I like to say that my love affair with cast iron did not begin 40 years ago, even though that’s when I bought my beautiful, old 12-inch Griswold at an Atlanta estate sale. The skillet was shiny and smooth from years of good cooking, but I never showered it with praise. That was saved for copper pans I brought back from cooking school in Paris. You could say that this humble iron skillet with the perfect patina had been like a relief player in my kitchen, waiting for the one recipe, the opportunity to get my attention.
And one July afternoon two years ago, on a whim, I grabbed the skillet and poured in a favorite pound cake batter. It was a cake my mother taught me to bake in a tube pan, and the notion of turning that precious batter into an iron skillet seemed crazy.
Yet that skillet pound cake rose straight up the sides of the pan. The crust on top was golden and crackly. And the interior crumb was even and smooth. The aroma in the kitchen was irresistible. In short, I had never baked such a perfect pound cake. My skillet, practiced and ready, performed like a seasoned pro and knocked that cake right out of the park. In that instant, I fell crazy in love with my skillet. And that cake!
What is it about a pound cake that bakes so beautifully in an iron skillet? And what is it about a skillet that bakes such a perfect pound cake? The pound cake batter begs for a sturdy pan, one with solid sides and that’s able to retain heat so the crumb is evenly baked, from the inside out. And the iron skillet is just that pan, built to seal the pound cake in a crisp exterior crust so the interior stays moist.
Pound cakes bake so beautifully in the iron skillet. And it’s amazing how the simple addition of chopped strawberries turns my favorite pound cake into the perfect cake for springtime gatherings. If you don’t have strawberries, you can always add blueberries or raspberries. And if you want to easily unmold a skillet pound cake— versus slice and serve right from the pan—run a knife around the pan edges as soon as the cake comes out of the oven. And for the easiest process of all, line the bottom of the skillet with a round of parchment paper.
Praise be to the iron skillet and pound cake!
Anne Byrn is the author of the cookbooks Skillet Love, American Cookie, American Cake, and more. For more information, visit annebyrn.com.
Find Anne’s recipe for Strawberries and Cream Pound Cake here.