The Best Butter for Baking Pound Cake—We Tested 3

Does American, European, or Amish butter make the best pound cake? I put on my stretchiest pants and found out the answer.

Pound Cake
Photo: MIXA/Getty Images

When pound cake gained popularity during the mid-1700s, the recipe was as simple and dense as the name implies: one pound each of butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. Butter is the key ingredient of a good pound cake since it affects the flavor, color, density, and moistness of your cake. Given its fundamental role, I baked and tasted our own (updated) version of classic pound cake with three different kinds of butter: Amish butter, European butter, and regular American butter.

I followed these tips for the perfect pound cake: Use high-quality ingredients, thoroughly cream butter and sugar together for five minutes, and wait at least 40 minutes before digging in. To ensure consistency, I baked all three cakes within 24 hours so that freshness was not a factor in the final taste test. I also used the exact same ingredients for each cake (except for the butter, of course) and used the same loaf pan, same oven, and same KitchenAid mixer.

I poked, sliced, crumbled, and tasted all three varieties. Because there are only so many bites of pound cake a person can eat, I also recruited 20+ family members and friends to taste and share their opinions. Below is our verdict.

Amish Butter Pound Cake

This was my first time cooking or baking with Amish butter. Before seeing it in a grocery store a few months ago, I didn't even know such a thing existed. I used Minerva Dairy Unsalted Butter, which is a pale yellow color and resulted in a cake that lacked the vibrant yellow hue that the other two kinds of butter achieved.

This particular type of Amish butter contains 85% butterfat, which should make the pound cake rich, buttery, and dense. And it did! The cake was moist, even in color and texture, and had the most complex flavor of the three cakes. It had a noticeable tang that would offset any additional sweet toppings traditionally put on pound cake (chocolate sauce, fruit, and whipped cream). Some testers were not a fan of the tanginess, while others liked that it wasn't overly sweet. Because this pound cake drew such mixed opinions, and Amish butter is more difficult to find than European or American butter, I'm hesitant to give this cake two thumbs up.

European Butter Pound Cake

European butter is known for being a superior, luxurious type of butter. Its high butterfat content and praise from professional chefs have helped it grow a reputation for producing rich, flavorful baked goods. I had high hopes for my choice—Plugra European Style Unsalted Butter—and it delivered. I found the flavor and texture of the pound cake to be balanced. The texture was smooth and moist, and the cake tasted sweet (not too sweet) and buttery.

This version was also the fan favorite. While taste buds are subjective, the majority of testers ranked this #1, noting its "smooth, even texture" and "great flavor." European butter achieved a balanced cake that was perfectly spongy, crumbly, and delicious.

American Butter Pound Cake

Regular 'ol butter, as I affectionately call American butter, seemed like the "safe bet," so to speak. It's the kind of butter most commonly relied upon by home bakers in the U.S. I used Nature's Promise Organic Unsalted Butter, which is made with sweet cream. The type of cream differentiates this butter from cultured butter, which has a tangier flavor.

This pound cake was the sweetest of the three, likely due to the sweet cream butter. Many testers thought this version tasted "store-bought" and "artificial," which are sometimes synonymous. I attributed these descriptions to the fact that store-bought pound cake is probably made with regular 'ol butter. Since everyone loves homemade baked goods for that quintessential "homemade" taste, American butter might not give you the credit you deserve for baking this cake. However, if regular butter is all you have on hand and you're in a pinch, it'll work just fine.

Final Thoughts

European butter takes the cake! The high butterfat content, bright yellow color, rich flavor, and density will make your pound cake irresistible. Plus, it's just as accessible as American butter and comparably priced. (vs. Amish butter which will likely require a trip to a gourmet grocery.)

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles