This old-fashioned dessert just got a healthy upgrade: classic sour cream pound cake delivers a moist, buttery, and yet light treat perfect for holiday entertaining. Using health-promoting ingredients like ghee, organic dairy, and unrefined coconut sugar, this easy homemade recipe is refined sugar-free, gluten-free and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!
UPDATE: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated to reflect new information, tips, and guidelines.
This post is sponsored by Organic Valley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make it possible for Root + Revel to provide free content and healthy living inspiration.
Pound cake. When it comes to desserts, it's as classic as they come. In fact, this old-fashioned, simple recipe has been around since the 1700s! (source)
What exactly is pound cake? The name comes from the fact that it's made with equal parts of its ingredients: a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs. Yep, literally!
While it may not have any fancy frosting or fillings, this humble cake explodes with buttery goodness–no wonder it's such a crowd-pleaser.
In this rendition, we chose to add sour cream to the classic pound cake recipe to deliver an even lighter and more moist texture than traditional versions.
Of course, this wouldn't be R+R without revamping this old-fashioned recipe into a healthier, more balanced–yet still insanely delicious!–version. Admittedly, even with the upgrades this is still an indulgent recipe compared to our norm, but I'm a big believer in not stressing over every detail and want to feel a sense of freedom and joy around food. Food–and life–is all about the balance of good and good for you, not sacrifice and deprivation. Agreed?!
That said, let's check out the healthy swaps we made in this recipe.
HEALTH BENEFITS: CLASSIC SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE
In this classic recipe upgrade, you'll notice that each serving is relatively low in sugar as compared to most conventional desserts–only about 13 grams/serving.
To put that in perspective, a regular Snickers bar alone has 57 grams, and a Warm Cookie Sundae from Baskin Robbins has a whopping 92 grams! I think I'll opt for a piece of this pound cake with fresh berries and coconut whipped cream instead, please!
Plus, the use of organic, grass-fed ghee delivers a nice punch of Vitamin A (important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction) and ghee + organic eggs + organic sour cream = a dose of healthy fats (key for heart and brain health). You definitely won't find these benefits in a candy bar or store-bought cake!
While we're at it, let's talk more about ghee.
HEALTHY SWAPS: BUTTER FOR ORGANIC, GRASS-FED GHEE
Butter is a key component in traditional pound cake. While you absolutely can use organic, grass-fed butter in this recipe, I opted instead to use ghee. What's ghee? It's a long-simmered, clarified butter, a.k.a. pure butterfat. And I'm kinda obsessed with it.
It has such an intense, toasted butter flavor that I think it really shines here to enhance the already rich, buttery flavor of pound cake! It's also already softened, compared to butter that would need to soften to just the right temperature before creaming (I'm all about saving steps, aren't you?).
Beyond that, ghee is lactose-free (super helpful for anyone with intolerances or digestion issues) and touts lots of other awesome health benefits:
- Healthy fats like ghee are needed to help you better absorb certain fat-soluble nutrients from your food, like Vitamins A, D, E & K. These play a role in everything from maintaining healthy vision and bones, to keeping our skin glowing, to balancing our hormones and metabolism.
- It’s filled with butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that plays a central role in gut health and may help support healthy insulin levels and fighting off inflammation.
- Ghee is anti-inflammatory and supports digestion; it's packed with CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which has been shown in some studies to be effective in reducing body fat, preventing cancer formation, alleviating inflammation and even lowering blood pressure. (source)
I love Organic Valley's ghee because it's not only organic (meaning it's non-GMO and free from antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and toxic pesticides), but also pasture-raised. That means their cows are raised on organic pastures in the great outdoors (not confined indoors or in crowded feedlots).
In fact, the Organic Valley Coop established its own set of animal welfare guidelines. Most factory farms have herds of thousands of cows, but Organic Valley farms’ average herd size is just 72 cows on farms that average 273 acres in size. They also receive about 191 days on pasture, ensuring the cows get more attention, space and TLC compared to all conventionally raised cows.
Organic Valley’s ghee not only tastes friggin' delicious, but it’s also more reasonably priced than other brands–check it out on Thrive Market for just $11.99 for a 13-ounce jar or you can buy it on Amazon for $16.99.
It’s also available in most grocery stores (a rarity for a product of this quality), including Publix, Whole Foods, Sprouts, The Fresh Market and more.
