Making the First Published Pound Cake Recipe from 1747 | Down the Baking Rabbit Hole Series

Pound Cake from 1747 on a black plate

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to make and eat a pound cake from 275 years ago? That’s exactly what I’m going to be exploring in this post by making the first published pound cake from 1747.

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First Published Pound Cake Recipe

The first published pound cake recipe was in the Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, an English cookbook that was published in 1747. The cookbook was written by a “a lady” who was later identified as Hannah Glasse.

In today’s post, we will be making this recipe from scratch without the use of any mixers.

This is a screenshot of the original recipe from 1747.

Pound Cake Ingredients

  • 1 pound (452g) salted butter
  • 12 (216g) egg yolks
  • 6 (180g) egg whites
  • 1 pound (453.59g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound (453.59g) granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp (0.26g) caraway seeds

Watch How to Make The First Published Pound Cake Recipe From 1747

Understanding the Recipe

Recipe writing has changed significantly over the past 275 years. Some of the instructions in this recipe might seem a little unusual, so I’ve added some notes below to help clarify.

Mixing “With Your Hand”

This recipe specifies to mix the cake batter “with your hand.” While most cake recipes today are made with an electric mixer, these devices didn’t exist when this recipe was written. The author of this recipe gave an option of mixing by hand or with a great wooden spoon. When I made this recipe I used both. After mixing for about 40 minutes with the spoon, I started to get blisters so I switched back to mixing with my hand. It was really hard work to mix the cake batter for one hour and I’m SOOO glad we have electric mixers today.

Salted Butter

The butter in this recipe is salted butter. Prior to refrigeration, butter was heavily salted to aid in preservation. When I made the recipe, I tried to use an amount of salt that would have been roughly equivalent to the amount of salt used in 1747, but it made the cake SOOOO salty. I would suggest cutting down on the butter and just using normal salted butter from the grocery store.

“Quick” Oven

The recipe specifies to bake a cake in a “quick” oven. Prior to ovens having thermostats, oven temperatures were referred to based on general temperature-related terms (e.g., cool, moderately hot, very hot) and speed (e.g., slow oven, moderate oven, and fast/quick oven). These weren’t standardized so knowing when to put a specific baked good in the oven and how long it should bake for were based a lot on experience. Over time, these temperatures were associated with temperature estimates and ranges. A quick oven is typically equivalent to 450-500°F/230-260°C. That being said, this temperature is much too high for this recipe. Adjust the oven temperature to 325-350°F/160-180°C to get a more even bake. Check out my video to see what changes I had to make on the fly to ensure the entire cake didn’t burn.

Pound cake from 1747 with sice removed

What I Would Change If I Made This Again

  1. I would use an electric mixer. Mixing by hand and a wooden spoon for an hour was exhausting and gave me blisters. Kudos to anyone who has baked without modern technology. It’s not easy!
  2. I would cream the butter and sugar first before adding the remaining ingredients. This would provide more leavening and allow the pound cake to rise more in the oven.
  3. Adding a chemical leavening agent (e.g., baking powder) would also have helped the cake rise a little more.
  4. Cut the recipe in half to make a smaller cake.
  5. Add some additional flavors (e.g., vanilla extract or lemon zest).
  6. Bake the recipe at 325-350°F/160-180°C for approximately one hour to get a cake that is evenly baked.
  7. Give it 10-15 minutes to cool before turning it out of the pan to reduce the likelihood of the dome getting compressed.
Slice of Pound Cake from 1747 on white plate

Watch: Making a Pound Cake from 1747

If you want to see how this cake turned out OR if you want to make it along with me, check out my video on Making the First Published Pound Cake Recipe from 1747.

Check Out the Other Posts in this Pound Cake Series

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