Vintage Recipe Roundup: 1903 Pound cake (Only 5 ingredients!)

Have you ever wondered where the term “pound cake” originated? I can’t be 100% certain, but I have a feeling it’s due to the ingredients in the old, vintage version of the cake: 1 pound each of flour, butter and sugar. We had this discussion a few weeks ago in my house, after my better half and I made a modern day pound cake. My son, asked why it is called “pound cake” and I told him what I just told you. This peaked his interest.

Well, he just turned 20 years old yesterday! (WOW do I feel old! I no longer have teenagers in the house.) For his birthday cake, he asked for this specific pound cake, the original version, with a pound of flour, sugar and butter. He wanted to compare it to the modern version we had a few weeks before. (They are incredibly different, in case you’re wondering) This cake is quite dense, as you can imagine, but still moist and tasty, with a hint of nutmeg in the background.

The recipe came from my 1903 Good Housekeeping Everyday Cookbook. The recipe is titled “Pound cake as our mothers’ made it”. It specifies in the recipe that pastry flour is better than traditional all purpose flour. I actually used cake flour.

The recipe calls for “1/4 of a nutmeg, grated”. If you normally buy already ground nutmeg, and have never used a whole nutmeg, I highly encourage you to try. Most grocery stores carry them and they last a long time. Take a look at the photo below:

Nutmeg, Grater, Fresh, Spice, Nut, Season, Shell

One further tip, the batter gets quite thick and heavy as the flour is added. As I state on the recipe below, I recommend adding about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites to loosen the batter, prior to folding in the remaining egg whites. It really helps the process along.

I was VERY surprised by how much the cake rose, despite there being no rising agent other than the 10 eggs. The photo above shows the cake after I took it out of the oven. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a before photo. But, prior to baking, the batter came about 2/3 to 3/4 the way to the top of the pan.

1903 Pound Cake Recipe

  • Servings: 8 to 12
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

A simple pound cake recipe as it was meant to be, with a hint of nutmeg in the background. Delicious with some whipped cream and berries!

Credit: 1903 Good Housekeeping Everyday Cookbook


  • 1 pound each: cake or pastry flour, butter and sugar
  • 10 eggs – separated
  • 1/4 of a whole nutmeg, grated


  1. Beat egg yolks well.
  2. Beat egg whites until firm, and can be “cut with a knife”.
  3. Cream together butter and sugar. Add beaten egg yolks and grated nutmeg
  4. Slowly add flour in small increments, mixing after each addition.
  5. Once all the flour is added, the batter will be very thick. Take about 1/4 of the egg whites and stir into the batter to loosen it.
  6. Add remaining egg whites and fold into batter, being careful not to deflate the egg whites.
  7. Put batter into a greased/floured bundt pan.
  8. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees (equivalent to a “moderate oven” in 1903.


This cake wasn’t exactly easy to make, but it was a lot of fun experimenting with the recipe. I just love making these vintage recipes. You just never know what you’re going to get. If you have a hankering for a pound cake, I’d suggest giving this one a try!

One response to “Vintage Recipe Roundup: 1903 Pound cake (Only 5 ingredients!)”

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