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Why Is Pound Cake Called Pound Cake? (The Interesting History!)

Why Is Pound Cake Called Pound Cake? (The Interesting History!)

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Why is pound cake called pound cake?

Most people think its name means they only weigh one pound a piece. This is understandable since nowadays you can buy these fluffy cakes in small sizes.

Yet, many say it’s because early pound cakes had one pound each of four ingredients.

Is this true? Where did it come from and does it really contain equal portions of its components?

The answer may surprise you!

Why Is Pound Cake Called Pound Cake?

According to Smithsonian Magazine, pound cake got its name from its ingredients. It contains one pound each of sugar, flour, butter, and eggs.

Pound cakes first came about in Europe in the 1700s.

Back then, most people couldn’t read or write. Recipes got passed along by word of mouth.

The popularity of pound cakes is because it’s easy to remember the ingredients. All you have to do is add one pound of the main components.

However, this isn’t the full story. Here are two interesting details about the first pound cakes.

1 – There Were More Than Four Ingredients

After reading the recipes, you’ll learn that there were more than four ingredients in the original cake.

Yet, the name stuck regardless of the additional ingredients and other variations. Pound cakes still became a widespread dessert because of its convenient name!

2 – Pounds in the 1700s Were Different

According to Britannica, the British Imperial System, which includes the pound, got adopted in 1824. Before that, several trade pounds were in use.

There were troy pounds, tower pounds, and mercantile pounds. What’s interesting is each one weighs differently, and most of them are lighter than the modern pound.

In short, the earliest pound cakes aren’t as big as we think.

The good news is no matter which unit of measurement you use, you get the same product. As long as you mix in equal parts of each ingredient, you can bake an authentic pound cake!

The First Pound Cake Recipes

The earliest pound cake recipes are in the first American cookbook. This 1796 book by Amelia Simmons titled American Cookery contained two variations of pound cakes.

Here’s a sneak peek into what an old recipe looks like!

Pound Cake Recipe 1


  • One pound sugar
  • One pound butter
  • One pound flour
  • One pound or ten eggs
  • One gill rose water
  • Spices to taste


Watch the cake well. It’ll bake in a slow oven for 15 minutes.

Pound Cake Recipe 2


  • Three-quarters of a pound of butter
  • One pound of good sugar


Whip ten whites to a foam ‘till very white. Next, add the yolks and beat together.

Add one spoonful of rose water and two spoons of brandy.

Put one to a quarter of a pound of flour, and add more if too soft. Bake slowly.

Surprising Details About the First Pound Cake Recipes

First, you’ll notice that the original pound cakes have more than four ingredients. There are mentions of flavorings like rose water, brandy, and spices.

The second recipe only calls for ¾ pounds of butter.

What’s more, it says you can add more flour if the batter is too runny. This means there may be more than a pound of flour in the cake.

Lastly, there’s no precise temperature. Merriam-Webster defines a slow oven as between 250°F and 325°F.

We know it takes more than 15 minutes to cook a huge cake like this. Still, you can recreate these recipes to taste a bit of history!

Pound Cakes Today

Today, pound cakes don’t have to contain one pound of each ingredient. You can adjust the recipes and have varying ratios.

They no longer weigh as much as a brick, and you can buy the cakes in single-sized portions. You can also add different flavorings and even substitute butter for other non-dairy ingredients.

Plus, with the rise of leavening agents in the 1900s, pound cakes are fluffier than ever.

Of course, whatever variation you create, we’ll still call it a pound cake!

Final Thoughts

Why is a pound cake called a pound cake? Simply put, in the original recipe, people used one pound each of its four main ingredients.

It was a quick way to remember the components, and the name made it easy to spread the recipe verbally in the 1700s.

Amazingly, the name stuck even if today’s pound cakes can have different ratios!

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