Bake

Black & White Pound Cake

January  4, 2021
4.3 Stars
Photo by JAMES RANSOM. PROP STYLIST: MEGAN HEDGPETH. FOOD STYLIST: SAM SENEVIRATNE.
Author Notes

This pound cake is unbelievably fluffy, tender, and light. It has a toasty brown crust, tight crumb that slices cleanly, and eats a lot like that pound cake nobody doesn’t like. There are three things to keep in mind to achieve pound cake glory: First, a metal loaf pan conducts heat faster than a glass one, resulting in a higher rise and golden crust—avoid glass loaf pans, which conduct heat slowly and lead to a dense, greasy cake. Second, make sure the eggs, butter, and sour cream are at room temperature, to ensure they whip up light and emulsify properly into a creamy, homogenous batter. And finally, stop and scrape down the paddle and the bowl several times during mixing for an even crumb. Tightly wrapped, this moist cake keeps at room temperature for a week and frozen for up to three months.

The black swirl in this cake is ultra-dark and intense thanks to black cocoa, an extra-Dutched cocoa powder that makes everything taste like Oreos. If all you have is Dutched or natural cocoa powder, that’ll work too, but the batter will be less dark in color and flavor.

Want to keep it classic? Try this Go-To Vanilla Pound Cake recipe and read more about this pound cake technique here, so you have the confidence to take it off-script. —Sohla El-Waylly

Watch This Recipe
Black & White Pound Cake
  • Prep time 35 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves one 9x5-inch loaf
Ingredients
  • Streusel
  • 1 1/4 cups (156 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (20 grams) black cocoa powder (or Dutched or natural cocoa powder)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (82 grams) cold butter, cut into cubes
  • Pound Cake
  • 14 tablespoons (196 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (187 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons (15 grams) black cocoa powder (or Dutched or natural cocoa powder)
  • 1 tablespoon milk or water
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Set a rack in the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5-inch metal loaf pan with butter.
  2. For the streusel: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, and salt. Add the cubed butter and rub the mixture together with your fingers until it comes together into clumps; set aside.
  3. For the pound cake: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt on medium-high speed until pale and very fluffy, stopping once during mixing to scrape down the paddle and bowl, 6 to 8 minutes total. (You might think it’s done before that time, but keep going all the way.)
  4. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. On medium-high speed, beat in the eggs and yolk one at a time, scraping down the paddle and the bowl after each addition. The batter should look very fluffy, creamy, and emulsified (if not, your eggs or butter may have been not at room temperature—let the mixture come to room temperature then try mixing it again).
  5. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and vanilla until lump-free and totally smooth.
  6. Add half of the sour cream and mix on low until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add half of the flour and mix until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with the remaining sour cream and flour. Using a flexible rubber spatula, scrape down the paddle and the bowl and mix the batter a few times to make sure everything is evenly combined.
  7. Transfer about half the batter to a medium bowl. Sift over the cocoa powder and stir into the batter along with the milk or water.
  8. Add half the cocoa batter and half the vanilla batter to the pan in alternating dollops (watch the video for a visual!). Top with half the streusel and repeat dolloping the remaining batter.
  9. With a butter knife or offset spatula, swirl the knife through the batter to make sure it is evenly distributed into the pan with no big air pockets and give the pan a few swift taps against the counter. Wet a butter knife and use it to slice down the center of the loaf cake (this ensures an even crack right down the middle of the cake). Top with remaining streusel, lightly pressing it into the batter.
  10. Bake until the crust is deeply browned, the loaf rises and splits, and the cake feels firm and set when you gently press the top, 65 to 75 minutes. (This is a very moist cake and it is better to overbake rather than underbake. If the crust is looking very dark partway through, set a wire rack just above the loaf pan and place a rimmed baking sheet on it to provide a shield.)
  11. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula or butter knife around the sides to loosen. Tip the cake into your hand, then place on a wire rack to fully cool before slicing.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Melissa Bartell
    Melissa Bartell
  • Alek Meyer
    Alek Meyer
  • Mary Ellen Ort
    Mary Ellen Ort
  • fyivumb1
    fyivumb1
Sohla El-Waylly is a Food52 Resident, sharing new riffable recipes every month that'll help you get creative in the kitchen. Watch her cook on YouTube in her new series, Off-Script With Sohla. Before she started developing fun recipes for home cooks, she worked as a chef in N.Y.C. and L.A., briefly owning a restaurant in Brooklyn with her husband and fellow chef, Ham El-Waylly. She lives in the East Village with Ham, their two dogs, and cat. Find out what else she's up to on Instagram @sohlae

35 Reviews

fyivumb1 November 27, 2021
Excellent points. I enjoyed the video very much. For some reason, it reminded me of the times when I used to bake cakes with my aunt, in the sweltering Indian heat, and in a pressure cooker because we didn’t have ovens. A lot has changed since then, but the pound cake flavors are the same. Nostalgia sweet nostalgia.
 
Wawa May 19, 2021
Made the cake portion (without streusel) into mini bundt cakes and they were delicious. Thank you!
 
Marty H. April 23, 2021
This is very good. The next time I make it I would (as others have done) halve the streusel, and just put it in the middle of the cake, I do think it added a nice depth. On the top, a lot of it fell off and I don't think it's needed: a vanilla glaze or nothing at all is what I'll try next. Cake itself is excellent and the marbling was a big success. I used Dutch cocoa from Penzeys and the flavor was great.
 
