Hold the mustard. Hold the ketchup. Add the ice cream

Fire up the barbecue! It’s time to grill… pound cake?

When I was growing up in Hingham, Massachusetts back in the ’60s, I lived just a long stone’s throw from the Hingham Yacht Club. Unlike many of the kids in town, I hadn’t spent my whole life on the water. And while I could distinguish a sailboat (triangular white sail, quiet) from a powerboat (motor on the back, noisy), I wasn’t really up on the nuances of sailing.

The first time I heard “Ready about, hard a-lee,” I thought, “Neat, some real sailing lingo. Wonder what it means?” I found out when the boom (a long, heavy metal pole, for you co-neophytes) hit me in the back and knocked me into the sandy grit and muddy water in the bottom of the boat.

But things improved from there. Eventually I became crew on captain Martha Fisher’s Mercury, an old-fashioned, fat-beamed, relatively slow sailboat beloved of parents, and scoffed at by most teens, who preferred the then-trendy Lasers. I still didn’t understand the finer points of sailing, and absolutely nothing at all about racing. But I was good at taking orders—and ducking. So things worked out.

And where does grilled pound cake come into this picture? At the end of the race. The yacht club had a snack bar with a grill. And post-race, dried salt spray stiffening my shirt and sunburn flushing my face, I’d happily trudge to the snack bar and order something I was sure had been invented right there, since I’d never seen nor heard of it before: grilled pound cake with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

GRILLED pound cake? Hot dogs, hamburgs, pancakes, French toast, sure. But who’d ever heard of grilled cake? Back in 1967, not I. If you Google it now, you’ll find zillions of recipes. But to me, back then, it was a novelty: and a very compelling one indeed.

As a teenager, cooking wasn’t nearly as high on my priority list as field hockey, riding my bike, and hanging out with my girlfriends. However, since I’ve grown up and learned to bake, I re-create that special summer dessert often. I no longer live by the sea. But every time I enjoy pound cake à la mode, I can hear the faint clink-clink-clink of stays on metal masts, and feel a cold salt breeze in my face.

Here’s one of my favorite Pound Cake recipes. I add pecans, and substitute butter-rum flavor for the almond extract in the batter to make a butter-pecan version, which I grill and serve with caramel sauce.

First, make sure your butter, cream cheese, and eggs are all at cool room temperature. That means butter and cream cheese will both be nicely spreadable, but not melting. If you forgot to take the eggs out of the fridge, just submerge them in a bowl of hot water for about 10 minutes to warm up. (You’ll notice I only have four eggs in this picture instead of the five called for in the recipe—whoops! Guess one will be fridge-cold…)

Beat the butter and cream cheese together till smooth.

Add the salt, sugar, and flavorings of choice, then beat in the eggs one at a time.

Finally, beat in the flour and baking powder. The batter will be thick, smooth, and fluffy. Stir in the diced pecans.

You’ll notice, if you follow the recipe, that it calls for beating in the eggs last; while here I beat in the flour and baking powder last. I tried it both ways; either works fine.

Spoon the batter into the pan of your choice. A 9” x 5” loaf pan makes a nice-sized slice for grilling.

Bake the cake till a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, and the very top of the cake is no longer molten. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register about 205°F…

…and when it’s inserted into the very tip-top of the crust, about 196°F.

After about 15 minutes, remove the cake from the pan. Allow it to cool completely on a rack. If you’re going to grill it, cut slices a generous 1/2” thick to 3/4” thick.

Heat your grill to medium-hot. You don’t need to worry about cooking the cake, as you would a burger; you’re just going to warm it and give it some attractive grill marks. Brush the cake slices on both sides with butter.

Grill the slices, giving them a quarter-turn on the grill to make a cross-hatch pattern, if desired.

Pile the slices on a plate…

…place each slice on a plate, and top with ice cream. Sauce is optional, but delicious, of course. Our Sundae Sauces are a good choice.

Read our complete Pound Cake recipe.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Sara Lee Butter Pound Cake, 28¢/ounce

Bake at home: Butter-Pecan Pound Cake, 13¢/ounce

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. JenneinAZ

    That cake tester looks amazing. Can you use it on bread? I have had some recent bread disasters where the outside of the bread was nice and golden but the inside was still doughy. Would the tester help me avoid that?

    Thank you.

    Absolutely, Jenne – it’s a Thermapen instant-read thermometer. It’s the ONLY way I test bread. Bread is 190°F in the center when it’s done; really heavy whole-grain loaves will be abut 205°F. It’s the only way to go! As you can see, I have my name on my thermometer so it doesn’t get lost in the test kitchen. The one I use is THE BEST ($99) – because I like speed and accuracy. But you don’t have to spend that much to get something pretty good. Check out the Thermapen and other instant-read thermometers on our Web site, kingarthurflour.com. -PJH

  2. Glenn


    PJs right. At the prompting of both King Arthur and Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I broke down and got the Thermapen (above). There is nothing like it. Whether you’re making sandwich bread or crusty baguettes or meatloaf or burgers / steaks / chops on the grill or a turkey in the oven. No guess work; you know when it is done. Speed is important, too, when you’ve got your hands in a hot oven or over a searing hot grill. The object is to get in and get out.

    There is some equipment that is essential for good baking — a good standing mixer, the right size pans, accurate scales — and an instant-read thermometer is among them.

  3. Kevin

    Having a family member with type two diabetes has limited the number of cakes and other baked deserts that can be enjoyed here. We have, however, found that splenda works relatively well in pies and cheesecake. Would splenda work in this recipe? Is there a minimal amount of sugar that mixed with splenda or some other sugar substitute that might yield an acceptable result? Are there any other “work arounds” that you might suggest? Thank you.

    Hi Kevin,

    Susan Reid has been doing research on using sugar substitutes in different recipes. On the blog, use Splenda for your search word, and you will find 3 different posts on Searching For Sweetness. There is a lot of good information there.

    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

  4. Bill Wilson

    Sounds like old times to me. My Grandmother was famous for her pound cake, it was the old fashoned recipe. When she made it, she would always make 2 loaves at a time. The first loaf never got close to cold, but the next morning we would just slice off some pieces and stick them in the toaster. That with some eggs, jam, juice and coffee is really the way to start the day.

  5. darlena

    This is a great story and a great idea to liven up an old favorite. I am going to try this with my next chosen desert. Thanks for the great story and desert recipe….


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