Other people’s recipes: King Arthur Flour’s Chocolate Pound Cake

Running a little late for this week’s “easy” midweek recipe write-up, but here goes. This chocolate pound cake recipe comes from King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking (Countryman Press, 2006; p. 387), so naturally it is made with a whole-grain flour (whole-wheat pastry flour), but otherwise it’s a pretty standard butter cake. The chocolate flavor comes from two sources: Dutch-process cocoa and (optional) chocolate chips; the recipe also suggests optional chopped nuts or dried cherries, and I used the cherries. (Tasters were pretty divided on the cherries: about half liked them, and the other half disliked them.) Here’s how it went:

Mise en place
We start, of course, with a mise en place; the dried cherries (5 oz or 140 g) are sitting in the sieve underneath 6 oz (170 g) of Guittard 63% dark chocolate chips. The recipe includes two kinds of flour, which I’ve already sifted together: 6 oz (170 g) of whole-wheat pastry (aka Graham) flour, and 3⅛ oz (90 g) of bread flour. There’s also 14 oz (400 g) of granulated sugar, two sticks (225 g) of unsalted butter, five whole eggs, two teaspoons of vanilla extract, two teaspoons of espresso powder, ¾ cup (180 ml) nonfat buttermilk, and ¼ cup (60 ml) of hot water. For leavening, the cake includes ½ tsp each of baking powder and baking soda (the soda being there to neutralize the acidity of the buttermilk), and a teaspoon of salt for seasoning. Finally, there is 3 oz (85 g) of Dutch-process cocoa powder; I used a combination of 60 g of my regular favorite Valrhona cocoa and 25 g of King Arthur’s “black” cocoa powder. (This is the first time I’ve tried using “black” cocoa, so I’m not sure how close to ideal this ratio is — I’ll have to try this cocoa in a simpler recipe, like Alice Medrich’s cocoa brownies, to see what effect various combinations have.) If you’re paying close attention, you’ll note these are not the theoretical 1:1:1:1 proportions (flour:butter:sugar:eggs) of a “true” pound cake.

Dry ingredient mixture
The first step is just to mix all of the dry ingredients, except the espresso powder, together in a bowl. The espresso powder is reconstituted in a separate bowl using the quarter cup of hot water, and this is mixed into the buttermilk. (Espresso powder, used so often in chocolate cakes, provides both a darker color and a more bitter flavor than would otherwise obtain from cocoa alone. In this application, it’s not supposed to impart a detectable coffee flavor — that would be a recipe defect.)

Butter and sugar creamed adequately
With any pound cake, or indeed any butter cake in general, the final texture is determined by how well the fats and sugars are creamed together. King Arthur’s recipe calls for 2–3 minutes of creaming, and I see no reason to depart from that — indeed, I might even suggest going a bit longer (but not long enough to melt the butter; that would be a disaster). You need the little sugar crystals to punch holes throughout the fat, which will later be blown up by a combination of steam pressure (evaporating from the eggs and other liquid ingredients) and (in this recipe) carbon dioxide released by the chemical leavening. (That is why low-sugar or alternative-sweetener versions of cakes like this are often so unsatisfying; if you want to substitute the sugar, it’s better to use a cake style that gets its structure from egg foam like a genoise.) At this point, for some of us it may be hard to resist just eating the sweetened butter from the mixing bowl….

Wet ingredients mixed
The next step of the process is to beat in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until a smooth batter is formed. Then, the previously mixed dry ingredients are added by thirds, alternating with the buttermilk-espresso mixture, and once all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, the optional solid flavorings (chocolate chips and dried cherries or nuts) are quickly stirred in.

Finished cake batter
The finished cake batter looks like this (and once again it may be difficult to keep from pulling out a spoon and just digging in!). The batter is poured into the chosen baking vessel — I used a 10-inch (255 mm) diameter tube pan. There is enough fat in this cake to ensure that it will release without using parchment, but baking spray (or butter and flour if you feel like being old-fashioned) is still a good idea — especially if you’re using a Bundt® brand cake pan instead of a plain tube pan.

Cake after depanning, still cooling on rack
The cake is baked at 325°F (160°C) for about an hour, then cooled for 15 minutes in the pan before depanning and continuing to cool for another couple of hours.

Cake on glass platter with one slice removed
This recipe is specified to make 20 servings. For this shape of cake, I found the easiest way to accomplish that was to slice it in quarters, then (with slightly more difficulty) slice each quarter in fifths. I’ve removed one slice, seen in the next photo:

One slice of pound cake
There’s a lot of specular reflection from the flash in this photo, which unfortunately I can’t do much about without enormously complicating my photo setup — my kitchen is just too dimly lit to get good results from available light. You can see the chocolate chips clearly in this photo; the dried cherries are a bit harder to spot but I think a couple are visible.

Overall results were excellent, although it was not any of my tasters’ favorite from this summer’s baking. Several people noted that it was a bit drier than they were used to; I might try reducing the baking time a bit if I ever do this recipe again.

Nutrition

As presented, with Guittard 63% extra dark chocolate baking chips and unsweetened dried cherries:

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/20 of 10″ tube cake
Servings per recipe: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 326 Calories from fat 126
% Daily Value
Total Fat 14g 21%
 Saturated Fat 8g 40%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 70mg 23%
Sodium 225mg 9%
Potassium 71mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 40g 13%
 Dietary fiber 4g 17%
 Sugars 29g
Proteins 5g 9%
Vitamin A 16%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 5%
Iron 27%
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