Making Martha's Three-Layer Pound Cake

With a welcome touch of cool air descending over the city, I decided I ought to bake a cake. One of the first things to catch my eye in the newly-published September issue of Martha Stewart Living was the triple-layer pound cake in the Everyday Food section, on page 82. I've always been a pound cake aficionado. I have fond memories of my mom making it on grey Sundays and then serving it to us warm with just a slight drizzle of maple syrup on top: we are Canadians, after all. 
The addition of two graduated layers of chocolate really intrigued me and I decided to give this one a go. It was my first pound cake. The first one I've ever made. Perhaps starting with a basic pound cake recipe would have been wise, but I threw caution to the wind and just dove in, and I'm so glad I did.
At Martha's urging (and at the behest of my own due diligence) I always read a recipe through completely before beginning. Actually, I do this several times, imagining myself going through the steps. In the process of doing so, I gather the equipment I need first. In this case, three main bowls are required: one for the dry ingredients, one for the wet ingredients and one for the melted chocolate. There was the whisk, the measuring cups and measuring spoons, the mixer, the spatulas and, of course, the 9-by-5 inch loaf pan, buttered. Mise en place is the next step: measuring and preparing all the ingredients, as instructed in the recipe, which you can see below.

For this recipe, give yourself ample time to prepare the ingredients, since they all have to be at room temperature. The butter must be cubed and the chocolate must be melted and cooled ahead of time.
Making the chocolate layers was exciting because you begin to see that this is going to be a unique cake. Once mixed, the cake batter is essentially divided into three separate offerings: for the base layer, two tablespoons of cocoa powder are mixed into the melted chocolate, which is then joined by a cup and a half of the batter, mixed and incorporated. This layer is spread into the bottom of the pan and smoothed with an offset spatula.
The second, or middle layer, combines one tablespoon of cocoa powder with another cup and a half of the batter. This is then spread overtop of the darker layer, as shown above. The remaining cup and a half of batter (or an approximation thereof) is spread on top as the final white layer.
What you end up with is a pound cake that leavens beautifully and slices like a dream, creating a rather exciting visual gradation of chocolate goodness with each slice.
In my case, I may have used a bit too much batter for the chocolate layers (can you blame me?) resulting in the less-than-white top layer. I also think my oven is a bit hotter than most and it did overbake a tad, resulting in a little dryness on the outer edges. It still tastes delicious, though, and it's the perfect accompaniment for a cup of tea. Give this one a try. It's simple and delicious.


It's the delicious the day of - or wrap slices individually in plastic and freeze in bags for up to three months.

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes, plus more for the pan
3 large eggs, room temperature, whisked
1/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus two tablespoons of sugar
1 3/4 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
3 tablespoons of Dutch-process cocoa powder
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1. Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla. In another bowl, beat together sugar, flower, baking powder, and salt on low speed. Continue beating while adding butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add half the milk mixture; beat on medium-high until fluffy, about one minute. Add remaining milk mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.

2. In another large bowl, whisk two tablespoons of cocoa into the melted chocolate. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the batter. Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula. Whisk remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder  into another 1 1/2 cups of batter in bowl; spoon over darker layer and smooth the top. Spoon in remaining white batter and smooth top.

3. Bake until a test inserted into the center comes out clean, about one hour and thirty minutes. (If top is browning too quickly, tent with foil). Let cool in pan 15 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to cool completely, about two hours.

Serves 8 to 10.
The cake, when sliced, looks extremely glamorous. (The Japanese porcelain plate helps too...)


Anonymous said...

Your efforts looked delicious, but your comment on memories "struck a cord". My Mom was never a great baker, but somehow those yellow "pound cakes" (never the exact tasting cake twice in a row) was always welcomed and enjoyed by the family (licking the bowl was my treat and the best part!).
As the weather gets cooler I hope all can enjoy homemade baking and memories of what once was!
Don't forget, "Martha Bakes" may be difficult to duplicate, but coming close isn't a bad idea!

Unknown said...

Congratulations, Andrew! That is very impressive, especially for your very first pound cake. (One suggestion when you are comfortable with a winning recipe: consider doubling or tripling it to make extras to share.) I'll definitely be making this cake too.


Thank you, guys!

Giftjaipur said...

Really Liked it.Every cake is special in some way or the other. It is a delicious cake recipe that you can prepare in a very little time.

Anonymous said...

Oh I know MSL has great recipes but that Southwest Georgia pound cake from Paula Dean is outstanding but heavy cream and butter helps-- it develops a crust of sorts that sets it apart from the "average" pound cake plus it starts off in a cold oven--no preheating now that was a game changer for me-- have no fear it is worth a try.

Anonymous said...

I just made this yesterday, and I have to say that though it was a delicious mine also came out a little bit dry. I even cooked it about 15 minutes less than the recommended time. I'm not sure if it is my oven, or if the recipe needs a little tweaking? Yours looks beautiful though!


I did notice that when I was mixing the batter, it seemed a bit sticky and heavy. I might have needed to add a touch of water or milk to moisten it.