Tangerine Sour Cream Pound Cake

I have a theory that Starbucks has heightened our tolerance for bad, sad pastries. There’ve been moments in my life, at an airport, at a rest stop, where I break down and order a slice of a Starbucks lemon pound cake to go with my coffee. It tastes fine. It’s not bad. It’s sweet, cakey, nicely glazed. But it’s not, by any means, good. Most people don’t know that because most people don’t take the time to make their own glazed pound cakes; but if you do take the time, yours will be light, where theirs is dense. Yours will be authentically flavored, whereas theirs tastes synthetic. Yours will be made at home with love whereas theirs is made in a warehouse. Plus, if you make your own, you can use tangerines instead of lemons.

This recipe comes from the new Valerie Confections cookbook, Sweet. The book is stylishly laid out and offers up many enticing desserts, including cakes, both fancy and practical, as well as cookies and pies and jams and ice creams. At the very end of the book, the very last recipe, in fact, is one for tangerine sour cream pound cake. And lucky enough, my CSA box on Sunday arrived with two pixie tangerines in it. Call it fate.


The cake has lots of stuff in it. Lots of butter, lots of eggs (six), lots of sugar, lots of tangerine zest (which, incidentally, is what Ruth Bourdain used to smoke).


You make a standard cake batter and then put it into a well-buttered tube pan. (It better be well-buttered or that cake’s not coming out!) I loved being able to use my tube pan; it’s spent to much time alone, isolated, in a drawer.


The cake takes a while to bake–over an hour–at 325. When it comes out, though, it looks pretty glorious.


But you’re not done with the cake yet; not at all. While it’s cooling, you juice your tangerines (I supplemented with some oranges) and make a syrup with lemon juice and granulated sugar.


And you brush that all over the bottom and sides of the cake.


Let that soak in for an hour then flip the cake upside down and make a glaze using tangerine juice and powdered sugar.


And pour that glaze all over the cake, so it drips down the sides.


It’s a beauty of a cake and really knocks you out with all of that citrus flavor. Just the kind of cake to make you look at the pastry case at Starbucks and scoff. “If I’m going to eat a glazed citrus pound cake, I’d rather make it myself,” you’ll say to yourself; but then you’ll realize you’re at an airport and you’re hungry, so you’ll buy a slice anyway. And you’ll eat it but secretly be dreaming about this.

Recipe: Tangerine Sour Cream Pound Cake

Summary: From Valerie Gordon’s new cookbook Sweet.


  • 3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups (1 pound 5 ounces) sugar PLUS 1/4 cup sugar (for the glaze)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons grated tangerine zest (from approximately 8 tangerines)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) tangerine juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups (9 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted


  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Coat the inside of a tube pan with lots of butter or non-stick spray.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the dry ingredients, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
  5. Mix the sour cream, tangerine zest, and vanilla together in a small bowl with a fork or small whisk. Add to the batter and mix until smooth. Fill the prepared tube pan with the batter and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Bake for 45 minutes, then rotate the cake and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake is cracked and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 45 minutes.
  6. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet, to catch any glaze drippings. The cake should still be a little warm to the touch.
  7. Mix 1/4 cup of the tangerine juice, the lemon juice, and the 1/4 cup granulated sugar together in a small bowl with a whisk until the sugar dissolves. Using a pastry brush, paint the entire surface of the cake with this clear glaze, continuing until all the glaze has been used. Let the cake cool completely, about 1 hour.
  8. Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 1/4 cup of tangerine juice in a bowl. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  9. Pour the glaze ver slowly over the top of the cake, so it drips down the sides. Leave the cake uncovered until the glaze sets, about 20 minutes.
  10. The cake can be stored, in a cake box or under a dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Preparation time: 1 hour(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

18 thoughts on “Tangerine Sour Cream Pound Cake”

  1. Arlyn Lichthardt

    Steps 4 and 8 are confusing, seeing that only the confectioner’s sugar is in the recipe. The traditional pound cake has equal weights of flour, eggs, sugar and butter. There’s no question that the old way needs modification, but where and how much could use some clarification.

    1. Arlyn Lichthardt

      Sorry, I reread the recipe after having assumed from a reader’s response there was no sugar. My mistake.

  2. Stacey Snacks

    Looks fabulous! I use clementines because I always have them in the winter…….
    Starbuck’s used to have fresh and nice bakery items every am, but sadly their case yesterday (in NJ) was disgusting…..empty, everything that was left, looked stale, nothing I would waste my calories on!

  3. Debra Williams

    By the way, you are right about the you at Starbucks; sometimes they taste like eating dense sandpaper.

  4. Karen@Mignardise

    The only thing that keeps me from eating every pastry I come across is by saying “I could make that!” Then I hardly ever do. But this! This looks fabulous and will be baked at home. Love a great citrus cake. Thanks!

  5. Sounds really good. I’ve used sour cream with chocolate cake and it always comes out moist and delicious.

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