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 5 large eggs and 1 cup buttermilk on the counter. Let everything sit at room temperature until the butter is softened, at least 1 hour.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, 20 to 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of the all-purpose flour and mix to form a smooth paste. Brush the paste on the inside of a 12-cup bundt cake pan (see Recipe Notes), making sure to thoroughly coat the tube and all the crevices.

  3. Place the remaining 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add vanilla of choice to the buttermilk and whisk until combined.

  4. Beat the butter on medium speed with the paddle attachment until lightened in color and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. With the mixer on still on medium speed, gradually add 2 cups granulated sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next, about 1 1/2 minutes total. Stop and scrape down the bowl again.

  5. With the mixer on the lowest speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture. Beat in 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, then all of the remaining buttermilk mixture. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Scrape the batter into the bundt pan and smooth out the top. Pick up the pan and gently tap on the work surface a few times to remove any air bubbles.

  6. Bake until light golden brown and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes. Place the bundt pan on a wire rack and let cool 30 minutes (the cake will pull away from the sides of the pan). Flip the cake out onto the rack and let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours more. Sift powdered sugar over the top if desired before slicing and serving.

Recipe Notes

Use the right bundt pan: The recipe calls for a 12-cup Bundt pan, which is the larger size. If in doubt, measure the amount of water it takes to fill the pan.

Storage: The cake can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 4 days.