Presenting a classic pound cake made moist with sour cream and prepared vintage-style in loaf pans — born from a 19th Century women’s movement established to help women in need.
You can bake this cake in a big bundt pan for a crowd or follow our lead and bake 2 cakes in loaf pans. That way, you can keep one and freeze one. Besides treating your friends and family to an old-fashioned cake, you can put on a pot of coffee, defrost your frozen “extra” cake and you’ll be ready whenever company comes calling. 🙂
This is not a frosted layer cake. It’s more the kind of sweet buttery cake you order in thick slices with a tall cappuccino in the morning. The type of cake that needs no frosting (unless you drizzle the top with a light lemon glaze). I prefer to serve it straight up with coffee, tea or lemonade! haha! All you need to add is great conversation with a neighbor or your best bud — and you’ve got yourself a Friendship Cake. This cake travels well and also makes a perfect side kick at a Sunday Brunch or any social gathering where cake and coffee are the go-together duo.
Vintage Cookbook Find: The recipe for this pound cake hails from the “Woman’s Exchange: Let’s Exchange Recipes, Volume I”, a simple spiral-bound cook book of shared recipes from the Woman’s Exchange of St. Augustine, Florida (founded in 1892). The Foreward by Lucy Lewis Deerin states that proceeds from this book will be used for the preservation and maintenance of the Dr. Peck House (now known as the Peña-Peck House) that dates back to 1702. This little cookbook also contains recipes contributed by Mr. Norman Baskin of his wife’s (Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of “The Yearling” and “Cross Creek” from her Cross Creek Cookery cookbook).
Women Helping Women to Help Themselves: The Woman’s Exchange Movement began in the early 1800’s as an amazing gathering of volunteer women committed to helping women who had fallen on hard times. This was accomplished with a unique retail service. The woman in need would create an amazing hand crafted item and deliver it to a local “Exchange” shop where the item would be placed for consignment sale. The shelves of these shops were lined with: Intricate embroidery, frocks, petticoats and gorgeous needlework (often called “fancywork”). A small portion of the profits (originally 6%) went to operational expenses, with the remainder going to the contributing artist.
Under Cover of Darkness: In the early days of these organizations, women delivered their special crafts to the back doors of the Exchange shops in secrecy under the cloak of darkness. Even payments to contributing women were delivered in underground fashion. Hiding the identity of contributors was considered a key component of the program. Why? Amazingly, this was done to protect the reputation of the participating women at a time when it was considered undignified for a woman to be earning a wage.
Practical Helping and Raising Awareness: The Industrial Revolution was running strong between 1800 and 1880. In 1832, the Philadelphia Ladies’ Depository (the nation’s first Exchange) was founded by wealthy widow, Elizabeth Stott. She and her friends opened a small charity shop to assist women who were trying to break free from the brutal industrial era working environment during the time of the 50-cents-a-day wage and the 14-hour workday. Members of the charity paid dues and acted as shop managers and accountants. Exchanges raised public awareness of the harsh working conditions and exploitation of working women, especially in the needlework trades, and they helped train women for the business world (for example, in retail sales, real estate lease transactions and bookkeeping).
The Exchanges blossomed during the civil war era (during a time when women were in factories stitching war uniforms). By 1891, more than 16,000 women sold merchandise at Exchanges across the country. For additional reading, you may want to check out: “The Business of Charity: The Woman’s Exchange Movement, 1832-1900” by Kathleen Waters Sander (author of “Mary Elizabeth Garrett: Society and Philanthropy in the Gilded Age“).
Many of these historic charitable organizations, such as the Scarsdale Woman’s Exchange and the St. Augustine Woman’s Exchange are still going strong today as part of the Federation of Woman’s Exchange organizations.
One thing’s for sure…the Woman’s Exchange recipe books still survive in used book stores everywhere. Even a handful of them on your cook book shelf would make a charming addition to your collection. These pamphlets and full-on cookbooks are from all parts of the country spanning decades of women helping women. But their latest cookbooks hot off the presses benefit great causes.
So here’s a salute to the history of the Woman’s Exchange! A truly remarkable group helping for decades to bring women forward.
Slow Food Alert! Although this is an easy cake recipe, the cake bakes slowly in a low temperature oven, so plan on: 1) ratcheting up your favorite kick-it tunes while you prep the cake then just kick back and wait for the cake aroma to start filling up the house during the slow-bake time.
