This is the cake that started my love affair with pound cake. My mom’s dark chocolate pound cake was the dessert my brother and I grew up fighting over. And with good reason. It’s a rich and easy cake to make. Long before I perfected my master pound cake recipe, I was loving this chocolate version.
And now, after years of having my mom make this cake, I have taken the reins. Since I cannot leave well enough alone, I have given this recipe a few minor tweaks, but at its heart, it’s the old fashioned chocolate pound cake recipe that saw me through childhood, through college, and well into adulthood. I hope you love it as much as I do!
And for you pound cake super fans, I’ve rounded up all my pound cake recipes in one place on the blog!
And here’s a photo of Susan’s cake, used with permission. Look how beautiful!
What Makes This Recipe So Great
This was my Aunt Charlotte’s favorite cake. Mom used to make her one every year, and every year, this sainted woman hoarded it, only sharing see-through thin pieces with special friends and only when asked.
That alone should be enough of an endorsement, but since you didn’t know my sainted Aunt Charlotte, here are some more reasons:
- Using brown sugar deepens the flavor and also makes this cake moister so that it gets fudgy after a few days on the counter. If it lasts that long
- It has just enough instant coffee in it to bolster the chocolate without being mocha. (If you want a more coffee forward pound cake, try my chocolate espresso pound cake)
- Adding acidic dairy (in the form of sour cream or buttermilk) makes the crumb nice and tender
- Using enough salt to bring all the flavors into focus and counteract any bitterness that might be lurking from the cocoa powder
- Taking the time to whip all the eggs together to add them a bit at a time makes for a very stable, thick, and billowy batter that bakes up with a lovely, tight, velvety crumb
Pan Size is Important
It turns out that mom’s pound cake recipe is nearly identical to all my pound cake variations. The basic formula, not including flavorings, leavenings, etc, is:
- 13 oz flour (about 3 cups)
- 12 oz unsalted butter (3 sticks)
- 20 oz granulated sugar (about 3 cups)
- 5 large eggs
- 10 oz by weight liquid (1 1/4 cups, usually of dairy of some sort)
If you don’t own a 12 cup Bundt pan, it doesn’t mean you have to buy one or that you can’t make this cake.
Check out my brown sugar cinnamon pound cake recipe. That recipe has the same proportions, and I baked some of the batter in a loaf pan, some in an 8″ round pan, and I also made 11 cupcakes.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match different size pans. If you need to check how many cups of batter a pan holds, Wilton has a great cake size chart that will help.
How To Make It
Here’s a rundown of everything you’ll need so you can make your shopping list. You probably own a lot of ingredients already, especially if you do a lot of baking.
- unsalted butter: Carries the flavor and helps with browning, tenderness, and leavening (the creaming process). I prefer unsalted because I can better control the amount of salt in the recipe by simply adding my own measured amount
- salt: brings out the flavor. Counteracts any bitterness from the cocoa powder or instant coffee
- brown sugar: provides sweetness, tenderness, and the molasses in the brown sugar adds to the depth of flavor
- granulated sugar: provides the sweetness and assists with leavening (the creaming process)
- vanilla: rounds out the flavors. You could sub with chocolate extract or coffee extract if you’d rather
- eggs: helps with leavening, structure, tenderness. I use large eggs
- espresso powder: substitute instant coffee if you don’t have espresso powder. If your instant coffee is in big crystals (like mine) powder it using a mortar and pestle so it will easily incorporate with the batter
- all purpose flour: flour provides bulk and structure. If you prefer, you may use the same amount of cake flour rather than all-purpose.
- cocoa powder: substitutes for part of the flour to bring dark chocolate flavor. Use “standard” un-alkylized cocoa powder, not Dutch process
- baking powder: emits gases to assist with leavening, once when it gets wet and again when it heats up in the oven (hence “double acting”)
- baking soda: neutralizes the acidic buttermilk and molasses so the batter has a balanced pH and bakes correctly. (Too acidic and your batter bakes up too quickly, too basic, and it may never actually set)
- buttermilk: acidic buttermilk tenderizes the crumb and provides liquid to make the batter light enough to rise well in the oven. You can use whole buttermilk, low-fat, or non-fat here. You may also choose to swap out up to half of the buttermilk for some plain yogurt or sour cream
While it isn’t my preference, it is fine to go ahead and use salted butter. You will still have to add additional salt, but you can probably cut it down to 3/4 teaspoon from the called for 1 1/4 teaspoons
My mom always made this cake with all granulated sugar, so it’s not strictly necessary to use brown sugar. But it does give the flavor a bit more depth. If you have some molasses, add 2 teaspoons along with the white sugar to approximate using brown. If not, worry not.
