Bess Truman’s Classic Pound Cake Recipe Is 65 Years in the Making

President Truman with First Lady Bess Truman

If you’re bored out of your gourd, chef Jasper Mirabile says to revisit “old-fashioned, traditional recipes.” In this case, he stumbled across former first lady (and Independence native) Bess Truman’s pound cake. The sweet treat—which originated nearly three centuries ago in Northern Europe—was “originally just prepared with one pound of each ingredient because many people could not read and it was easy to remember,” says Mirabile.


After discovering Truman’s 1955 recipe, he decided to give it a shot. “I always enjoy reading about dishes prepared for President Truman and his wife Bess,” says Mirabile, who mentions Mrs. Truman was also known for her macaroni and cheese and a certain Ozark pudding pie. (Who knew?)

Even better? “It’s easy to prepare with ingredients that you probably have on hand,” he says. “I enjoy adding fresh blueberries to the pound cake and then slicing and toasting and brushing with butter. Personally, I don’t add walnuts—but that’s up to you.”

Bess Truman’s Pound Cake

1 pound (2 cups) sugar
1 pound butter, room temperature
9 large eggs, separated
1 pound (or 4 1⁄2 cups) cake flour
1 teaspoon lemon extract
White icing
12 walnut halves (optional)

Mix sugar and butter; add well-beaten egg yolks. Add flour gradually. Stiffly beat the egg whites, then fold into the mixture. Add lemon extract. Pour into a flue (tube cake) pan and bake for one hour in 300° to 325°F oven. Ice with white icing and cover with walnut halves (optional).

(From The World’s Best Recipes—published November, 1955)

(PS. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but Jasper also adds his own Limoncello icing:)

Limoncello icing

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons Limoncello liqueur
1 tablespoon milk

Mix all ingredients in a bowl together. When pound cake is cool, drizzle on top.

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