How To Make Chocolate Pound Cake

updated May 1, 2019
How To Make Chocolate Pound Cake
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Chocolate pound cake comes together so easily that it’s an everyday cake, but the taste and texture — that close-knit, tight crumb unique to a pound cake — plus the deep chocolate flavor make it feel like a luscious, special-occasion treat. It’s really the epitome of “it’s easier than it looks.” A slice of this buttery, chocolatey cake is charming as a weeknight dessert, but it’s also terrific as a midnight munch with a glass of cold milk or an after-school snack for lucky kids.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Putting the Chocolate in Chocolate Pound Cake

It’s cocoa, not chocolate, that gives this cake its decadent flavor, which means you can readily whip this cake up with a bunch of pantry staples whenever the craving hits you. And when it comes to cocoa, this recipe truly showcases all mild Dutch-processed cocoa can do. It makes this cake sultry and extra dark in color, and ensures that any bitterness is mellowed away. The cocoa is aided by three supporting players: coffee, salt, and vanilla. Coffee adds helps add depth to the cocoa, salt emphasizes the sweetness, and vanilla rounds out the cocoa and makes it taste more like a creamy chocolate.

Substitute Like a Pro

This recipe allows for quite a few ingredient substitutions.

  • Sour cream can be omitted and buttermilk or yogurt can be substituted.
  • You can spice up this cake so it will taste exactly how you like it best. Simply add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, black pepper, lemon zest, or orange zest into the batter along with the vanilla extract.
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Pound Cakes Are Built to Last

Pound cakes are kitchen workhorses. They are terrific the day they are made, but taste even better the day after — and even better on day three. They also freeze very well. Bake, cool, skip the ganache for now, and wrap it well with plastic and then foil, and it will keep, frozen, for up to a month. It can be served gussied up with chocolate ganache glaze or simply cut and toasted.

Pound Cakes Are the Oldest Modern Cakes

Pound cake was most likely the earliest cake without yeast, appearing as early as the 1600s, typically studded with candied fruits and nuts and soaked in wines and liquors. The key element — and the cake’s namesake — was its four ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, and eggs, all weighing in at one pound a piece. In the 20th century, baking leaveners were introduced and became a common ingredient in pound cakes, which were consequently far lighter; they no longer featured equal ingredient weights or proportions, but retained their unique texture and heft.

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Heat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, making sure there are no racks above it, and heat to 325°F. Coat a 9 by 5-inch metal loaf pan with baking spray, dust with flour, and tap out the excess; set aside. (Image credit: Lauren Volo)

How To Make Chocolate Pound Cake

Makes 1 (9x5-inch) loaf

Nutritional Info


  • Cooking spray

  • 1 1/3 cups

    plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup

    Dutch-processed cocoa powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    fine salt

  • 2 sticks

    (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup

    plus 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 2

    large egg yolks

  • 1/3 cup

    sour cream, buttermilk, or plain yogurt

  • 1 tablespoon

    brewed espresso (see Recipe Note)

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • Chocolate ganache (optional)


  • 9x5-inch metal loaf pan

  • Sifter or fine-mesh sieve

  • Parchment paper or bowl

  • Stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or electric hand mixer and large bowl

  • Soft silicone spatula

  • Rimmed baking sheet

  • Cake tester or toothpick

  • Cooling rack

  • Frosting knife or small offset spatula


  1. Heat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, making sure there are no racks above it, and heat to 325°F. Coat a 9x5-inch metal loaf pan with baking spray, dust with flour, and tap out the excess; set aside.

  2. Mix the dry ingredients: Sift or strain the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt through a fine-mesh strainer onto a sheet of parchment paper or into a bowl; set aside.

  3. Begin mixing the butter and sugars: Place the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Mix on low to medium speed until it just begins to be fluffy, about 3 minutes.

  4. Scrape down the bowl and finish mixing: Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat on medium speed until paler in color, a light caramel brown, and very fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes more.

  5. Add the eggs: Beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition until fully incorporated.

  6. Add half the flour mixture: Add half of the flour mixture and beat at low speed until fully combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again.

  7. Add the sour cream, espresso, and vanilla: Add the sour cream, espresso, and vanilla and beat on low to medium-low speed until fully incorporated.

  8. Add the remaining flour mixture: Add the remaining flour and cocoa mixture and beat on low to medium-low speed until combined.

  9. Transfer to the pan: Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

  10. Bake the cake: Place the pan on its baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan from front to back and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, 25 to 35 minutes more.

  11. Cool the cake: Place the loaf pan on a wire rack and let cool until the cake is no longer warm to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes. Take the pan off the rack and place the rack on top of it. Press down on the rack and slide your other hand under the bottom of the pan and press firmly. Flip the rack and pan together. Remove the pan from the cake, tapping lightly to release it if necessary. Gently turn the cake over so it is right-side up and cool completely on the rack, about 30 minutes more.

  12. Frost with chocolate ganache: Make the ganache. When the cake is completely cooled, mound about 3/4 cup of it on the top of the cake and smooth it with an offset spatula just over the top.

Recipe Notes

Espresso substitutes: Brewed coffee or 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder stirred into 1 tablespoon hot water can be substituted for the brewed espresso.

Storage: Leftovers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days. They can also be wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil, and frozen for up to 1 month.