Chocolate pound cake is not quite as common as vanilla pound cake. Vanilla pound cake has a delicate flavor, balancing the floral flavor of vanilla with the richness of butter. The taste is addicting, but it is subtle compared to other types of cake. Chocolate flavor, on the other hand, is not subtle and most of the time we want chocolate desserts to be very rich and dramatic. This Chocolate Pound Cake takes its cue from the classic vanilla cake. It has a very good chocolate flavor, but the texture of the cake is just as much the star of this dessert as the chocolate is.
The cake is very simple to make and gets its chocolate flavor from cocoa powder. I recommend using Dutch process cocoa powder in this recipe, which gives the cake a slightly deeper chocolate flavor. If you only have natural cocoa powder, there is no need to worry because the recipe will still work out, it will just have a very slightly different chocolate flavor to it. If you happen to have some chocolate extract in your pantry, this recipe is the perfect place to use it and you can add 1 tsp of chocolate extract in with the vanilla. My Vanilla Bean Pound Cake recipe is a classic pound cake recipe that doesn’t use any leavening agents, but since cocoa powder is much denser than flour is, the Chocolate Pound Cake needs a little bit of leavening to ensure that it is light and not too heavy feeling.
Once you’ve baked your cake, there is a lot you can do with it. It is good when sliced thick and served plain, with a cup of coffee on the side. You could top it with a scoop of whipped cream and some fresh fruit to dress it up a little bit. Strawberries and raspberries go very well with this cake. If you decide you want to boost the chocolate flavor up a few notches, make a quick ganache with dark chocolate and heavy cream and pour it over the top of the loaf before serving it.
Some recipes call for sifting your flour. Other recipes call for flour that has been sifted. Still other recipes don’t specify whether your flour needs to be sifted or not – and with all the options, this raises the question of what does sifting flour actually do?
Sifting flour is a way of aerating your flour and making sure that there are no large lumps in it. Flour is very finely milled and it is typically packed in small bags, where it gets packed down easily. This is especially true of cake flour, which has an exceptionally fine texture. Depending on the climate you live in, your flour might also develop lumps due to very high humidity and it can even attract small bugs, and sifting eliminates both of these problems. When a recipe calls for sifting flour together with other ingredients – such as cocoa powder, leavening agents or salt – it is to help disperse those ingredients into one mixture before adding them to a recipe.
Aerated flour – as opposed to packed-down flour – is easier to mix in to recipes. For most recipes, giving your flour a few gentle stirs with a knife or whisk to aerate it while it is in your storage container is enough agitation to break up any big lumps that might be present and prepare the flour for use in a recipe. As long as you are gentle and don’t pack the flour very firmly into your measuring cup you shouldn’t have any problems when you use it, even if the recipe calls for sifting your flour after measuring.
When a recipe calls for flour to be sifted before measuring (i.e. “1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour”), however, you should take care to sift your flour before measuring. Sifted flour does have more air dispersed in it than unsifted flour, and there are some delicate recipes where having the flour as aerated as possible – such as angel food cakes – will produce a better, lighter finished product.
How many food magazines do you subscribe to? How often do you tear out one of those magazine pages, clip a recipe out of a newspaper, or print one from your favorite blog? Even if you have a tablet or other portable device, there are plenty of occasions when you have a recipe on a piece of paper instead of a computer screen and need somewhere to put it in the kitchen. A single sheet of paper can, in some ways, be even harder to work with than a tablet. It single drop of water can easily compromise the paper (where it can probably be wiped off the tablet) and it is hard to prop it up so that you can read it.
As with so many other kitchen problems, this one has a solution. The Recipe Rock is a stand that is designed to give some shape and support to all those free floating recipe pages so you can easily reference them while you’re cooking. The Rock has a slightly curved base that is paired with a strong magnet, which holds your recipe in place without flopping over. It will actually hold up to eight pages at a time, giving you plenty of material to work with. It takes up almost no counter space, measuring just 2.5 x 2.5-inches, and can easily be tucked into a drawer when you’re not using it. It might not be the most eye-catching piece of equipment in your kitchen (although it comes in a few colors), but if you have as many recipes and notes floating around as I do, it is one that will get a lot of use.
The original pound cake got its name from its ingredients. It contained a pound of eggs, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of flour. It was a dense cake, but it had a tender texture that other cakes at the time lacked and it became popular enough that we still have pound cakes around today. There are lots of recipes for pound cakes out there, some adding additional ingredients and some cutting back on some of the original components, and many of them are good recipes. Sometimes, however, it pays to stick close to the original recipe and this one is pretty true to its roots.
This Vanilla Bean Pound Cake is a straightforward pound cake recipe, made with butter, eggs, flour and sugar. I added a little bit of salt to make the vanilla in the cake pop more and a little bit of milk, which prevents the finished cake from feeling too egg-y. As in traditional pound cakes, there is no leavening in this cake, so don’t be alarmed that there is no baking powder or baking soda on the ingredient list. The slight rise that this cake has comes mostly from the inclusion of the eggs in the cake batter. It has a very dense crumb but is so tender that it almost seems to melt in your mouth when you take a bite. It may not look fancy at first glance, but this is one of those cakes that I would choose over an over-frosted layer cake any day of the week!
The cake, although simple, feels very indulgent thanks to its buttery vanilla flavor. Since I used a whole vanilla bean in the cake, it is also loaded with specks of vanilla. This is one recipe where it is definitely worth splurging and using whole vanilla beans, scraping out the seeds and adding them to the batter. If you don’t have any, however, you can still get a good vanilla flavor into the cake by using 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
The cake is baked in a loaf pan and cut in slices to serve. It can be served plain, with a cup of tea or coffee, or it can be dressed up in a number of ways. For instance, you could turn it into the base of a strawberry shortcake and finish a slice with fresh berries and whipped cream. For summer entertaining, you can toast a slice on the grill to give it some extra texture and serve it with a big scoop of ice cream. The cake keeps well when it is stored in an airtight container and it can be baked a day or two before serving, if necessary. This also means that you can nibble away at your cake in small slices over the course of a week if you don’t have any plans to entertain or simply want to keep this cake all to yourself.