Melissa B. April 19, 2021
So delicious. I used dutched cocoa powder, cut the streusel in half and only used it as a topping, and also used less flour in the streusel than what was called for. So tasty and worth the effort.
 
winterjustwinter April 2, 2021
Best, prettiest pound cake I've ever made. I wish I could include pictures. I was so excited when I saw this recipe I special ordered black cocoa just for this.
I checked out the other reviews below and when I made this yesterday, I tweaked it a couple ways!
I subbed half the black cocoa for regular cocoa, both in the cake and the streusel. I only made half the streusel and put it only on top. I added a little more sugar, 1/4 cup more to the pound cake itself. And instead of milk to pull the chocolate streusel together, I used a little cold brew coffee and buttermilk. A fan of every single substitution. Nothing bad to say about this recipe, it's perfect.
 
whuddupmydudes February 16, 2021
This was my first time making pound cake and boy oh boy I would definitely use this recipe again! As many other commenters had mentioned, the streusel is a bit too dry for my preference and feel as though either less flour or a touch more butter would've been more beneficial. Alternatively, it could be skipped altogether as I find it does not add particularly much to the cake itself.

I would definitely make this again! Possibly with the addition of a light vanilla glaze :)
 
beejay45 February 5, 2021
You need one of those paddle attachments with the rubber flippers. You never need to scrape down the bowl AND even small batches get mixed properly instead of being plastered to the sides of the bowl.

Love the jam dollops you suggested at the end. That's one variation I'll definitely try. Thanks for these off-script videos. They give more people the confidence to try new things.
 
cbolsinger February 2, 2021
I liked the cake part but I have to agree that something is off with the streusel. The amount of flour is overwhelming. It was so dry and there was way too much of it.
 
Alek M. January 30, 2021
I was really excited to try this out, but I wasn't very happy with the result. The cake came out quite dry and dense, and the crumble was way way too dry (kind of oreo-like, which was neat, but not really the texture I want in a streusel) and not quite sweet enough. I was careful to bring everything up to room temperature, weighed everything, used an oven thermometer, and the batter got super fluffy like in the video, so I don't understand what went wrong. I love the ideas for ways to riff on a pound cake, but I'm not sure I'll try this particular recipe again.
 
Knalle January 29, 2021
This was my first pound cake and it turned out perfect! I wish we could post photos because it is just that beautiful. It's perfectly moist, has a dense crumb but doesn't feel heavy, and it tastes slightly of Oreos. My husband keeps coming into the kitchen and stealing bites of my slice -- he claims he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth ;) Great recipe, highly recommend the YouTube video for first time pound cake makers.
 
Virginia L. January 26, 2021
Fabulous cake! My husband said, “you could sell this in a bakery.”
 
Chrisanna D. January 21, 2021
This was amazing The aroma is exquisite and the texture firm yet springy. i had to make mine gluten-free, and it turned out great! The struesel did seem dry when mixing it, but it worked surprisingly well! - it turns into cookie crumb boulders on top - it's really good - caught my Dad sneaking pieces off the top. I might skimp on the flour in the struesel next time, but not by muthc. We have plowed through this cake in about 24 hours... it's a keeper.
 
izzie29 January 20, 2021
Great recipe Sohla! It came out really nice!! I also made the streusel with leftover butter, just about 50g and eyed the rest, and it was enough for me. Also, great tips that I can use in any other baking project. I made it in a longer tin pan and I baked it 50 minutes. I have to note that I live in Europe and that the butter and sour cream quality is definitely not the same as in the US, and the eggs might be smaller, and that one needs to adjust the recipe accordingly. In my experience, if your batter if off somehow, it might be because of this.
 
Mary E. January 17, 2021
The struesel amounts didn't make sense. I think it was way too much flour for the 6 TBS of butter and other ingredients. It was very dry and I didn't use it all.
 
la L. January 16, 2021
I am generally a big fan of black cocoa but this recipe was a disappointment. The streusel should be reserved for the top only. It was absorbed into the cake interior and distorted the balance of flavors. The overall cake was dry and unappealing.
 
Helene R. January 15, 2021
Great recipe! Thank you Sohla!
 
KWells January 13, 2021
I had a few oven issues, but the recipe itself is fantastic.

If you used black cocoa and expected anything other than a subtle bittersweet dark chocolate flavour, it's probably the first time you've used black cocoa. Personally, I put it in EVERYTHING!

If the flavour wasn't your thing but you still want that beautiful black look, you can halve the black cocoa and replace with the same amount of Hershey's or my favourite - superior red high fat.

I made an error splitting my batter so I had too much black and not enough white, and I agree the streusel could be halved and still sufficient. I'm making it again today, this time I'll split the streusel in half before adding cocoa and use the plain half to top a vanilla loaf (which is also delicious!).

Looking forward to more Sohla!!
 
TessM567 January 13, 2021
Turned out delicious! I couldn't find black cocoa so I just used regular and it worked perfectly. The recipe called for a lot of streusel--next time I might halve it.
 
Daisy1530 January 11, 2021
Was excited to try this recipe. The streusel ruined it. It was dry and not sweet enough. It was dry and bitter.
 
Nikki E. January 10, 2021
Was excited to see Sohla found a new home after BA and eager to try this, but ended up really disappointed with this recipe. I'm an experienced baker, and despite following the instructions closely my batter never emulsified. I repurposed the streusel only to find it had no flavor or body. Pound cake should be simple and straightforward; this recipe is needlessly complicated and ended up in the garbage. Don't waste your precious time like I did.