Note About the Pans and Baking Time: We changed the type of pan used in the original recipe to 2 medium bread pans from a classic fluted bundt pan, just for fun. We also lengthened the baking time (beyond 1 hour) and raised the oven temperature up from 250 degrees (thinking that was a typo).
Okay, it’s time to clear the decks in my kitchen and get this cake party started! 😀
Collecting Ingredients on the Counter: This cake is practically baked once you have gathered your ingredients. Ever notice how that happens? Like, collect up the ingredients on the counter and then it’s nearly a done deal and you can just fly through it. 😀
So this is what I recommend for you…Have all your baking goodies lined up on the counter and ready to rock! 😀
Recipe Note about Lemons: We wanted to follow the original recipe as closely as possible so we used lemon extract instead of fresh lemons and the flavor was nice (although you can always kick up the lemon flavor a tad with a little scrub of very fine grated lemon peel and a dash of fresh lemon juice).
A note about sour cream: Because we want a nice moist cake, it is important to use a nice quality sour cream that is not reduced in fat.
Tools for Sour Cream Pound Cake:
2 small bread pans (approximately 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5″, substitute 9-1/2″ diameter bundt pan or tube pan)
1 Large mixing bowl (for main batter)
1 medium bowl (for pre-mixing dry ingredients)
1 small bowl (for fork-beating eggs)
Measuring cups and spoons
Baking thermometer is recommended for this recipe but not mandatory
Sour Cream Pound Cake Ingredients:
6 large eggs
1 cup (2 cubes) butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 cups superfine sugar
1 cup (1/2 pint) sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon extract (substitute 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice + 1/2 teaspoon fine grated fresh lemon peel)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality
Let’s Bake Some Vintage Cake!:
Prepare 2 medium-sized bread pans by lining them with foil (for easy removal). This also works well when you’re using old vintage pans (to line over any “historical imperfections”).
Spray the foil with cooking spray (or brush a light coating of melted butter on them).
Set out to come to room temperature (perhaps 15 to 20 minutes) :
6 large eggs
Bring to room temperature in the microwave for a few seconds:
1 cup (2 cubes) butter
Add in and beat on high until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes):
1-1/4 cups superfine sugar
In a soup-sized bowl, fork beat until well blended:
the room temperature eggs
Beat into the creamed butter-sugar:
the mixed eggs
In a medium bowl, whisk until fully blended and set aside:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
We’re using Grandma’s tiny demitasse spoon as a quarter teaspoon… 🙂
We used a wide-mouthed jar to whisk the dry ingredients…
Mix well with the whisk — since we’re not sifting things together (it’s a lazy thing)…
Beat in on low-speed, increasing to medium speed, until just fully blended:
the prepared dry ingredients
Add to the batter the star ingredient:
1 cup sour cream
Beat in until fully incorporated:
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, fine quality
Divide the batter between the 2 bread pans (or all into one bundt pan).
The batter will be quite thick…
Be sure to smooth the batter in the pans…
The art of smoothing the batter (different strokes for different folks)… 🙂
Bake at 325 for 1-1/2 hours to an internal temperature of 210.
Tip: Because these are thick and somewhat dense cakes, it is very important to be certain this cake is fully cooked to prevent any streaks of dough. This is why I recommend a temperature tool — since the outer cake can be quite deceptive on doneness.
Let the cake cool just a bit before serving warm from the oven or keep them wrapped on the counter up to perhaps 3 days.
If you’re freezing one for company or a later event, let the cake cool thoroughly (perhaps 1 hour) and wrap well (I used double plastic wrap).
And there you have it. Freshly crafted from your kitchen and loaded with history!
Thank you for joining me for a little slice of cake history and our salute to the Woman’s Exchange groups across the country, helping so many thousands of women to a better life.
I hope you’ll join us on Facebook, where we share photos of our old-fashioned cake recipes in the testing stages and receive your tips and recommendations for future vintage cakes.
