20110621-pound-cake-primary.jpg

[Photo: Robyn Lee]

We know, we know; just about any homemade loaf cake or pound cake will be better than Sara Lee or Entenmann's. We won't pretend that either could possibly compare.

But there are some summer nights when you're at the grocery store and you're running late to a friend's cookout, and you're in charge of dessert, and you've got a beautiful crate of strawberries and some cream to whip and you just need something cake-like to serve with them. And in those moments, you're likely to be faced with Sara Lee (in the freezer case) and Entenmann's (on the shelf). So which way do you go? We set up a taste test to find out.

Former intern Grace Kang once mentioned that her family called Entenmann's Loaf Cake "pound cake," and given the responses in the comments, it seemed that hers wasn't the only one. It's worth keeping in mind that a pound cake is something specific, implying a dense crumb and a strong butter flavor. But in terms of "grocery store cakes to top with berries and cream," Sara Lee and Entenmann's are the choices you've got.

The Taste

20110621-poundcake-saralee.jpg

Sara Lee.

While some tasters ended up preferring Sara Lee and others Entenmann's, it was interesting to see that Sara Lee clearly came out on top, flavor-wise. More than one taster cited "a flavor that might actually be butter"; no one cited excessive sweetness or off flavors.

On the other hand, Entenmann's provoked words such as "chemicals," "styrofoam," and "fake" (a term that nearly half the tasters used). Many felt it was too sweet. Those who did like Entenmann's cited a "strong vanilla flavor," but even those who preferred it acknowledged that it didn't taste much like butter, or expressed reservations about just how sweet it was.

The Texture

20110621-poundcake-entenmanns.jpg

Entenmann's.

No one was neutral about these cakes' textures, though our tasters were split on their loyalties. Some preferred Entenmann's since they felt that "it could be homemade" or "looked a lot less processed"; one called it a "soft, fluffy pillow" vs. Sara Lee's "hard pillow." But others found it too light and crumbly, saying that "it falls apart much too easily."

Those who liked Sara Lee's appreciated the softness and uniform crumb; "It reminds me of Asian cake," one said. But detractors said it "looked like it came from a factory," or "isn't dense enough," or "feels like it might dissolve into a powder in water."

The Verdict

In ranking "overall preference," tasters were nearly split: Sara Lee Pound Cake came out on top with 6.2 points out of 10, while Entenmann's edged in just behind at 6.0. That said, it's clear that tasters felt Sara Lee had the more "buttery" flavor; even many tasters who ranked Entenmann's their preferred cake often had reservations about its synthetic taste or overbearing sweetness.

Of course, that's not to say people can't like something with a synthetic taste or overbearing sweetness. The taste of Entenmann's Loaf Cake in particular is one some people like for what it its, rather than its approximation of a "real food"—like Kraft Mac 'n Cheese, say. (It doesn't taste like cheese; you don't want it to. It tastes like orange stuff from a blue box.)

But if you're looking for a buttery, typical pound cake flavor, Sara Lee is a better bet. And if you're looking for the truly dense, moist crumb of a good pound cake... well, neither of these are that. But we can't say we expected them to be.

Recipes

Yes, your own pound cake will be better. Here are a few recipes for the die-hard bakers to try!

Pound Cake »
Yellow Vanilla Pound Cake »
Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake »
Toasted Cardamom Pound Cake »
EVO and Yogurt Loaf Cake »

Comments

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: