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 loved this chocolate version.
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Watch my chocolate pound cake web story here.
Chocolate Pound Cake, At a Glance
✔️Skill Level: Beginner
✔️Skills (some linked): The Creaming Method, preparing a cake pan, baking
✔️Type: Pound Cake
✔️Number of Ingredients: 12
✔️Prep Time: 20 minutes
✔️Cook Time: 70 minutes
✔️Yield: 1 large chocolate Bundt cake, 16-24 servings
Jump Straight to the Recipe
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
If this cake sounds like your cup of tea, you can jump straight to the recipe.
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How To Make Chocolate Pound Cake
Ingredients (and Substitutions)
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). My mom originally made this cake with all white sugar, and you can too if you don’t have any brown sugar
- 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. Your cake will be slightly more tender if you use cake flour. Mom always used all purpose, so either will work beautifully. Substitute cake flour for a finer texture
- cocoa powder: substitutes for part of the flour to bring dark chocolate flavor. Use “standard” un-alkalized cocoa powder, not Dutch process. I use regular, “grocery store cocoa powder.” When I have some, I use Ghirardelli.
- 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
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.
Jenni Says: Whisking the eggs together and drizzling them in over time yields a more stable batter than one made where you plunk in 1 whole egg at a time. Building the emulsion slowly is the key to a stable and billowy batter
This cake is scaled to fit in a 12-cup Bundt pan. You can also bake in 2 loaf pans or 2 9″ round pans.
Check out my brown sugar cinnamon pound cake recipe. That recipe has the same proportions as this cake, and I baked some of the batter in a loaf pan, some in an 8″ round pan, and I also made 11 cupcakes.
Not only is Nordic Ware THE name in Bundt pans, this particular pan is nice and sturdy and has that classic, timeless shape. It also holds 12 cups of batter, and it is the perfect size for all my pound cake recipes.
For the moistest cake, after unmolding, wrap the cake in plastic wrap before letting it cool completely. All the moisture will stay inside the cake rather than evaporating out.
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.
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 this glaze):
- powdered sugar
- a pinch of salt
- a splash of vanilla and
- just enough half and half to make a thick, barely pourable glaze
You can also consider making a cream cheese glaze. For that, you’ll need:
- 2 oz cream cheese
- 1 oz butter, melted
- pinch of salt
- a touch of vanilla
- 12 oz (3 cups) sifted powdered sugar
- 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.
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 post or recipe, I am happy to help.
Simply leave a comment here and I will get back to you soon. I also invite you to ask question in my Facebook group, Fearless Kitchen Fun.
If your question is more pressing, please feel free to email me. I should be back in touch ASAP, as long as I’m not asleep.
A Note About Measurements
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
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Mom’s Chocolate Pound Cake
- 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 ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ⅛ 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 You can also use all-purpose–either will work
- 2.5 oz cocoa powder about 3/4 cup
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 10 oz 1 1/4 cup full fat buttermilk
- 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)
Did You Make Any Changes?
- 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 slice with a scoop of ice cream and then drench the whole thing in my best hot fudge sauce.
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