No you don’t. When I originally made this recipe, I used a mixture of milk and sour cream. What you use is up to you: whole milk, 2% milk, plain kefir, half and half. Even a nut milk would work just fine. If you decide to go with milk, half and half, or nut milk (any non-acidic dairy), you can leave out the baking soda.
Yes. You can substitute it 1:1 for the all purpose flour. Your cake will have an even more melt-in-your-mouth texture if you use cake flour, but it is not strictly necessary to use it.
Feel free to use instant coffee. If your instant coffee is in big granules, just crush it into powder in either a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. You can also leave it out altogether, although I do think it gives added backbone to the chocolate flavor, making it deeper and bolder.
I would think you could by using a cup for cup gluten-free flour blend. I do not really do gluten free baking, though, so I will recommend you visit my friend Sandi’s blog. She does lots of gluten free baking and can steer you in the right direction. You’ll find her at Fearless Dining.
Yes, you can. My preference is for the Locanto Monkfruit/Erythritol granulated sweetener because it leaves the least “odd” aftertaste of any of the sugar substitutes I’ve tried. They make a granulated “white” product as well as a “golden” version that approximates brown sugar. If you’ve never tried them, here’s an affiliate link to try a small bag of each.
Use a standard “American-style” cocoa powder, one that is sort of reddish in color as opposed to the rich dark brown versions that are alkalized or “Dutch process.” I have never gone wrong with standard Hershey’s cocoa powder. You can spend more on fancy ones, but Hershey’s works great here.
The Mixing Method is Important
This cake is made using The Creaming Method, and as I mentioned above, I take the extra step of beating the eggs together and drizzling them in slowly rather than adding the eggs one at a time.
This way, you build the emulsion slowly so it stays nice and stable and yields the most melt-in-your-mouth cake ever. I promise!
How to Make It: Basic Rules for The Creaming Method
- Beat butter until smooth and creamy.
- Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes.
- Beat the eggs together in a bowl and drizzle them slowly into the batter over about five minutes or so. This results in the most stable emulsion possible.
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients dry->wet->dry->wet->dry.
- Pan and bake.
There is a video embedded in the recipe card below that shows in detail how to perform the creaming method.
The auto-play video for this post is of a whipping cream pound cake which uses the same method.
If you are interested in watching a real time video, I made this cake on Facebook live, and you can find that live chocolate pound cake video on Facebook.
Of course, watching it live is more fun, and you’ll hear a lot of references to things that have nothing to do with the cake, but if you have never made a pound cake before or you want a super deep dive into how I perform my modified creaming method, take a look at the video.
Fair warning, it’s almost an hour long, but you can skip through pretty quickly to watch the creaming action and see how billowy and gorgeous the batter is.
Here are some time stamps for you so you can find what you’re looking for:
- 1:50–ingredient list
- 6:00–beginning to scale out all the ingredients
- 12:39–getting butter, sugar, etc into mixer bowl for creaming
- 19:22–beginning to cream the butter and sugar
- 32:45–starting to add the eggs
- 45:33–alternating dry and wet ingredients
- 49:48–panning up the batter
The #1 Potential Pound Cake Problem
Sad Streaks and How to Avoid Them
A sad streak is a streak or ribbon of gummy, weird, “crumblessness” in the center or towards the bottom of your cake.
This can happen for a few reasons:
- Overbeating the eggs: even though I beat the eggs and add them gradually over a long period of time, I don’t beat them on high and only beat in 1 addition until I can’t see it anymore before adding the next. Overbeating can lead to the cake rising really high and then collapsing as it cools, causing the dreaded sad streak.
- Activating too much gluten: if you overbeat once you add the flour, you can activate too much gluten (especially if using all purpose flour rather than cake flour). This will make for a tough and potentially gummy cake. No thank you.
- Using too much leavening: in the same way that beating the eggs too long can cause your cake to rise high and then fall, adding too much leavening can lead to the same result. The cake will rise and then fall, leading to a sad streak.
- Letting your ingredients get too warm: If your butter gets too warm while mixing, you risk the batter being too delicate and collapsing. Keep all your ingredients very cool but not cold. Shoot for 62-65F if using my modified creaming method and no more than 68F if using the “regular” creaming method.
TO REITERATE: Since the modified creaming method takes a bit longer, you want to make sure your butter is nice and firm and your eggs and dairy are still cool. Shoot for about 62-65F for all ingredients.
All your ingredients will warm up during mixing, so you want to keep them from getting too warm and ending up with a dreaded sad streak.
Another reason you can get a sad streak is by opening the oven door too soon–and leaving it open too long, especially if you bump or jostle the cake pan.
My rule of thumb is to leave the door closed until 10 minutes before the stated baking time. At that point, I can check the temperature and gauge how much longer it needs without worrying about the cake falling.
How to Make the Two-Tone Glaze
I think the glaze is so pretty! It’s also really easy to achieve.
