A Southern Grace: grandma knows best

August 18, 2016

grandma knows best


As a rule, I always preheat my oven.

I suspect that it's almost completely unnecessary thanks to all of our modern technology, but I do it anyway...with one exception.

Do you know about cold oven pound cake? If you haven't made its acquaintance, you should, and quickly! It's as rich as pound cakes made in a preheated oven (what I usually make), but seems to rise higher and have a thicker crust.

The purpose of preheating your oven is to allow a lighter cake to rise quickly and then immediately kill the leavening ingredients so that the cake doesn't bubble out all over the place. Since heavy cakes like fruit cakes and pound cakes take longer to rise, they're fine to start in a cold oven. Pound cakes are so dense that they don't rise much anyway, so that initial blast of hot air just isn't necessary. When the temperature of the cake batter is allowed to rise along with the oven temperature, it develops a wonderful crust and the interior of the cake will cook completely without burning the outer rim--hooray!

Another (less nerdy) possible explanation for starting in a cold oven is that in the old (great-great grandma) days, some vessels used to bake cakes risked cracking if exposed to a sudden blast of heat from a preheated oven. We certainly don't have to worry about that anymore!

I thought about doing a traditional cold oven pound cake flavored just with vanilla, but ultimately wanted to try something a little more interesting. I substituted most of the granulated sugar with brown sugar and used coconut oil in lieu of the traditional vegetable shortening. It's really moist and that subtle flavor of brown sugar* adds a lot of depth. There's no coconut taste but a texture that is absolutely uniquely soft and tender.

*If you don't know what brown sugar tastes like, I guess you didn't eat spoonfuls of it as a kid like I did...

There really is a thick crust around all sides of this sucker, too. Though I didn't do a side-by-side comparison, I can't recall any of my previous pound cakes having quite so much of the dark brown layer. If you like the crust part of a pound cake**, I think starting with a cold oven is the path you need to take!

**For the record, I prefer the middle.

Cold Oven Brown Sugar Pound Cake (best served warm)
(printable recipe)
Makes 1 12-cup bundt cake or 2 8x4-inch loaves
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or coconut oil
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1-1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
Do not preheat the oven. Liberally grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan or 2 8x4-inch loaf pans. Set aside.
Beat butter at medium speed with an electric or stand mixer until creamy, about 5 minutes.
Gradually add sugars, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears.
Beat in the vanilla.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition.
Mix in the pecans, then spread into the prepared pan(s).
Place the pan(s) into the cold oven. Bake at 325 degrees F for 90-105 minutes or until a long skewer inserted into the center comes back clean.
Cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes then turn onto the rack to cool completely.


Angie's Recipes said...

I do LOVE cold oven baking! Your pound cake turned out so beautiful with that smooth and soft crumb.

Pam said...

Cool! I've never tried baking anything in a cold oven. The pound cake looks perfect!!

Pam said...

I always bake in a cold oven now, except for cakes, pies and cookies. This pound cake is great because I love the thick crust! Wish I had a slice now. Thanks for the recipe!

Natalie @ Obsessive Cooking Disorder said...

I have never heard of that oven technique til now. Pound cake is always a great quickbread to bring for parties and brunch

Carolyn Jung said...

I've seen recipes for a cold-oven start, but have never tried it, myself. That is so interesting! And the color of your pound cake couldn't not be more perfect.

Alicia Foodycat said...

That sounds so good! Totally new to me.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Ooh I've made it and I like it! And it's great for when you forget to preheat your oven (who me?) :P

Barbara said...

That's a new one on me, Grace. I'd love to try it. The only thing I've put in a cold oven is an old recipe for popovers. And yes, love brown sugar. As a kid I loaded it on a piece of bread and chowed down!

Marjie said...

I have a yeast raised coffee cake recipe (made in a pie plate) where you put it into a cold oven and it rises until the heat gets to where it kills the yeast. The best part is that it's all mixed in the pie plate, so all you dirty is a fork, measuring cup and measuring spoon. That is my idea of a great recipe! And I often forget to preheat the oven. I think it doesn't matter as much now, when it only takes a few minutes for the oven to heat up.

Marcelle said...

Already printed this one out, Grace!! Sounds so good, and I can't wait to try the cold oven baking method!

Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies said...

I've never heard of cold of baking before, very intrigued by this. And the crust on this cake?? I can see how good it is! I guess tomorrows muffin baking just got changed to this cake .

Beth said...

I've eaten a few spoonfuls of brown sugar in my day....
Although I've heard of this recipe before, I've never tried it myself. My oven is slow to heat up compared to others, and I'm not sure how that would impact the outcome. But it's always worth a try, isn't it?

Unknown said...

Wow I've never heard of a cold oven start for baking! Your pound cake looks so delicious and buttery. Love that you used coconut oil and brown sugar too! I can just imagine digging into a slice topped with juicy strawberries berries and whipped cream...YUM

Katerina said...

What a wonderful pound cake! I love the rick of the cold oven!

Inger @ Art of Natural Living said...

I just wish I didn't know how many calories are in a pound cake (shhh). But yours looked so good on Facebook, I almost broke my "no pound cake" rule right then and there!