Convinced to give ghee a try yet!? I know you won't be disappointed! 😉
HEALTHY SWAPS: REFINED WHITE SUGAR FOR ORGANIC COCONUT SUGAR
We all know that refined, processed white sugar isn't good for us in big quantities.
In short, over consumption of added sugars can contribute to conditions like Leaky Gut, fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers like small intestine, colon, breast, and even more illnesses by rapidly increasing blood glucose and insulin levels, increasing triglycerides and causing inflammation. (source)
That's why in this recipe I replaced sugar with organic, unrefined coconut sugar. While coconut sugar still has about the same amount of fructose as white sugar, it still ranks much lower on the Glycemic Index than most sweeteners (meaning it affects blood sugar less).
Coconut sugar contains iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, plus a little soluble fiber which helps slow the insulin spike. It's also made in a simple two-step process, making it less refined than traditional sugar.
While most pound cake recipes call for upwards of 2 cups of sugar, I found that just 1 cup is plenty sweet and keeps the sugar content to just 12 grams per serving!
HEALTHY SWAPS: REFINED WHITE FLOUR FOR GLUTEN FREE FLOUR
When food is refined–like traditional white flour–vital nutrients are destroyed; refined white flour contains almost no natural minerals and vitamins. Plus, it's highly processed, often with chemicals, and usually comes from GMO crops. (source)
That's why in this pound cake recipe I opted for gluten-free flour in this recipe–that and my hubby feels better when he minimizes his gluten, so we're scaling wayyyyy back on gluten these days.
Fortunately, Bob's Red Mill 1:1 baking flour is super clean, pure and gluten-free, though you'd never be able to tell!
You could also use whole grain flours, which are much less processed and, according to the FDA, must contain all components of a grain kernel. Thus, whole grains retain their nutrients, like fiber.
Of course, getting organic ensures the product is free from harmful pesticides, GMOs and the like.
HEALTHY SWAPS: ORGANIC DAIRY + EGGS
I always look for the USDA Certified Organic seal when I’m shopping for dairy. Unlike conventional dairy, the Organic seal ensures that there are absolutely no antibiotics, synthetic hormones, toxic pesticides or GMOs used ever.
Plus, several studies have found healthier fat ratios (particularly conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)) in organic milk, as well as more antioxidants, both of which have been shown to reduce body fat, and lessen your risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
So definitely look for Organic Valley's Sour Cream to use in this recipe, because not only is it organic but it comes from their pasture-raised cows! It's tangy, creamy and filled with probiotic goodness, making it the perfect complement to this pound cake.
Likewise, I always buy organic, pasture-raised eggs to ensure I'm getting the best quality. I love how Organic Valley treats their chickens in a humane way; farmers require anyone in their cooperative to provide 5 square feet of real outdoors for each of their hens, and they must have shade and water too. Sadly, none of that is common in the industry, so be sure to look for Organic Valley's eggs on your next grocery run!
PUTTING IT TOGETHER: SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE
Feel like getting fancy? You can go to town on fun toppings! Add some fresh fruit (berries or peaches go really well), chopped nuts like pecans, a quick lemon glaze, coconut flakes, a sprinkle of cinnamon or a dollop of coconut whipped cream–the possibilities are endless here!
Need more holiday recipe inspiration?
Check out our healthy holiday menu plan here with a FREE e-cookbook! It’s a collection of 31 real food recipes for the holidays, complete with festive breakfasts, smoothies, lattes, appetizers, sides, mains and desserts. Get your holiday menu totally taken care of so you can enjoy the season without sacrifice!
If you try this classic sour cream pound cake recipe, be sure to share a photo and tag me @rootandrevel on social media–I’d LOVE to see how it turned out for you!
Classic Sour Cream Pound Cake Recipe with Ghee
- Mixer: Stand or Hand
- Bundt Pan
- Wire Rack
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, cream ghee with a hand mixer. Add sugar, a little bit at a time, and blend until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears.
- Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, salt, and baking soda). Add half of the flour mixture, and mix well. Add the sour cream and mix well. Add the second half of the flour mixture, and mix well. Add vanilla extract and mix well.
- Pour batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake for 90 minutes.
- Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick or knife into the center of the cake--it should come out clean.
- Place the pound cake, right side up, on a wire rack while still in the pan and let cool for 10 minutes. This is super important as it allows the cake to become firm enough to remove from the pan without breaking apart; but don't cool for too long or the cake will become damp and stick to the pan. After 10 minutes, remove pound cake from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.