The white layer is just my regular old glaze (and I never measure for glaze):
- powdered sugar
- a pinch of salt
- a splash of vanilla and
- just enough half and half to make a thick, barely pourable glaze
NOTE: For the new photos, I made the glaze with 2 oz cream cheese, 1 oz butter, pinch of salt, a touch of vanilla, 12 oz (3 cups) sifted powdered sugar and 2 1/2 tablespoons half and half.
The chocolate glaze is 1/2 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup heavy cream. In other words, a simple ganache.
Pipe it on with a pastry bag and a reusable #2 tip or just snip off a tiny corner of a zip top bag and use that.
How Does it Taste?
It’s a seriously delicious cake, y’all.
A little fudge-y, very chocolate-y and with a tight, meltingly fine crumb.
From Prior Experience, I can tell you that if you can stand to wait, this cake is even better a few days after baking. It just gets fudgier and fudgier.
Eat it with a tall glass of whole milk. Come back and tell me all about how it has Changed Your Life and made you Occasionally Selfish.
This guy freezes really well for a good 3-4 months. Make sure it is well wrapped in both plastic wrap and then heavy-duty foil.
For ease of serving, I suggest slicing it before freezing. That way when you want a piece of cake, you can just take out what you need.
If you are planning to freeze the whole cake, wait until you thaw it out to glaze it. Then let the glaze set up for 2-3 hours before slicing and serving.
If you have any questions about this recipe, any other recipe, or baking/cooking questions in general, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Leave a comment here or email me. I promise I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can. Honest.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
If you make this recipe and/or have enjoyed or learned from reading this post, I’d appreciate it if you could share this!
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- 12 oz butter (3 sticks at cool room temperature)
- 6 oz brown sugar (about a scant packed cup)
- 13 oz sugar (about 2 cups)
- 2 teaspoons espresso powder or instant coffee ground to a powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, (optional)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs
- 10.5 oz cake flour (about 2 1/2 cups, whisked, spooned into a cup lightly, and swept off level)
- 2.5 oz cocoa powder (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 10 oz (1 1/4 cup) full fat buttermilk
- This cake is made using The Creaming Method. If you don't know how to do that, please learn. Then you will be able to make any cake you want to make as long as you have a list of ingredients. Here's how it goes:
- Prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan with oil and flour or with a flour spray such as Baker's Joy. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 325F and set a rack in lower third of the oven.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugars, salt, espresso powder, cayenne (if using), and vanilla, increase speed to medium-high and beat until lightened in color and fluffy, about 7-10 minutes. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
- Beat the eggs together in a small bowl, and with the mixer on medium low, drizzle them into the creamed butter and sugar mixture a bit at a time over about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
- Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder. If your cocoa powder is lumpy, sift all dry ingredients together. Set aside.
- Measure out the buttermilk and set aside.
- Add the dry ingredients to the batter in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry. Mix for only a few seconds between additions.
- Once the last amount of dry ingredients are in the bowl, mix until barely combined and then finish by hand, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
- The batter will be thick and billowy.
- Scrape the batter evenly into your prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven until done, about 1 hour to 1 hour and ten minutes. The internal temperature you're looking for is between 195-200F.
- Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes before turning out to cool completely.
- Glaze and garnish as desired. (See Notes for Glaze Suggestions)
- cream cheese glaze: 2 oz cream cheese and 1 oz butter, melted. Whisk in a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 3 cups powdered sugar and 2 1/2 tablespoons half and half until smooth. This will give you a very thick glaze to generously cover you cake.
- Ganache: to cover the whole cake with ganache, heat 1 cup heavy cream just to a boil. Pour over 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips. Let sit for a minute and then slowly whisk until cool. If you just need enough to make "stripes" like I did," 1/2 cup each heavy cream and chocolate chips will do just fine.
- "Plain White Glaze:" mix 3 cups powdered sugar with a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and enough milk or half and half to make a drizzling consistency.
- Hot Fudge Sauce: Not necessarily for glazing but for serving with. Use the pound cake as a base for a "brownie sundae," and top a warmed sliced with a scoop of ice cream and then drench the whole thing in my best hot fudge sauce.
Please note the recipe says it makes 24 slices. If you're Aunt Charlotte, you can get at least 32 if not about 160 slices out of one cake!
For the moistest possible cake, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap once you remove it from the pan and allow to cool that way. The plastic wrap ensures all the moisture stays in your cake instead of evaporating out as it cools.
VIDEO NOTE: This is an old video I made with an actual camcorder! The sound is not great but the information is useful!
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition InformationYield 24 Serving Size 1 slice
Amount Per Serving Calories 302Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 73mgSodium 441mgCarbohydrates 39gFiber 1gSugar 27gProtein 6g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
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