Related articles you may enjoy:
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- Homemade Pumpkin Bread (bakethisbread.com)
- Homemade Maraschino Cake (bakethiscake.com)
- Old-fashioned Cherry Frosting (bakethiscake.com)
- Mrs. Lincoln’s Vanilla Almond Pound Cake (bakethiscake.com)
- Betty’s Banana Layer Cake (bakethiscake.com)
- Julia Cakes with Mango Custard Sauce – A Lovely Vintage Vanilla Tea Cake Made Modern (bakethiscake.com)
- Vintage Summer Snow #Cake Recipe with Strawberries and Cream (bakethiscake.com)
- Fresh Banana Frosting Recipe for Betty’s Banana Layer Cake (bakethiscake.com)
I enjoyed reading your recipe. So many people put in so much unnecessary language that bores me and then I lose faith in their abilities. Reading about the history behind this recipe had me hooked. I look forward to ordering a printed copy of the text.
Thank you, Renee, for your comment about the history behind the Vintage Sour Cream Pound Cake. I’m so happy you enjoyed the history behind the cake recipe. The history research is my favorite part of vintage cake baking. Best, Leslie
Thanks. I am making it again this time using the full recipe. I will let you know how it turns out.
Are you sure it is only 1/4 tsp baking soda? In your instructions, you wrote that you used your grandma’s tiny demitasse spoon as a quarter teaspoon, but when I look at the picture, it looks more like 1/2 teaspoon. I did half the recipe, using 1/8 tsp baking soda, in one loaf pan, and the cake was extremely heavy. But the pictures that you have show a delicious cake. I really want to try it again.
This recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Yes, the photo shows a tiny little demitasse spoon. I haven’t tried a half recipe so perhaps it doesn’t pan out properly when divided though not sure why. Thanks for your interest in vintage baking.
amazing recipe I will try to make it but can I use dried fruits?
Made the cakes and it turned out beautifully. I changed the measurements with the sugar and baking soda. I found this recipe similar to my own recipe and it taste very moist and delicious. What I liked more than anything is how tall my cakes came out of the loaf pans with wax paper instead of foil. Thank you for the recipe that included sour cream instead of can milk, made a difference.
Hi, Yvonne, Thank you for commenting with the results of your baking of the vintage sour cream pound cake. Yes, I also love the sour cream in this recipe for that extra moist factor. Did you add more sugar and baking soda to the recipe? Do tell. 🙂 Sounds wonderful.
can I add dried fruits?? im preparing the cake just now
Adding a little dried fruit should work in this pound cake recipe , though O haven’t tried it for this R cake. Perhaps others have tried it and will chime in.
Will be baking with this recipe on 1/27/2015. Gathered all the ingredients just as listed, looking forward to baking tomorrow. Will let you know how it all turns out when we can wait long enough for it to cool!
Superfine sugar? Is that granulated or powdered?
Hi Cindi, I used regular granulated sugar.
What is the date of the original recipe? I am looking for something before 1830. Thanks.
Hi, Brenda, The publisher, Woman’s Exchange of St. Augustine, Florida, was founded in 1892, but I’m not sure of the publication date of this vintage cookbook or the specific date of this shared recipe from one of their members. American brownies likely didn’t enter our cookbooks until about the turn of the century so I’m wondering if you’ll find a brownie recipe with that early date. Good luck on the hunt. Leslie
Hi, there! Enjoyed the backstory. Unfortunately, was not overly-impressed with the cake. Made it for my Dear Mother’s birthday this past March. First, the cake stuck to the bottom of the pan; perhaps I didn’t apply enough cooking spray. In any event, this pound cake was not as sweet as the other pound cakes I have made. It also did not rise as high as I expected. Will be going back to my tried and true pound cake recipe.
Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the Woman’s Exchange discussion. This vintage pound cake bakes best in 2 small bread pans lined with foil and sprayed (or buttered). For sweetness, it uses 1-1/4 cups of superfine sugar for a lightly sweet and moist sour cream pound cake. Happy vintage cake baking to you & happy birthday to your mom. 🙂
Turned out perfect and we devoured it that night! My family loves this recipe and we’ll be making it often. Keep up the fabulous work –the photo’s are such a terrific bonus to help those of us who don’t bake often! Thank you! Suzanne
Thank you for stopping by to say hello and for your comments on the sour cream pound cake! Happy vintage cake baking to you! 🙂
That was so fascinating. I learn so much from your blog. Thank you for taking the time to do the research, I really appreciate what you do. I always finish your blog thinking… “I didn’t know that, how interesting.” Great job!
Thank you Cathy! I have bunches of these old Woman’s Exchange cookbooks so I thought it was time to find out the real scoop on their remarkable history. Glad you found it interesting. So love your adventures at http://www.shepaused4thought.com Leslie