It is no secret that I like pound cakes.
The first cake I had ever made was a Butter Pound Cake. It was amazing because my mom gave me the recipe and promptly left the kitchen. So that was the first time ever that I was left all alone in the kitchen with her precious hand-held mixer and the oven to play with. Oh to be trusted with such technology!
What came out of the oven that day, I guess looking back now, was probably a mediocre cake, but to the 11-year-old me, it was a major achievement!
Pound cakes, however, as much as I adore them, are also the bane of my existence. As they are one the simplest cakes you can possibly make, they are notoriously difficult to get right.
In my opinion, dryness is the #1 problem with pound cakes.
So in my quest to find the perfect pound cake recipe (unfortunately that has still managed to elude me), I have stumbled upon many that are really good. I guess perfection is just too hard to achieve.
As with all pound cakes, I started by creaming together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.
For pictures of these steps for beginning bakers, please see here.
While that was happening, I sifted together the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. This was also set aside.
I also mix the cocoa powder with hot water and whisked until all the powder had dissolved.
Once the butter-sugar mixture had become light and fluffy, I added the eggs, one at a time and beat thoroughly after each addition. I also scrapped the sides of the bowl to ensure that the mixture was even. The vanilla extract was then added and beaten too.
At the end of this, you would get a mixture that looks like it had curdled. This used to scare the hell out of me, but now I know it is normal.
The flour mixture and buttermilk were added in the sequence: flour-buttermilk-flour-buttermilk-flour and beaten after each addition.
You will end up with a smooth, thick and creamy batter.
I transferred about 1/3 of the mixture into a smaller bowl – just eye-ball it. Using a spatula, I stirred the mixture until it became even.
Then came the fun part.
I started by spooning dollops of each batter on opposite sides of the pan that had been greased and lined. For the second layer, I alternated the pattern by spooning the vanilla batter over the chocolate batter and vice versa. Then I did the opposite for the third layer.
Using a knife, I swirled the batter by making a couple of the figure “8”, thereby creating a pretty pattern. In the words of one of my idols, Mary Berry, “Be bold!” The idea here is to make a pattern, not to swirl until everything is a chocolatey mess.
Place the cake into the pre-heated oven and once a clean skewer inserted into the deepest part emerges cleanly, it was ready.
The cake was allowed to cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes, before being transferred onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Isn’t it beautiful?
I always advise people to wait until the cake is cool before attacking it, but when it comes to pound cakes, I can never wait.
Marble Pound Cake (Serves 8-10)
Adapted from recipe by Martha Stewart
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
butter or spray for pan
1. Preheat oven to 170C. Generously grease and line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
4. In a separate small bowl, mix the cocoa powder and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of boiling water until smooth.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in vanilla.
6. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour.
7. Scoop 1/3 of the batter into another bowl and set aside.
8. Add the cocoa mixture to the small bowl of cake batter and stir it well.
9. To assemble the cake- start by creating a checkerboard pattern in the bottom of the pan by spooning dollops of each batter on opposite sides of the pan.
10. For the second layer, alternate the pattern, spooning vanilla batter over the chocolate and vice versa.
11. Finish with a final layer of batter- again alternating it from the pattern of the 2nd layer.
12. Use a knife or skewer to swirl all the batters together. Make a couple figure 8s and run it back and forth so it is swirled and pretty.
13. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 60 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack to cool 10 minutes.
14. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Note: Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.